8 Steps to Keeping Your Hardwood Floors Beautiful

wood floorHardwood floors are timeless. Beautiful. Durable. An investment. The challenge can be to keep your investment in the same beautiful shape as the day of installation, especially when your floors are in high traffic areas and are continuously being tested by the ups and downs of our unpredictable Midwestern weather. We’ve put together steps that’ll help you face the challenge head-on so your hardwood floors can look as great as the day we installed them.

Put felt pads and protectors on all your chairs and furniture.

To prevent scratches on your new wood floors, purchase felt pads for your couches, chairs, tables, entertainment cabinets, and any other furniture. These pads do wear down over time so make sure you replace the pads as needed (usually once or twice a year).

Put rugs down by all the doors.

Keep the dirt, sand, gravel, and water off your floors to protect the finish, prevent warping and water damage, and keep scratches at bay. Place rugs by all your doors with protectors under the rugs to protect your floors.

Clean up puddles ASAP.

Hardwood floors and towels go hand in hand. Standing water on hardwood floors can warp the floors, leave water stains, or damage floor boards. Keep a paper towel and towels close at hand so you can clean up any spills or water tracked in (especially during winter or after a dip in the pool!). If you have a dog, train your pup to stop at the door so you can wipe off their paws.

Wait to put down area rugs.

Rushing to put down an area rug can damage the finish. Be patient and wait to put down an area rug until after the finish on your floor has had time to cure. Instead, ask your installer (or local experts) for a time frame; the answer is different for every floor.

Sweep on a regular basis.

Daily grit is the enemy of hardwood floors. Sweep your floors on a regular basis, and start every deep clean with a thorough sweep and vacuum (or vacuum cleaner attachment). When you purchase a vacuum cleaner for the job, make sure it is not abrasive when it cleans which could damage the finish on your hardwood floors.

Deep clean your hardwoods periodically.

A periodic deep clean is essential to keep your floors in the same condition as the day they were installed. Use an approved hardwood cleaner so the floor is not damaged (even vinegar and water can harm the finish). Steam cleaners can also damage the floors and void the warranty. Your periodic deep clean is not the time for experimenting; contact the experts if you need deep cleaning advice (or use our in-depth post on hardwood cleaning) or to schedule a deep clean for your wood floors.

As you mop, don’t leave puddles. Water is the enemy of hardwood floors. Wring out as much water as possible, and use fans to make sure the floor is completely dry when you are done.

Keep an eye on your home’s humidity.

There is some expansion and contracting of hardwood floors that happens with humidity so it is normal to have some small gaps in the floor when humidity is low, such as during winter. For the same reason, be selective about what rooms you install hardwood floors in. Rooms with high humidity, such as laundry rooms and bathrooms, are not ideal for hardwood floors. If you are concerned about humidity, buy a humidistat for your home. The ideal humidity for hardwood floors is between 35% and 55%.

Ask before you tackle those marks or stains.

Before you tackle those scuff marks and stains, ask your local flooring experts for tips on removing marks and stains so you can avoid scratching or damaging your wood floor (or schedule a deep clean and ask them to take care of the mark or stain as part of the deep clean).  A little bit of research now can benefit you in the long run, especially when your hardwood floor keeps looking beautiful.

5 Ways to Speed Up Your Summer Party Cleaning

summer grill out partyIt’s the dirty secret of hosting a summer party: the deep clean that has to happen before your guests arrive. The truth is there’s a lot of preparation and elbow grease that has to happen before the grill out fun can begin—and summer is a very busy time already! If you’re running short on time, here’s how to speed up your pre-party cleaning so the fun can start.

Do as much of the cleaning ahead of time as possible.

If you want a faster clean before your summer grill out, make your cleaning to-do list shorter. Wipe down your counters after a meal, sweep your floors regularly, and clean off your table after you eat. All your regular cleaning leads to an easier (and faster) cleaning later; it’s a lot easier when you don’t have to scrub off hardened food later or .

Make a cleaning list.

To speed up your pre-party cleaning, divide and conquer as much as possible. Make a list of all the cleaning that needs to be done (inside and out!) before your summer party and divide it up among your cleaning crew.

Take your cleaning supplies with you as you clean.

