UV Damage to Wood
The problem of UV damage to wood, causing sun faded floors and color degradation from exposure to direct sunlight does not have any single solution. The best course to follow involves a series of steps and actions including low e glass windows and window films for older windows. Color deterioration in wood floors occurs from three sources: UV exposure, heat and moisture.
Manufacturers of stains and coatings are very clear that their products won’t stop the fading and UV damage to wood. It is true that stains with pigments (as opposed to dyes) and finishes with UV inhibitors will slow the process down but the manufacturers emphasize the word “slow” and make no claims of stopping the problem.
There are options available that will further slow the deterioration. If you are building a new house or addition that involves the selection of new windows, you would be wise to consider low-e glass windows. There is a broad selection but the bottom line is that this type of window will help reduce the two components of sunlight that are the most destructive – UV (ultraviolet) and IR (infrared). The UV light bleaches the floor and the IR is where the heat comes from. If there is too much of either, no finish or stain on the market will stand up to it.
If you have to work with older existing windows, you have the option of looking into a variety of window films. These thin, multi-layered film products are applied to the inside of a window to help do what low-e windows have built into them. I have seen them applied to the windows of historic properties where protecting wood floors, old rugs and expensive fabrics are a high priority. They may not be as effective as low-e windows but they beat the heck out of doing nothing.
A Low Tech Solution for UV Light Damage to Wood
Finally, let’s go for the low tech solution and just use window coverings. Drapes, shutters or blinds may not be what you had in mind when you bought or built your home but this is an approach previous generations put to good use. And when you weigh it against the alternatives it can be a good bit cheaper!
All of these suggestions address sunlight and the subsequent UV and IR potential damage. The light and heat are two of the three components that cause excessive fading and color degradation. The other is moisture. Fortunately, homeowners are usually keen on minimizing excessive moisture because of the other side effects it has on wood; rotting, staining, expansion and swelling, creating a haven for insects and so on. Waterproofing your basement is something every homeowner should consider. I did it to mine. It was pricey but I now consider my dry basement an asset and not a headache. I never hesitate to encourage homeowners to buy and place a simple dehumidifier in basements or crawl spaces to draw the moisture out of the air. They are safe and dependable and reduce the chances of mold as well – another hazard to avoid.
Most homeowners understand very clearly that minimizing sunlight, heat and moisture will benefit all the surfaces of their homes, not just the wood floors. It may very well require some expense and effort but I think most people see the wisdom of this effort and expense.