A sophisticated look is completed with a defined oak floor featuring a walnut inlay.

What can you buy today that will last a lifetime with minimal care? We get new cars every six or eight years, and they require plenty of service and repairs along the way; new appliances barely last a dozen years. But solid hardwood flooring, furniture and millwork can last a lifetime in every room of the house. And, according to the American Hardwood Information Center, www.HardwoodInfo.com, solid hardwood products are easy to take care of in any room of the house and require very little care to maintain their good looks and serviceability.

Hardwood flooring is healthy

choice for any room

In addition to their distinctive beauty and lasting value, hardwood floors are often recommended by doctors because they trap less animal dander, dust, pollen, mites, and mold – all of which can trigger respiratory problems. Natural hardwood floors can make it easier for you to reduce home allergens, while your rooms remain warm and inviting.

Following a few simple rules can keep floors looking great with minimum maintenance:

* Place floor mats at entrances to trap dirt.

* Sweep floors weekly with brooms that have fine, exploded ends that trap dust and grit.

* Vacuum cleaners aren’t just for carpets. Go over a hardwood floor weekly with multi-surface vacuums

* Water and liquids can damage the floor’s finish. Wipe up spills, pet accidents, and other mishaps as soon as possible.

Kitchens were once considered out-of-bounds for solid hardwood flooring. Today’s urethane finishes make hardwood floors an attractive choice that is easy to maintain and keep clean. Special finishes even permit hardwood floors and tub surrounds in the bath. They offer water resistance that old-fashioned versions never could.

Furniture gets better with time

Solid hardwood furniture offers greater resistance to marring and scratching than furniture constructed with substitute materials. The occasional dent or scratch in solid hardwood simply exposes more of the same valued wood. A few nicks in an heirloom can add character rather than detract from the value.

“Imagine a hardwood tree standing in the forest,” says Gil Thurm, executive vice president of the Hardwood Manufacturers Association. “After about 80 years, it likely will succumb to blight, infestation, lightning, or other natural disaster. But imagine that same tree made into a piece of heirloom furniture, which easily will last 400 years or more. Include a solid hardwood floor in your home and it will provide good service for 125 years or more with a few refinishings.”

Here are some tips for caring for these future antiques:

* Keep furniture out of direct sunlight, or adjust curtains during mid-day hours.

* Avoid placement directly in front of radiators, heat runs or fireplaces.

* Hardwood furniture likes a relative humidity of at least 25 to 35 percent. Use a humidifier in winter and an air conditioner in summer.

* Store table leaves as close as possible to the table. Keep them in an upstairs closet rather than a damp basement so that table and leaves are adjusting to the same humidity conditions.

* Dust weekly with a clean, slightly damp cloth. Avoid silicone sprays which can break down the finish.

* Remove water marks with 0000 gauge steel wool. Gently rub with the grain and buff with a soft cloth.

* Never use brass polish on hardware while it is on the furniture. The polish will get into the wood.

Hardwood kitchen and bath cabinets offer convenience

Cabinets featuring solid hardwood are easy to maintain and keep clean. Today’s finishes allow hardwood doors, drawer fronts and face frames to withstand normal wear and tear and everyday household abuse.

A few simple tips will keep them looking great:

* Dust cabinet surface panels and drawers regularly with a soft cloth or feather duster.

* Clean as needed with a mild non-alkaline soap. Wipe away grease, spills or hand prints with a damp sponge or cloth. Always dry cabinets immediately with a soft cloth and buff lightly, following the direction of the grain.

Mouldings make a difference

Woodwork does for a home what a fine frame does for a painting. Woodwork options include paneling, wainscoting, window casings and sills, doors and door jambs, staircases, fireplace mantels, and shelving. Solid hardwood woodwork is preferred for its natural and distinctive look and ease of repair. It holds nails well, miters easily, and readily accepts stains and protective finishes.

Upkeep is easy, too, with hardwood mouldings and trim:

* Clean and dust to restore luster to the finish and to protect the wood.

* Repair scratches by sanding out with a fine grade of paper and restaining with a matching color finish.

Abundant in nature

Environmentally conscious consumers should know that, according to the US Forest Service, the volume of American hardwoods is 90 percent larger than it was just 50 years ago, and nearly twice as much hardwood grows as is harvested each year. That’s the very definition of sustainability.

For more information on solid hardwood care, sustainability and decorating ideas, visit the American Hardwood Information Center at www.HardwoodInfo.com. – Courtesy of MS.

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