Make the most of your cleaning time; carry your cleaning supplies with you as you clean so you don’t waste time making multiple trips for supplies. This simple cleaning hack makes your cleaning efficient and quick because you can just keep cleaning as you go from room to room.

Use rugs to your advantage.

Technically, placing rugs by all your doors (inside and outside), in your mudroom and hallways may not be a cleaning task but it’s an effort that can save you a lot of cleaning later. Rugs are an important part of keeping the dirt out of your home and off your floors—especially when guests are tracking in and out of your home.

Bring in outside help.

When your time for cleaning gets short, don’t be afraid to bring in the pros: a carpet cleaner to deep clean your carpets (before and/or after), hardwood cleaner to get your floors shining, a cleaning service to get everything else. (For DIY floor cleaning tips, read this blog post.) With a little bit of elbow grease, help, and hard work, you and your guests’ll be enjoying a fun summer party in no time.

Practical (and Welcoming!) Ways to Dress Up Your Patio

patio with furniture and tile overlayMake your patio the go-to spot where everyone wants to hang out this summer—the spot that everyone gathers and enjoys a delicious brat, each other’s company, and your beautiful patio décor. Use these ideas to make a beautiful outdoor space that you, and all your guests, enjoy all the days of summer (and fall!).

Add tile

A tiled patio is the finishing touch that sets your patio apart from the rest. When shopping for the perfect tile, tell your sales person that your tile is going outside so they can recommend the right porcelain tile for your patio.

Use furniture

front steps with porcelain tileThe right furniture for your deck is the right color and coordinated so it doesn’t look like a mishmash effort. Don’t pack your patio so tight that your guests can’t circulate or buy furniture that is too big for the size of your deck. Choose pieces that coordinate both in color and size—some pieces can even serve a dual purpose (such as a planter or storage and a bench).

Think tranquil

If you want to make your patio relaxing or cover up background noise, make your patio a calm oasis with a water feature. A waterfall or pond can be your answer; make sure the water is circulating to avoid stagnant water and the problems that come with it.

Add green

Planters full of flowers, an herb garden, or evergreens can make your patio look like an inviting garden—or at least make it look more inviting. As an added bonus, an herb garden or container garden can provide fresh food for your next grill out.

Cozy it up

Everyone loves a nightly campfire, and a built-in (or portable) campfire is one of Wisconsin’s favorite past times. Add a fire to your patio for a welcoming end to the night, and arrange your furniture for optimal comfort and coziness.

Add privacy

Make your grill outs (and any al fresco meals) a private affair with privacy screens. Instead of adding abrupt privacy screens, coordinate your screens so they look like a part of your outdoor patio décor. Use greenery or latticework to make your nights on the patio a private—and aesthetically pleasing—affair.

25+ Fresh Home Décor Ideas for Every Budget

bedroom with new carpet and fresh home decor ideasThere comes a time in every home’s life when it gets, well, “stale.” You know what we’re talking about: when your home needs something new and fresh to give it new life. If you’re wracking your brain for ideas, we’ve started a list of fresh ideas that’s sure to fit your budget AND make you fall in love with your home all over again.

  1. Install new luxury vinyl flooring (it’s a DIY project that looks great!)
  2. Hang an arrangement of photos or art on the wall
  3. Add a laminate flooring accent wall to your bedroom
  4. Tile your front stoop
  5. Add a backsplash to your kitchen (ideas here)
  6. Choose new blinds (use this guide)
  7. Paint an accent wall
  8. Tile your concrete patio
  9. Add shelving & organization to your mudroom (ideas here)
  10. accent wall done with laminate flooring

    Courtesy Armstrong Flooring

    Paint your cabinets

  11. Install new tile in your bathroom
  12. Add new wood flooring to your home
  13. Redesign your laundry room
  14. Finish your basement (choose the right floor for your basement with these tips)
  15. Get a new area rug (order custom rugs for a personalized look)
  16. Put a new tile floor in your bathroom
  17. Revamp your entry way
  18. Redesign a whole room (ask for help from a pro for a coordinated look)
  19. Clean your carpet for a new look
  20. Repurpose an old piece of furniture
  21. Tile your entryway
  22. Add a chalkboard wall
  23. Get new countertops
  24. Add new wallpaper
  25. Organize your closet with new storage drawers and shelves
  26. Paint your trim
  27. Get new curtains for a room (tips to choose the best window treatments here)

