Many of my customers in Westchester County ask me how to prevent scratching in hardwood flooring, so I thought I would provide some tips.
First, let me caveat this by saying that ALL hardwood scratches. It’s just a matter of time. Anyone that tells you the hardwood won’t scratch isn’t telling the truth.
Here are some tips to MINIMIZE the scratches and prolong the life of your hardwood. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By far, the #1 culprit of scratches is dirt/grit, so do whatever you can to minimize this.
Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
1. Take off your shoes! It is amazing how large an impact this can have on your floor. I just went to a repeat customer’s home…a rental. We installed the hardwood over 2 yrs ago and it looks like the job was done yesterday. That is the impact that removing your shoes has…even with renters! To make life simpler, add a plastic or rubber bin by the door to make it convenient for you and your guests. Maybe even add a bench near the door.
2. Add entry mats at the door. Water (and snow/salt) are the worst culprits and the areas by the door tend to wear down the fastest because of this. Get entrance mats – one for outside and one for inside the door. (and if you have an overhang above the front door that also helps). You can buy some outdoor area mats here on wayfair.com. I sorted them to select options that are under $50 and the most popular ones on their site.
3. Add felt pads to the furniture, and get extras.
The Felt Pads can make a big difference and they are especially important for chairs that move the most. Most people do not move the heavier items such as couches that often. I advise my customers to buy extra felt pads as they tend to fall off often especially on chairs that are moved frequently. You can buy the felt pads on Amazon through this link: Felt pads.
4. Avoid chairs with rollers. These really scratch up floors as dirt and grit tends to get caught in them. Either avoid them, or get mats for under these areas as they will destroy your hardwood floors. If you must use rollers, consider buying these Office Chair Caster Wheels – Ideal for hardwood floors on Amazon as they are better for hardwood floors.
5. Clean regularly to get the dirt/grit up. Swiffers or similar products are ideal. Bona is the most highly recommended hardwood cleaner. Check out my recommendations on cleaning products.
6. Avoid spiky shoes, stilettos, and cleats. These can dig into woods and cause scratches. And, of course, avoid dragging and sliding furniture as these can have the same impact.
7. Consider area rugs for areas where chairs are moved often. These can be especially handy for dining rooms or other areas where chairs are frequently moved. Area rugs will also reduce the noise. Also, you can use a plastic mat under rolling chairs (check out this one on Amazon: Clear office chair mat for Hardwood floors.)
And, for kitchens, consider this anti-fatigue mat as it serves 2 purposes: 1) makes it easier on your feet, 2) prevents splashing water getting on the floor. Anti-Fatigue Mat for Stand up desks, kitchens and Garages – Designed to Relieve Foot, Knee and Back Pain.
8. Clean the OUTSIDE of your house.
Since dirt, grit and pebbles that get caught in your shoes can be the biggest culprit of scratches, periodically clean and sweep the outside, especially in key entry areas – the front entrance, garage, back porch. Remember if you have pets, to clean up the areas where they go out and in. They don’t usually take their shoes off (LOL), so a little bit of elbow work will go a long way.
9. Make sure you use area rug pads. Area rugs add comfort, style and warmth to your room. They can also help you reduce scratches as well. But, it’s critical that you have an area rug underneath. If you don’t, many carpets will scratch your floors (from the backing). So get an area rug pad.
Area rugs provide many benefits: 1) they reduce scratches, 2) they keep area rug in place, and 3) they will actually help make your area rug last longer and 4) they will make your area rug softer on your feet. Here’s the one I recommend.
10. Plan B – If you already have a scratch, consider trying one of these Minwax wood stain markers. They come in several colors including dark walnut, provincial, golden oak, early american, cherry, red oak and red mahogany.
If you have pre-finished wood, definitely keep some spare pieces, just in case they are needed for later. You never know if you will have some sort of water damage (e.g. from leaky toilet on the floor above), pet accidents, plants, furniture scraping when moving items, or accidents from kids (or grand kids).
10. Get a vacuum designed for hardwood floors. Yes, so many people make this mistake. They don’t realize that most vacuums are designed for carpets. And, these vacuums can actually scratch your hardwood floors! You can read more about it this articles: What’s the best vacuum for hardwood floors. Here’s the one I recommend: BISSELL Hardwood Floor Expert 1161, and it’s not expensive.
