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Does Oak Flooring Scratch Easily?

Zoom in photo of a oak wood floor.

Oak wood floors are a beautiful finishing touch and can add warmth and character to your home. Hardwood is often an excellent choice over carpet for several reasons, including cleaning or simply aesthetics. But as with any choice of materials in your home, you’re probably thinking about what it will look like down the line. 

While carpet can stain easily, what concerns could pop up with oak hardwood flooring? One of the main questions when it comes to wood flooring is if, and how easily, it will scratch.

Oak flooring is a type of hardwood. Unfortunately, as with any type of wood, it can scratch over time — but fortunately, oak is one of the harder wood choices for flooring, making it more resistant to scratches than other types of wood! The only way to avoid scratches entirely is to switch to a durable artificial alternative, like a laminate, but then you risk losing some of that sought-after character that comes with hardwood flooring!

When choosing an oak flooring that may scratch less, it’s less about the material itself and more about the appearance, specifically the color and grain. Grainier woods with more knots can hide scratches more easily than very smooth grains, for example. When choosing a color, opt for lighter if possible — scratches and damage are more visible in darker colors.

One material element that is important, however, is the finish. To be proactive about scratches, be mindful of the finish; choose a strong, resistant finish, especially if you anticipate a lot of use (or pets!). 

Beyond aesthetic choices, there are a few things you can do to prevent scratches in oak flooring, regardless of your personal style choices.  

How to maintain oak flooring?

One of the easiest ways to prevent scratches in oak flooring is to use furniture pads. Add felt pads to every part of furniture that touches the floor. This is particularly important with furniture that moves around a lot, like dining room chairs or ottomans.

It’s also a good idea to check these regularly to make sure the felt is still in good enough condition to protect your floors — and to check that the pads haven’t fallen off! Purchase felt pads in various sizes in bulk, so you always have some on hand to keep your floors safe. 

Of course, scratches can make their way into wood flooring in other ways, too, often from harsh living conditions or improper cleaning. In general, the best practice is to have a shoes-free home. It’s easy for shoes to track in dirt, mud, salt, and many other things that can easily damage wood floors, especially when the weather is damp or snowy!

Cleaning hardwood oak flooring

A woman sweeping a dust in the hardwood oak floor.

One of the most important things you can do to take care of your oak flooring is proper cleaning. Oak hardwood care — and most wood flooring care — is different than cleaning for other types of flooring, like laminate or stone. Doing this right will help your floors last longer while doing it wrong can actually damage them. Fortunately, oak is more durable than other woods and can handle a lot over its lifetime. 

Dusting & Sweeping hardwood floors:

There are a few steps to proper hardwood cleaning. First, try to clear dust and other debris regularly, sweeping daily if possible. Dust and other particles form constantly and can settle between floorboards and into the grain of the wood itself. This is especially true if you have pets — pet hair and dander can build up quickly!

While frequent sweeping is recommended, a full clean with a vacuum is only necessary on a weekly basis (or more often if you like to keep a cleaner space). Make sure you use a vacuum or setting meant for wood flooring to avoid damage — Roombas work great for this task!

Mopping oak floors:

A woman used a mop for cleaning a hardwoord oak floors.

To keep your floors in tip-top shape, it’s wise to also use a wet wood cleaner on a monthly basis, double-checking that the product doesn’t contain any ingredients that could damage your floors or weaken the finish. Mopping helps catch any stuck debris and keeps your oak wood floors in sparkling condition.

Similarly, as with vacuuming, make sure you’re using a mop designed for wood flooring to avoid materials that may leave scratches, and it’s best to use a damp mop — not a wet one — to avoid excessive moisture that can cause its own problems.  

Spills on a hardwood floor:

On a more case-by-case basis, it’s also important to be mindful of spills. Oakwood swells and shrinks when exposed to moisture, and over time that can lead to issues like gapping, cupping, and even splitting of the wood. Moisture can also damage the finish, making the wood itself prone to damage like scratches. If something is spilled, be sure to clean it up immediately with a damp cloth and light wood cleaner if necessary. 

You’ve got scratches on your oak flooring. Now What?

Close up photo of a oak hardwood with scratches.

You’ve done all the right cleaning, kept shoes out of your home, and been diligent about using furniture pads, but your oak flooring is showing some wear and tear. From scuffs and marks to scratches and gouges, there are a few things you can do to get oak floors looking new again. 

Repair scratches in hardwood

For minor scratches, there are a few simple tricks you can try to repair the look of oak flooring. Coconut oil is one of the most reliable DIY hacks as there’s no risk of furthering any damage — simply rub a dab of it over the scratch to conceal it. Furniture blending markers or wood stains can also do the trick of concealing scratches, as can specialized products. 

You’ll just need to find the right color match, which for white or red oak flooring, might take a mix of more than one color or stain. For more severe scratches, you might need to hit it with sandpaper first to even out the edges. 

Refinish oak floors

A man sanding the floor with a cleaning sanding machine.

Some commercial products can also repair deeper gouges, but if there’s significant scratching or deep scratches in your wood flooring, you should consider refinishing or at least leaving the fixing to a professional. To keep oak floors in the best shape possible, look into a light refinishing every 3-5 years. Leaving larger gaps can lead to more accumulated damage, and a need for more significant (and expensive) refinishing down the line.

Don’t like to operate on a strict timeline? That’s okay. There are a few key things to look out for to know it’s time to refinish your floors: 

  • There is damage beyond wear-and-tear scratching, like heavy water damage.
  • There is less obvious damage, but still a key sign to do some work, like notable discoloration. 
  • And of course: if there are lots of scratching, or scratching that you’re unable to mend on your own.

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