Pets and hardwood: How to have your cake and eat it too

We love our pets. Be they cats, turtles, dogs, rabbits or birds, many of us consider pets as much a part of the family as any people. But while humans can usually behave themselves in a house after being told what to do, pets… not so much.

Many people are concerned about their larger pets damaging their floors when considering new flooring. Dogs particularly can cause grief for homeowners with hardwood floors. Those long nails, water from playing outside, hair and accidents in the house can all cause damage to wood flooring over time. Scratches, dents and warping on floors are all common problems.

Luckily, taking your dog to the pound isn’t the only option to save your hardwood floors. There are lots of strategies you can try to protect your floors and make sure Fido gets to enjoy them, too.

Scratching damage

Dogs, especially big ones, can cause deep scratches with their nails as they play and run around your home. Cats in general don’t have this problem, as they’re light and their nails don’t cause much damage, but dogs are notorious for it.

There are some steps you can take to help reduce that damage, such as clipping or filing your dog’s nails — or even capping them — but it’s hard to keep on top of all the time. Taking your dog for walks can often help control the nail growth, but if it doesn’t, you’ll have to consider strategies to control them.

First, it’s important to consider your furry friend when you’re choosing a type of wood for your flooring. Some species of wood are harder than others, making it harder to scratch their surfaces. Finishes come in various different varieties of hardness, too. To avoid scratches, for unfinished flooring the best thing to do is choose a harder wood species that rank high on the Janka hardness test such as hickory, oak, Brazilian cherry or hard maple and pair it with a hardy finish like Bona Traffic HD or Glitsa Max, which are formulated for high-traffic areas. It’s also a good idea to choose lighter stain and avoid glossy finishes.

If you are getting a prefinished wood, prefer hand-scraped hardwoods. This is a stylized, rustic look that shows scratches and dents less because the style is already rough.

Confining dogs to runner and rugs is nigh on impossible on hardwood flooring — after all, they want to be near you! However, a few strategically placed rugs can help avoid the majority of damage. Making sure there are rugs near doors will help prevent the elements from coming in the doors and can stop some of the high-speed damage of a dog coming in. Plus, it will help keep your human visitors from dragging in rocks or dirt.

Most of the time, even if there is a scratching accident, it’s not the end of the world. More often than not, the scratch is only in the finish rather than in the actual wood. A coat of polyurethane over the top will help protect your floors and keep them looking good as new.

Water damage

We all know it: dogs are messy. They slosh water around their bowls, drool, and have accidents in the house. We love them anyway, but how do we keep those accidents from warping wood floors?

Place absorbent mats under the dog’s drinking bowl to help take care of some of the spillover. When water does make it onto the floor, make sure you clean it up as soon as possible. Sitting water is one of the worst things for hardwood floors and can cause warping and discoloration over time. That goes for urine accidents, too — try to make sure it gets wiped up as quickly as possible.

When rugs get wet, hang them up to dry before putting them back down on the floor, too. That will prevent you from winding up with a rug-shaped stain in your hardwood flooring.

Hair control

One major advantage hardwood flooring has over carpeting in homes with pets is their hair. After all, even though you can’t see it in carpeting, it’s still there — you just have to vacuum it up. Hardwood flooring shows all the pet hair, which can look messy, but it’s much easier to clean up.

If your floor is well-maintained, you shouldn’t have issues with pet hair getting between the boards — if you do, that’s a sign that you may have some humidity or dryness issues and should consult a professional to help with the gapping. But it can feel like an endless struggle to keep your hardwood floors from resembling carpeting with the amount of fur your dog can shed.

Many pet owners rely on Swiffers or dampened mops to help pick up all that pet hair. There are specialized vacuums for pet hair on hardwood floors out there as well, if you are really struggling to pick up the dander — Consumer Reports recommends one from Miele that has a bag and a brush setting. However, vacuums can be expensive, while mops and brooms are not.

With a little upkeep, you can make sure that your home stays clean, with the look you want, and welcoming for your furry family members. Gone are the days when you had to decide between having a dog or having a beautiful hardwood floors!