I get a lot of questions about pets and hardwood. Generally, most cats do not cause issues with their claws (although sometimes kitty litter can scratch up the floor so be careful to clean that up). There seems to be more issues with dogs claws and for sure trimming nails will usually help. I’ve also read somewhere that there are some sort of doggie nail covers, but most pet lovers would prefer to leave the pets alone. You can read more here on types of hardwood flooring that are best for pets.
Does adding an extra coat of polyurethane help prevent scratches? Well this depends. If your hardwood is pre-finished, then, no this will actually make your floor more susceptible to scratches (as it will sand off some of the aluminum oxide) and it will void your manufacturer warranty. If however, you have hardwood that has been finished on site (i.e. it was sanded in the home), then, an extra coat can help reduce scratching.
BONUS TIP: I generally recommend to my customers that they do a screen and recoat 3- 4 years after they’ve had their floors refinished. This is preventative maintenance and should be done before you have scratches through the color. This is a method of adding an additional coat of poly for protection. You can read more about it here: What is buffing? How can a screen and recoat help your hardwood floors?
If you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to popular demand, I’m now offering phone consultations as well.
Check out my ebook:
I wrote this e-book to help new home buyers make smart decisions when looking for homes with hardwood floors…or looking to buy a home and then add hardwood. I’ve packaged all of my best tips into this book and hope it will help you make smarter choices in your flooring choices and in buying a home that can support high quality floors.
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How to prevent scratches in your hardwood flooring – Westchester NY
34 thoughts on “How to prevent scratches in your hardwood flooring”
Wow! Great article! I will make these suggestions to my customers who insist on bamboo floor installations. I have had many requests to refinish relatively new bamboo floors. Apparently although bamboo is harder than almost all hardwoods, it appears to be more susceptible to scratching. It is conventionally accepted that bamboo can not be refinished due to its fibrous structure. For this reason it is critical that customers who insist on bamboo be aware of these anti-scratch tips. Thanks!
Ken – Thx so much. While bamboo is often harder than oak, it usually shows the scratches and dents more. And, Recently, I went to an apartment that has bamboo flooring. They had a minor water leak. It appears that the bamboo also seems to be more susceptible to water than oak and it seemed to spread out more than how I usually see it on oak.
I am so confused with buying an area rug for my hardwood floors. What type of rug should I look for that will not scratch the floors? We do not want to use a pad underneath…some rugs just feel very gritty and I know they will scratch..HELP!!
Hi Donna. First, even though you don’t want to buy a carpet pad, I would highly recommend that you get one for the following reasons:
1. It’s the best way to prevent scratches.
2. It will prolong the life of your area rug
3. It will help keep you area rug in place and prevent it from slipping.
That is the best advice I can give you…and bear in mind the carpet pad does not need to be thick.
If you want to go against all the manufacturer’s suggestions (both the carpet and hardwood manufacturers), then the next best bet is to get a carpet w/ soft back which scratches less. Shaw makes carpets like this. You will need to check the backs for the white backing. Not all of them have that. Please note that this will severely limit the type and color selection of your area rug and you will most likely need to do a solid or tone on tone.
As I said above, I would rather see you get the area rug of your choice and just do a thin carpet pad underneath.
Hi – Great article. Would you recommend a chair mat (such as those available in Office Depot etc) or an area rug for an office area in the house where rolling chairs are used? Do the chair mats stain the hardwood over time? Thanks!
Kishore – I think both can work. I would not think that mats stain the hardwood, but you do need to wait at least 30 days before putting them on top. I might also check w/ the manufacturer to make sure there isn’t an issue.
The dog / cat claw covers are called softpaws, they’re basically an acrylic nail sheath. I had to put them on my cat as part of a rental agreement once, she got used to them pretty quickly (although we’re both much happier when we moved and didn’t have that requirement anymore.
Tiffany – Oh wow, thanks for that information. I will need to look them up. I don’t think my cats would be happy with them either.
Hello! What a tremendously helpful blog! Thank you! I realize this is a post about prevention, but I just bought a home with dark stained wood floors (which I hate and wish they were more of a light Nordic clear coat), but I’m just realizing that the previous owners didn’t use felt pads under their barstools and there is wear. It has completely taken the stain off along the edge of a length of wood—it’s about 3 ft long and 1/2 inch thick of visible wear. I’m wondering if I can just have this piece of wood replaced or it can be spot re-stained or there’s just no hiding and I’ll have to refinish the whole room?
