Do It Yourself Guide to Home Maintenance - December
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Do It Yourself Guide to Home Maintenance - December

How to get ready for the holidays with hardwood floor care tips, checking for air infiltration, and holiday safety tips.

As we move into the thick of the holiday season, day are hectic and time is short. Strong winter storms can lead to substantial damage so proper preparation is key. Keeping your home looking good for friends and family can be done quickly with a focused to-do list.


November HighlightsStorm Window Repair

Appliance Upkeep

Winter Tool Storage

October HighlightsWeatherstripping Your Exterior Doors

Hot Water Heater

Heating System Test Run

September HighlightsAttic Space

HVAC Registers


Exterior Washing and Painting


Wood Floor Maintenance

Your wood floors will take a beating in the winter whether you have heavy rains, snow and ice, or dry weather; all of these situations can damage your floor over time and a few simple steps can help minimize problems before refinishing or replacement is needed.


Urethane is one of the most common finishes in use today. An easy way to determine if your floor has a polyurethane finish is to select an inconspicuous area and apply a small amount of paint remover to the floor surface. If the finish bubbles up it is most likely a surface finish. You can also try scraping up a bit of the finish with a sharp blade. If you are successful in scraping up a clear material, the finish is likely a surface finish.

To see if you have a wax finish, run your hand over the floor surface, if you can feel the wood grain the finish is probably a penetrating finish. Another test is to select an inconspicuous area and attempt to smudge the floor surface with a finger tip, or scrape the surface with a fingernail or sharp instrument. If the floor smudges but no clear material is scraped up, then the finish is likely a penetrating finish.

Scratch Repair

Polyurethane Finishes

Most minor scratches can be removed with the help of a touch-up kit available from any wood flooring retailer. Fine steel wool or 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper can be used to smooth out the surface and then a spray coat of polyurethane or a wipe on polyurethane can be applied to the area.

Wax Finishes

Most surface scratches should be easily repaired by applying a new coat of wax to the affected area, and then buffing to a shine. For deep scratches that cannot be concealed with the method above, try rubbing the scratch with an oily nut such as Brazil nut, walnut, or pecan. A good quality commercial scratch remover or stick wax that matches the surrounding wood can also be used. Apply a new coat of wax and buff to a shine.

Stain and Spot Removal

Polyurethane Finishes

Generally stains and spots caused by standing water can be removed, and the shine restored, by applying a small amount of recommended floor cleaner and buffing vigorously with a soft clean cloth or towel.

Sealed or Waxed Finishes

Begin with the least aggressive treatment: Rub the spot with No. 1 steel wool and apply a coat of wax. Buff to bring back the shine. If this doesn't work, try sanding lightly with fine sandpaper (150 or 220 grit). Clean the spot and the surrounding area with 0 steel wool and a small amount of mineral spirits or a good wood floor cleaner. Let the floor dry thoroughly. After the finish is dry, re-coat the floor with wax and buff.

See my article on Wood Flooring Care

Checking for Air Infiltration

Many older homes leak air naturally while newer homes are typically sealed tightly. Over time a home will let in more outside air as construction materials shrink or crack or weatherstripping and caulking wear out. One way to locate sources of infiltration is to wait for a windy day and turn off the heater, air conditioner or any other ventilation equipment. Close all exterior doors, windows and close the fireplace damper. Turn on your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans. You can use a smoke stick available at home centers or incense and move it around likely locations for air leaks. If the smoke is sucked in or blown away, there is a draft and it should be sealed. This can still work without wind, but drafts are more difficult to detect. You may want to install a window fan and seal around it to make your own miniature blower door.

Common Points of Air Infiltration

Wherever different materials meet, such as between wood siding and brick or between the chimney and the ceiling, there is the potential for gaps. Look in the following areas for any cracks and gaps that could cause air leaks:

• Doors - both between the door and the jamb and between the jamb and the wall.

• Windows - both around the window frame and between the frame and the wall

• Mail chutes - around the mail chute, also make sure it closes tightly

• Any place where pipes or wires pass through a wall

• Around window air conditioners

• Light switches and electrical outlets, especially on exterior walls

Sealing Your Home

Sealing air gaps will require different materials depending upon the application. Rubber gaskets are available for switches and electrical outlets and are installed beneath the cover plate. Caulking can be used to seal between different materials such as between stucco and wood siding. Caulking is also useful around exterior door and window casings and where pipes and wires pass through a wall. Expanding foam can be used for filling larger or difficult to access gaps and gaps around door and window jambs where they meet the surrounding wall framing.

If you successfully seal your home, you must also implement a ventilation strategy. Indoor air pollutants can build to unhealthful levels so proper ventilation must also provided. Homes that burn natural gas, propane, fuel oil or wood must also make certain that adequate air supply is available for combustion so that a dangerous back draft condition does not pull combustion gases back into the home.

See my related article on Weatherstripping and Blower Door Tests;

Holiday Safety

I have written two articles detailing the safety concerns with candles and Christmas trees.

Please look at them for more detailed information.

Candle Safety

How to Make Your Christmas Tree Flame-retardant

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A very good article. Sorry I'm out of votes