This is an incredibly informative article for all of you clients of mine (and friends) who have dogs and are wondering about the right kind of wood floors to get....Debbie Gartner has all of the answers!
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Yes, today is National Dog Day (August 26th). I love dogs (as well as cats) and many of my customers have the most wonderful dogs. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is "What types of hardwood flooring are best for dogs?"
Of course, this is a loaded question, and it's challenging to answer because truthfully all hardwood will dent and scratch over time - it's just a matter of how much and how much you can see it. But I don't think this is a reason to avoid getting hardwood for your home if you have dogs. Tons of consumers have dogs and hardwood and they can easily co-exist and live happily ever after.
Usually, this question is less of an issue for cats and more of a concern with dogs, especially active dogs. And, while there are things you can do w/ your pets (e.g. clip or file nails), I'm going to focus on hardwoods that can take a better beating and/or not show it as much.
1. First, by all means stay away from the softer woods:
- American Cherry
- American Walnut
- Pines (including Douglas fir)
- Bamboo (esp carmelized bamboo)
These woods are softer and will dent very easily - even without a pet or kids. They look beautiful, but they are not very practical. And, ironically, they often cost more (because fewer people buy them). Note: American Cherry and Walnut are different than Brazilian Cherry and Walnut. American = soft; Brazilian = hard.
2. Take your shoes off. A lot of customers blame their pets for scratches, but often we are the worst culprit. While high heels are often not wonderful for hardwood floor, the biggest culprit is not the shoes themselves, but rather what gets caught in the shoes. It's those pebbles and dirt that get caught in our shoes that cause most of the scratches. Or, sometimes w/ high heels that have been worn a while, the rubber wears off and there is a nail at the bottom. So before blaming your lovely pets, look at your own habits. For my customers that take their shoes off, their hardwood floors are in way better condition and it's a much longer time before they need to be refinished.
3. Woods with stronger graining are better for hiding the scratches. Oak is a great example of this, especially red oak which has stronger graining than white oak. While Red Oak is only 1290 on the janka hardness scale (which is still hard and is hard enough), it does an excellent job of hiding the dents and scratches due to the strong graining. In fact, it usually hides them better than Brazilian Cherry (2,350) and Brazilian Walnut (3684) which have less and smoother graining.
4. All things being equal, harder hardwoods are better. This is tricky because not all things are equal - see the previous point. But, Hickory is great choice (1820 on the Janka scale). There are many other hardwoods that are harder...see the janka scale of hardness...but you can't jut look at hardness by itself.
5. Usually, lighter colors are better for pets. First, darker colors seem to show the scratches more. I'm not sure why, but they just do. Second, oak is the most common type of hardwood and oak is naturally light. So, if you have a scratch that penetrates the stain color, it will show less on lighter colors since what is revealed beneath is simiar in color.
6. Satin finishes. Avoid glossy or semi-gloss finishes. The glossier the finish, the more it will show the scratches from the light reflecting off of it. Satin finishes are most stylish these days anyway.
7. Solid hardwood or high quality engineered hardwood that can be refinished. It's always good to have an insurance plan so that you can refinish the hardwood floors when you need to.
8. Consider handscraped or distressed hardwoods. This is a stylized look that some customers love and some hate. It tends to be in style in the South, certain areas in the west, and more rustic homes in the Northeast. This look is not for everyone. But, here's why it's good for pets...it shows the scratches and dents less because that's how the wood is designed - it dent looks like it fits right in. Likewise, hardwood that has more knots and character marks will hide the dent and scratches more.
9. Bamboo is "iffy" with pets - can vary greatly - some are good; most are not. Bamboo's resilience can vary widely pending the type and the brand, and what follows are some generalizations. a) stay away from stained bamboo - these scratch very easily and bamboo does not accept stains as well as oak does, b) carmelized bamboo is weaker than natural as the process of heating it weakens the grass, c) strand bamboo can be very strong - so if you have pets and want bamboo, this is a GREAT option - more expensive, but will hold up better, d) buying bamboo from big box stores and/or cheap bamboo results in a lot of dents, e) even though natural bamboo is technically stronger than oak, it shows dents more easily (and carmelized bamboo is usually softer than oak). See my page on bamboo flooring for more info and for pictures.
10. Use felt pads underneath furniture and area rugs/entrance mats. This is especially important for chairs that are used a lot. Oh, and stay away from chairs with wheels - often thing get caught in the wheels and cause scratches. If you do have chairs with wheels, put an area rug underneath. And, make sure you have area rugs/entrance mats at all your main entries. You can even have one outside, too. These are the areas that get worn down the fastest due to rain, snow, salt, dirt, so protecting these areas will go a long way towards preserving your floors.
11. Consider doggie socks. Yes, I know this one may be a bit controversial and many say their dogs will not like these. This is a picture of one of my customer's dogs. It can work (especially if it's cold outside) and this is something I recommend to my customers for right after they sand & refinish their floors as it will enable their dogs to walk on the floors sooner. I love dogs and I'd rather see them happy and comfortable at home rather than being restricted for the first week or two after you refinish the floors.
I hope this is helpful. Apologies for the length, but there are a lot of things to consider with hardwood and this is not an easy question to answer. Above is meant to address denting/scratching. If you are concerned about pets peeing on the hardwood, that is a whole different issue...basically no hardwoods will stand up well to that, so clean up the mess quickly is the best advice I can give you on that, but generally site finished wood does a bit better as the poly covers the edges. This article might come in handy: How do you get rid of pet stains in hardwood flooring?
So here's to all the wonderful dogs out there. Hugs from NY and enjoy the day. As far as I'm concerned, everyday is National Dog Day.
Debbie Gartner, "The Flooring Girl" and owner of Floor Coverings International Westchester NY
Angie's List Super Service Award winners for 4 years in a row.
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