Protecting your wood and laminate floors

Laminates and wood floors have a lot going for them. They look good, they’re easy to keep clean and they don’t harbor dust mites or odours.

Laminates and wood floors have a lot going for them.

They look good, they’re easy to keep clean and they don’t harbor dust mites or odours.

But even the toughest versions call for protection from scratches caused by chair legs, tables and home office furniture (especially home office furniture). Even some products made specifically for protecting wood-type floors don’t actually work as well as they’re supposed to.

Self adhesive felt pads are the first thing that comes to mind for floor protection and these do work well as long as you remember two things.

First, you need to renew the pads every year or two, because they get compressed and hard. Also, you need to watch out for grit trapped in the felt, scratching the floor as furniture is moved about.

Rub your finger over the felt to clean it every now and then, to keep it working properly. This isn’t essential on couches and coffee tables and other pieces of furniture that don’t move much, but it’s pretty important on dining chairs and other items that are constantly sliding back and forth.

It’s not unusual for new chairs and coffee tables and couches to have domed plastic glides fastened to the bottom of their legs at the factory.

And while these might be fine on carpet or ceramic tiles, they sure do a number on wood and laminate floors. You’ve got to take them off.

Glides fasten like a great big thumbtack. Use a screwdriver to pry off the glide.

You’ll find a smooth, flat wood surface underneath — ideal for sticky felt pads. Just wipe the bottom of the leg clean to remove any dust, then peel the backing off the felt and put it on.

You’re faced with an entirely different challenge when it comes to rolling desk chairs on wood floors. Actually, quite a daunting challenge.

Felt isn’t an option because of the wheels, and I’ve learned the hard way that those thick, flexible, clear plastic pads they sell for office chairs to roll on carpet don’t protect wood or laminate either. Even with a little bit of grit under there, these plastic pads act as one gigantic sanding block when used over hard surface floors.

They won’t ruin your floor right away, and they do protect the surface from wheel damage, but even with diligent vacuuming underneath, plastic pads cause trouble in a few years.

One alternative is a wooden home office chair with runners on the bottom instead of wheels.

I’ve been using one of these since March and it works great. I bought mine from Crate Designs (www.cratedesigns.ca; 800-563-1458), and with strips of felt fastened along the entire length of the runners there’s been absolutely no damage to the laminate floors in my office.

These chairs are also easy to slide around and they’re even designed to tip backwards without suffering damage when you want to kick back.

The best solution I’ve found so far for protecting a wooden floor from a rolling office chair is a folding bamboo floor protector with felt fastened across the entire bottom surface. These aren’t very common, but I got mine from Select Rugs Canada (www.selectrugscanada.ca; 888-685-1735).

The bamboo comes factory finished (either dark or light), and it’s quite hard. Rolling desk chairs do cause minor damage to the surface of the bamboo, but the unit I’ve been using for more than twelve months has been holding up surprisingly well.

Despite their need to be pampered, I’ll always have wood floors in my house. The trick is knowing how to protect them, and committing to the little bit of extra effort required to keep them looking good.

Steve Maxwell is Canada’s award-winning home improvement expert, and technical editor of Canadian Home Workshop magazine. Sign up for his free homeowner newsletter at www.stevemaxwell.ca

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