Winter-Proofing: Make Your Floors Withstand Extreme Weather
Winter can be hard on your home—both inside and out. One particularly vulnerable area lies just underneath your feet: the floor. Weather-related damage usually appears there first. In order to help your floors withstand harsh conditions, you must take the appropriate steps to winter-proof them. Having a plan for prevention is easier if you understand what might contribute to floor damage in your home.
Common Causes of Floor Damage
As temperatures drop, your floors are more susceptible to weather-related issues—especially if they are made of wood. Some common causes of floor damage include:
- Moisture: Moisture from rain, snow, and sleet is the most common cause of winter floor damage, especially on wood. Excess moisture is detrimental to many different areas of your home, and unfortunately, inclement weather makes it difficult to keep moisture out entirely. Wet umbrellas, soggy boots, and dripping outerwear are typical culprits, particularly near entryways.
- Heating: When extreme cold sets in, it’s only natural to want to raise the thermostat. However, indoor heating has a drying effect on flooring.
- Salt: Just as salt can harm plants and animals, it can be devastating to your floors. Salt is often tracked in on boots and pant cuffs. Pets may also bring salt into your home if it gets trapped between the pads of their feet.
Chemicals: Rock salt is just one of the various substances used to melt ice during the winter months; all ice-melting products have a high pH and will function similarly to floor-stripping products if brought into a home.
Some areas of your home may be more susceptible to damage because of their proximity to the elements or due to their general function. Garage floors are an example; they are regularly subjected to salt (via car tires), gasoline, and toxic chemicals, and moisture enters a garage much more easily than it does a living space.
Basement floors have a similarly heightened risk of damage and are easily affected by extreme temperatures and humidity. For this reason, homeowners and builders often install concrete in these areas. Be sure to have the surfaces of your garage and basement treated, as this will decrease weather-related wear and tear. A company that specializes in treating garages and basements will be able to advise you regarding the ideal process for winter-proofing.
Floor damage can be costly to repair, and replacing flooring is a time-consuming source of stress and upheaval for any homeowner. In addition, there are a host of health and safety risks to consider when floors are damaged and allowed to deteriorate. Some minor weather-related effects are inevitable as the years pass, but others can be avoided with simple care and maintenance. Learning to anticipate and detect winter damage will help you take action as soon as possible—before conditions decline beyond repair.
Long-Term Effects of Floor Damage
Damage to your floors may reveal itself in a wide variety of ways.
- Oily Coating: This may be the result of magnesium chloride or calcium chloride, both of which are used to melt ice. If tracked into a home, these products will leave behind a sticky residue that attracts unwanted dirt.
- Mould: If moisture is permitted to remain on wood floors, mould can start to grow and spread. There’s an increased risk of mould if a house is carpeted because moisture can remain trapped underneath the fibers or padding.
- Rot: Wood and carpeting will rot if excess moisture remains unmonitored. This can result in crumbling materials and dangerous soft spots; the risk of slipping and falling increases whenever the strength of a flooring surface is compromised.
- Gaps: Dry air from indoor heating systems can cause floorboards to contract, creating gaps between segments of hardwood floors.
- Scratches: Salt and dirt can scratch the finish of your floor, as well as dull its surface.
- Stains: Water will stain a wood floor, as will ice-melting substances.
If you own a business, increased foot traffic will likely result in accelerated floor damage. Doors situated directly at street level allow the elements to creep in, as will doors that open and close more frequently. Regular exposure to the outdoors means that climate control is a challenge, with heating systems working overtime in the winter months.
Safety is naturally a chief concern during the winter because slips and falls are particularly common during this season. Puddles often form near business entryways, posing considerable risk to clientele. Aesthetics are also an important consideration, particularly in a sales environment. Costly repairs can stall daily operations and disrupt the flow of business. It’s therefore important for business owners take steps to prevent floor damage from occurring.
Key Steps to Prevent Floor Damage
Most weather-related damage can be avoided by taking the following steps:
- Removing Footwear: Ice-melting chemicals, oil, and moisture commonly enter a home on the soles of shoes—not to mention any unwelcome bacteria picked up from sidewalks and roads.
- Protective Matting: Doormats can help protect any entryways used by people or animals. Mats should cover the entire area sufficiently; they are your first line of defense against weather-related moisture, salt, oil, and grime. Garage entrances should be particularly well-protected since they are usually positioned at street level. (Avoid mats with rubber backing because they can cause floor discolouration.)
- Humidifier: To combat the effects of dry indoor heat, utilize a humidifier to maintain optimal moisture levels. Your goal should be a humidity level between 40% and 60%. This will limit shrinkage of your flooring planks.
- Sweeping and Vacuuming: If you have wood floors, be careful not to allow excess dirt into your living space, as it will have a dulling effect on the finish over time. Dirt can also scratch wood surfaces. When vacuuming, avoid using a beater-bar attachment directly on wood surfaces. Mats should be swept or vacuumed regularly in order to remove excess grit and salt.
- Refinishing: If you have hardwood flooring in your home, reinforce sealants at regular intervals, depending on the type of product used. Wax, for example, should be reapplied annually. Polishing enhances and maintains the durability and appearance of concrete floors, while an epoxy coating adds another layer of weather protection.
- Fireplace Protection: As comforting as a winter fireplace can be, floor damage can put a damper on this classic cold-weather experience. Embers or soot will mar the beauty of any flooring material. Place non-combustible matting on the hearth and use an effective fire screen or grate. A hearth extension is also a surefire way to protect surfaces around a fireplace. Before building or using a fireplace, take steps to guarantee the overall safety of your home.
- Plumbing Inspection: As pipes and building materials shift during the colder months, leaks are more likely to occur. Inspect pipes regularly; excess water from leaks could seriously damage flooring.
Flooring materials have a significant impact on the ability to withstand harsh winter weather. As mentioned, concrete is a reliable choice for challenging areas, such as basements and garages. Many winter-related factors that lead to floor damage will have less of an impact on concrete. However, concrete needs to be sealed and surfaced with care in order to maintain its high level of durability. Treating concrete also enhances its visual appeal and makes it easier to address any wear and tear. Epoxy coating is an attractive and cost-effective way to prevent water damage and can guard against chemicals (such as ice-melting compounds).
Enjoying the winter months is easier when you know your home is protected from the elements. Concrete floors are a reliable weather-resistant choice, with a range of attractive surface-treatment options. For a free quote or to discuss which flooring option will work for you, contact Concrete Epoxy 101 in Vaughan at (416) 838-5188.
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