Choosing hardwood flooring for your home seems straightforward enough. After all, it is really about appearance and cost, right? Unfortunately, if you are a pet owner, this is a shortsighted approach that will ensure a limited life for your new flooring.
Durability is a key component for aesthetically pleasing flooring that will last a lifetime when you have pets in the house. Even floors that can withstand most situations may easily fall prey to claws and nails, particularly those of energetic dogs. Homeowners with pets must not only choose the appropriate type of wood, but carefully maintain it over time to ensure that it looks just as good in 20 years as it does the day the installation is complete.
Choosing Your Flooring
While pets can scratch the finish on floors, in many cases, the marks that are left behind by a sprinting dog are actually indentations in the surface. Unfortunately, these aren’t completely avoidable; however, you can mitigate the impact of pet claws by choosing wood options that are strong and hard, similar to the hardwood lumber that is recommended for outdoor fencing.
Hard Woods to Consider
- Brazilian walnut: Brazilian walnut is one of the hardest woods that you can buy, and it will stand strong in high traffic areas to both children and pets. You can purchase it in a range of colors, from tan to black brown, and it is gorgeous. Make sure to purchase your Brazilian walnut from a reputable source to avoid shrinkage that can occur during kilning and ensure that it is installed properly.
- Hickory: Hickory isn’t as hard as walnut, but it is durable and offers attractive colors from light cream to brown, not to mention the floor panels will amber over their lifetime.
- Brazilian Teak: Stylish is one word that is often used to describe Brazilian teak, but pet owners will also be pleased by its toughness. It is extremely hard and can endure a German shepherd’s sprint without a blemish. It boasts light yellows and dark browns, which also make it extremely classy.
- Brazilian Cherry: It’s not just a clever name; Brazilian cherry boasts a beautiful burgundy color, and it is a very hard wood that is ideal for a house full of pets.
When purchasing your flooring, consider ¾” hardwood, regardless of the material, because you can finish it time and time again. This will ensure that, even if your floors do suffer damage, they can be brought back to life without the expense of installing a new floor.
Soft Woods to Avoid
Simply put, avoid soft woods if you want something that can weather the furry fury of your pets. Like their lumber counterparts, soft woods– such as American cherry, American walnut, pine, fir, and cedar – indent more easily and will suffer in households with pets and children. It is important to remember that the American varieties of cherry and walnut are soft (the opposite of their tough Brazilian counterparts). Fortunately, the softer woods tend to be more expensive due to supply, so not only will you get a longer life from hard, imported flooring, but you will save, as well.
Commit to Regular Maintenance
Wood flooring and pets can coexist. But choosing the right hardwoods is only the beginning. Once installed, it is critical to maintain your investment so that it will live a long, beautiful life.
- Keep your pet’s nails trimmed. This will eliminate the risk of scratches and dents, regardless of the type of wood that you have selected for your flooring. Make sure to avoid pointed edges on your pet’s nails by purchasing a nail trimmer that shapes and sands them, as opposed to a manual trimmer.
- Clean up urine immediately. All pets have accidents, but remember that urine is particularly damaging to hardwoods because it is made up of uric acid and ammonia, which can create dark or black stains. Use a mixture of water and plain vinegar to clean up any messes, and take action quickly. This will prevent extensive damage and eliminate the smell. There are also plenty of products on the market that will achieve the desired effect, but do your research. Bleach and some other chemicals can cause unintended consequences.
- Place your pet’s water bowl on a mat. This will prevent repeated spills and puddled water from ruining your beautiful floor.
- Sweep up dirt and dander. If you leave dirt and other debris in high traffic areas, you run the risk that it will grate against your floors like sandpaper and cause damage. Sweep frequently.
- Avoid glossy finishes: If you do decide to refinish your floors sometime in the future, avoid glossy finishes, which are more susceptible to damage from nails. Consider a satin finish.
Resilient hardwoods, coupled with proper maintenance, are really all that you need to ensure that your floors can not only survive life with your pets, but can actually thrive over the years.
Chris Long is a long-time store associate at a Home Depot in Illinois, and writes about lumber projects for the Home Depot website. Hardwood lumber, doors, and windows are among the lumber topics Chris enjoys writing about.