Almira – Unfortunately, you will probably need to refinish the whole floor/room. If it’s prefinished wood and it’s only on one or two pieces and you have extra matching wood, you can do that. But, assuming it’s regular wood, it will be very difficult to just sand down one piece and get it to match. If someone were to refinish it, it would take 4 trips to do it, so it’s not easy. If scratches are minor, you could try the stain pens to camouflage it until you refinish and go natural. I would probably do that with Bona Traffic HD and no stain. That will probably give you the look you are seeking and it will last longer especially for the barstools.
Pls note that the paint pen is not a long term solution. If the floor hasn’t been sanded, it won’t fully penetrate the wood and there is no poly on top. Alternatively, you could do an area rug there as a temporary fix. I hope that helps.
Hi, We just had new pine floors polyurethane with 3 coast’s. They used a brand I had never heard of Steamline Satin Poly. Do you know of any good or bad things about this poly or cure time? Thanks, Lynn
I’m not familiar with the brand, Alma. If it’s oil based, I’d assume the same 30 day curing time as oil based poly generally has and if it’s water borne, probably 2 weeks. Note: you can walk on them much sooner….see my article on curing. just go to the search bar. I hope that helps.
Hi, Nice information and tips, had recently done new wood floors with oil based polyurethane coats, the floors are not very smooth, how should it look like when it is new?
Ram – hmmm. Hard to say without seeing it. It could be that your contractors didn’t do a good job/didn’t properly sand, or could be that they didn’t buff, or it could be that you should buff and get an extra coat of poly. It comes out best when you get 3 coats of poly. If you only have 2 coats of poly, the floors may be a bit rough/scratchy feeling. Talk to your contractors (and/or bring in a different local professional).
I would expect absolute perfection, especially if your floors are old, but they generally turn out really well and relatively smooth when they’re finished. I hope that helps.
I just had floors sanded and stained – waited a long time before walking on them – several days- went to put sofa back and slid it across floor with drop cloth under- it was moved and it left streak across floor- how to remove streaks? I’ve tried furniture polish, Bruce hardwood cleaner- rubbing – nothing – what do you suggest?
Oh gosh, you should never drag a couch across the floor, and most especially within 30 days of refinishing you floors. You always want to lift it. You may need to screen and recoat you floors to get ride of this. I would call the people who did your floors to see if they can help you and what they would suggest (and pay them). They may be able to blend some poly in. But, if it’s across a long area, you may need to screen and do an extra coat across the whole room. I would not expect furniture polish to work, nor to adhere. Also, note that now that you’ve applied furniture polish (which may have wax), a poly may not adhere properly either. Call in a professional to get their perspective.
You are my hero! Your blog has been super helpful!
My question is is gloss, swmi-gloss, or satin the best to minimize scratches? We just sanded, stained and now we are at the poly stage and super nervous. Aesthetically, I would prefer a satin or semi-gloss (I think), but we have 3 dogs and a newborn coming soon so want to be realistic.
We used dark walnut stain on pine. The hardwood floors or original to our 1929 house.
Also, is it best to do several thin coats or 2 thicker coats?
Thanks for your help!!
Nicolette – Thanks. You’re so sweet. Do a satin finish. It’s most in style and shows scratches and dents less. Make sure you do 3 coats, especially since you have dogs.
You should never do thick coats. It will neither dry nor adhere properly. And, it will look terrible. Coats are always consistent, and I guess they are thin. You will need to buff before 2nd coat of poly and before 3rd coat of poly.
Why can you put furniture back on your floor with felt pads after a few days but must wait 30 days for area rugs? What is the difference? Both are a material. Why won’t the furniture on felt impact the floor the same way a throw rug would before 30 days has passed?
Tammy – That’s because the area rug smothers the floor. For furniture, only small areas cover the floors (i.e. the legs). If you want to be safer, wait 30 days for both. But, area rugs for sure need to wait longer and often will permanently stick to the floor if you put them on too soon.
