Wood floors make beautiful additions to any space. They create various looks, adding ambiance, coziness, and aesthetic pleasure to a room. Although wood floors offer a bountiful list of benefits, their biggest nemesis and downfall is fading. To some people, faded wood floors add characteristic and lived-in charm to a space, but for others, they lack in appeal. If you join the latter population, here are some tips on how to prevent your engineered floors from fading.
What Causes Fading?
Before diving into prevention methods, it's good to start with the causes to find the best solutions for your situation and flooring. Faded wood floors occur from four major causes: water damage, general wear and tear, UV ray damage, and chemical damage.
Although engineered wood features higher water resistance than solid wood, they still hold some susceptibility to moisture. This is especially true as your wood floors age, due to the amount of water permeated and the consistency and length of the exposure. Water damage softens the wood, affecting its layers and density. As the layers weaken and become exposed to the surface, they change the appearance of your floors, causing discoloration and a faded appearance over time.
Wear and Tear
The inevitable wear and tear from continuous use of the wooden floors lead to eventual fading. The more wear they endure, the more surface layers erode from the planks. As the top veneer diminishes, they hold less density, exposing the lighter underlayers and core. Just like how worn jeans fade in color the older they get, wood floors also lighten in pigment as time passes due to frequent use and a diminishing durability.
Sun exposure is the number-one nemesis of fading floors. The sun's ultraviolet rays prompt a chemical reaction that breaks down their contact's chemical bonds. Bleaching occurs as the rays react with the floor's finishes and slowly break down the wood.
Like UV rays, certain chemicals break down bonds, weakening and eroding the wooden floors. The harsher the chemicals, the more wear occurs, and bleaching ensues, fading the wood's pigments.
There are a few preventative measures you can take to impede the deterioration of your wooden floors.
Use Window Coverings
Natural lighting enhances the look and feel of a space, but it comes at a price, especially against your wooden floors. There are numerous ways to shade and cover a window, from UV-protectant film to curtains and blinds. Window coverings make efficient barriers and protectants against sun bleaching. They block the pathways and decrease the intensity of the UV rays streaming into your room. Although it's hard and not always ideal to completely shut out the sun, coverings at least weaken and lessen the amount of UV ray exposure.
Add a Finish or Refinish
Since wood floors only expose the surface of the wood, adding a finish or refinishing your planks creates another barrier to incoming UV rays. Finishes act like an extra layer on top of the plank's surface. The more layers the wood posses, the harder it is for external factors to penetrate and affect the wood. Plus, it slows down the erosion process, postponing the rate at which your floors fade. Prefinished floors often consist of industrial-grade coatings, featuring more durability than other forms of finishes. You can even get specific seals made specially to combat and protect the wood from UV rays—like sunblock, but for wood.
Minimize Sun Exposure
Aside from adding finishes and window coverings, there are plenty of other ways to minimize sun exposure. Placing plants by your window blocks some sunlight from entering your home while also satisfying your plants' needs and embellishing room aesthetics. If you don't plan to feature wood floors throughout the entirety of your house, prioritizing rooms with fewer windows minimizes the occurrence of fading. Covering your floors with rugs also mitigates direct sun exposure, but because rugs only cover a portion of floors, having them can lead to uneven discoloration. To prevent uneven fading, rearranging your furnishings and rug placements ensures that all of your wooden boards receive even coverage from intense sun exposure over time.
Choose Pigment-Based Stains
Stains not only add another layer to your floor's surface, but they also implement a little tint. Choosing pigmented-based stains coats your wood floors with a colored layer that makes fading seem less noticeable. Stains can also mitigate discolorations and accentuate wood's natural burls, enhancing the appeal and look of your wooden floors.
Avoid Harsh Cleaning Chemicals
There's a reason why wood cleaners are such a prominent section in the homecare aisle. Whether you own an engineered or solid wood floor, either type is susceptible to damage from harsh chemicals. Bleach guarantees you have sterilized the surface, but it'll also result in faded floors. Multi-purpose sprays may save you storage space and additional purchases, but they can do more harm than good, depending on their chemical composition. Other cleaning products don't tend to test their product specifically on wood or cater to wood surfaces, including harsh chemicals in their mixtures that strip, erode, and fade woods. Natural ingredients work just as well as other cleaners and provide a gentle cleaning solution.
Prevent Water Permeation
As mentioned previously, water plays a role in fading woods. Cleaning spills after they occur, controlling humidity levels, and protecting your wood surfaces from water are all great ways to prevent water damage and its accomplices. On top of softening the wood and eroding it to cause fading, water damage also creates ideal conditions for mold growth, creating more discoloration and unappealing visuals.
Opt for Denser Wood Species
Many of the factors affecting the coloration of wood floors cause fading to occur by breaking down the wood. Denser woods offer more durability and take longer to be affected by external factors than less-dense planks. While the core of engineered wood features a mix of compressed woods and species, its surface consists of a layer of thin real, hardwood. Opting for wood species with high Janka and density ratings decreases the chances of fading and slows its rate. Hard maple, white oak, hickory, and natural red oak hardwood flooring offer high Janka ratings and strong durability characteristics that minimize and prevent fading for longer periods.
Fading coloration is inevitable for wooden floors. However, understanding how to prevent your engineered floors from fading can allow you to spend more time enjoying the ideal version of your floors and postpone the fading process. With some prevention methods in play, you might not even have to deal with fading floors while you occupy the house, leaving the problem for the next owners to figure out. Or, you might learn to love the added characteristic that faded woods bring to homes.