As someone who has had many pets over his lifetime, I understand the challenges of domestic pets and hardwood floors as well as anyone. Here is some information I have collected to enable you to enjoy your pets and protect your floors.
Scratches & Indentations: Take the weight of the dog, put it all on the sharp points of contact of his/her nails, toss in a bundle of energy and you have a critter that is going to leave marks. The first thing I did with our dog was to take her to obedience school. If the dog understands that running through the house is unacceptable and as long as you don’t promote it by heaving a tennis ball around, the problem diminishes. Don’t waste your time thinking the problem is the finish. It is the animal and their behavior. Treat the problem, not the symptom. Too many people have told me this is the better option. I did it with our dog and I have no regrets.
Animal urine: Over my 43+ years in wood floor work, I have seen more damage to wood floors from animal urine than termites, fire, and water combined. Animal urine contains ammonia nitrate and this powerful chemical will permanently turn an oak floor dark very quickly. If you notice puddles on a floor after your pet has been in the room, get it up quickly. Cats are the most chronic offender. They have a tendency to mark a spot and then they repeat the action. The degree of damage is greatly exacerbated by wall to wall carpeting or area rugs. The urine is trapped in the material and will be held in direct contact for prolonged periods of time. I don’t recommend bleaching the floors since this can structurally weaken the wood. I typically remove and replace the damaged wood. If a pet doesn’t have the option of going outdoors to relieve themselves, then you need to provide them the facilities. Kitty litter boxes are mandatory. For a dog, you may need to contain them in a room without wood floors or carpeting. Several homeowners have relied on their laundry rooms. Aging pets usually compound the situation and I would say take the precautions I have already mentioned and consult your vet for other options.
Dirt, debris and hair: With animals, these are all natural byproducts. I always recommend that you have a runner that your pets (and people) have to walk over when they come in the house. Since dogs tend to carry in dirt in their fur, go to your local pet store and get a pad or pillow and have a dog biscuit on it waiting for them when they come inside. Make sure it is conveniently located and be prepared to either wash it or toss it and replace it when you can’t stand the sight or smell of it. You will also be doing more cleaning. Vacuuming is still your best method of cleaning. There are several good cleaning kits for most contemporary finishes, especially polyurethanes. Make sure you have the proper cleaners and equipment.
Always remember that even though your pet makes great company and doesn’t talk back when you talk to them, they’re still animals. Get them outdoors as often as possible. Encourage good indoor behavior with positive reinforcement. A simple food treat can do wonders. And take pictures of them whenever possible!
Michael Purser | © Rosebud Co. 2016