So because the felt under a leg is the size of a quarter the floor under it can potentially still breath. Gotcha. I’ve been sleeping on a boy scout cot in my new “old” house in an unfinished room because I’m being overly protective. I am bringing in furniture this week and it will be day 23, so I feel better that the floor has cured a solid three weeks. Thanks for the quick response!
Tammy – Oh that’s good. That’s plenty of time for furniture. Just be careful not to slide it on the floors. Cots, etc should be easy to move. But, for any furniture (or boxes), if you drag on the floor, even 2-5 years later, you can scratch the floors (as I’m sure you know. Enjoy your new home. Also, if you have extra cardboard boxes, you may want to put some by the entrance while moving stuff in.
What if the contractor got the wood too close to the wall and did not allow for adequate swelling? It is starting to buckle. Will removing the outer board relieve the pressure and allow for shrinkage and will it go flat again?
Rob – Most likely this will help. They can remove the baseboards and/or quarter round, cut the wood and then reinstall (or replace) the base molding or quarter round if it breaks. Note: you will probably need to repaint the base boards.
Also, you can try a dehumidifier. That may also help. You may need to do both.
Note: I don’t know where you live, but here in NY, it’s still on the cool side…and I would expect the issue to get worse as it gets warmer and more humid (esp in the summer, esp Aug/September when humidity is higher). Try to keep the area dry/not humid.
Also, bear in mind that you need to look at the cause. If the issue is that it was cut too close, this should solve it. It may also help if they didn’t allow floor to acclimate. But, please bear in mind that there could be other causes (e.g. water/moisture) and/or that they nailed the quarter round into the wood rather than the wall/base molding.
I love your blog. I am getting my floors refinishined on Thursday, but problem is the contractors are not fully done getting the little stuff. I bought a cardboard looking paper to take on the floors after 2 days of last application of poly. Would the tape adhesive damage the coat?
You would want to wait at least 4 days after the last coat of poly before putting the paper down. And, NEVER put the tape or adhesive on top of the floor…of any sort. It will remove the finish…and certainly within the first 30 days. I’ve seen it happen even after 2 years. So, tape the paper strips to each other (overlapping), not the floor. And, tell the contractors to be very careful when they come back.
Also, remove the paper as soon as you can afterwards so that the floors can continue to cure.
What a thorough article. You answered so many questions, but I still have one: My home has very big windows so the sunlight darkens the color of my floor.I cannot move the area rugs around because of this discoloration. What do you suggest for my upcoming refinishing as far as color and product? The wood is ash.
Cindy – Oh yeah, I think ash is even more light sensitive than oak. I might look into some UV protection for the windows and/or window treatments. For poly, the oil based poly tends to protect the floors a bit more. And, I’m guessing that darker colors will as well. We use Duraseal for oil based poly. I hope that helps.
Great article! Thanks for all your help. I am doing my 3 bedrooms grey and did the first one last year and didn’t know about the oil based poly leaving a yellow tint. So bedroom 2 I used Varathane Water Based 4 applications and moved a box across the floor. It scratched it. The oil based from I drug things across and had no issues but the water based I feel is scratching more easily. What are you’re suggestions? Do you like Varathane Poly? Do I just put on more coats?
Stacey – For the water based poly, you should be using Bona Traffic HD. It is just as durable as oil. I can’t tell you what you should do now as that depend on the damage you did and whether it went though the color. You probably want to hire a local professional to look at to see if a screen and recoat will work. Just adding poly on top won’t work without screening and chances are you don’t have the right tools.
You recommend using a plastic floor mat under chairs with casters. My father did that with pergo flooring. Over the years the floor area under the mat got scratched up and is damaged. Is this still recommended for hardwood floors?
Robyn – Yes. Laminate tends to wear down even faster, if you have a cheap laminate. They would have worn down much faster without it. But, your 2 basic options are plastic mats or an area rug (with proper cushioning). Of course the chairs don’t roll so well on the area rugs and they are generally wrong size shape, so generally a plastic mat is better. But, the much better solution is not to use a rolling chair at all as they can damage your floors no matter what you do.
The contractor put rosin paper over the floors 30 hours after the last coat of polyurethane. We were going to leave it for about 4 weeks. Will this hurt the floor or keep it from curing?
If it was oil based, the contractor should have waiting 4 days. If it was water based, then 3 days. And, either way, don’t let them sit too long.