5 (Easy) Steps to New Window Treatments

man sitting in sunroom with blindsAs wonderful as the longer days of spring and summer can be, there is a downside (yes, a downside!) to longer, beautiful sunny days. That downside becomes apparent when you can’t sleep because of the sun or you miss a key play by your favorite team because of the sun streaming in. That’s when it’s time to use these steps to finish your room with the blinds or curtains that’ll finish your room—and fix your problem.

Identify the function of your new blinds.

What do you need the blinds for? Darkening a room so you can sleep? Making your media room suitable for a movie night (even when the sun sets later)? Keeping the sun out of your sunroom? For privacy? Use the answer to your question as you shop, or mention it to your salesperson as you browse through your options. Their experience can help you make your decision.

Look at the rest of the room.

Your new blinds are not a stand alone; they are part of your room. Accordingly, make sure you look around to determine what kind of statement you want to make with your new blinds. For a room with a neutral look, choose a blind color that blends with your existing décor. To make a bold statement, choose bold colored blinds or blinds with patterns that stand out or coordinate with your bold home décor. If you want to start from scratch, consult with a designer at your local flooring store to coordinate all the details into your desired cohesive look.

Choose from the options.

Blinds and curtains are not a one-size-fits all. There are many options for your room, including:

  • Sheers are very light curtains that allow a large amount of light in—perfect for windows that need to be dressed up or that you look out often.
  • Blackout curtains create just what the name says: a “blacked out” or darkened room. Blackout curtains are perfect for bedrooms, family rooms, man caves, and media rooms. Made with an inner liner, blackout curtains block the light out from the room—ideal for third-shifters, sleepers who don’t like the light, or family members who want to watch TV without the glare.
  • Drapes are a long curtain option, typically floor-to-ceiling and are designed for privacy and high impact. Drapes can make a ceiling look higher, or a window look bigger if you get a drape that spans the height of your wall (even if your window doesn’t!).
  • Insulated/fabric blinds are high function window treatments, giving you an extra level of privacy. Some insulated or fabric blinds can even add energy efficiency to your home. Some models of insulated or fabric blinds come up from the bottom, ideal for privacy while still allowing the light in.

In some situations, the right window treatments may be a combination of several of these options, such as in a child’s room, bedroom, or media room. In these cases, curtains and blinds can combine to keep the light out—and achieve the purpose you set out to achieve with the window treatments.


Measuring your window is not always as simple as holding a ruler up to your window. If you want your room to look taller, choose a window treatment that hangs above the window to the floor. To make the process even easier, hire a professional to measure and install your blinds or curtains.


The last step of choosing blinds or curtains is the best: enjoying your new curtains and blinds—and all the functionality and beauty they bring to your home.

5 Home Projects You Can Finish in a Day(ish)

cherry colored laminate floor in kitchenThe never-ending project.  No one wants their house ripped up indefinitely—for what seems like FOREVER.  The kitchen project that gets started and never finished.  The bathroom that you can’t use for months (or years?).  The room with no flooring that you have to wear shoes in.  If you’re looking for projects that won’t make your home look like a indefinite road construction zone, we’ve compiled a list that you can have completed in a day(ish)—as long as you do your research and ask for advice first so you’re ready to get started and finished (or you can just call the experts!).

Laminate flooring

Laminate flooring is a durable, great-looking floating floor, making it the perfect do-it-yourself home project.  Use this step-by-step tutorial and video for a smooth laminate floor install, and stock up on flooring (and advice!) that can make a real statement in your home.  For a larger space, buy your product in bulk for a volume discount. If you do all your floor prep and get all your tools together in advance, you can have new laminate floors in by dinner time (and an easy clean up if anything falls on the floor!).


kitchen back splashNothing can make a kitchen look as finished as a tile backsplash. Once you’ve chosen the right backsplash, gather all your supplies and get ready for a day’s work.  Make sure your work is level and even as you work, and enjoy the beautiful finishing touch when you’re done.

Vinyl luxury plank flooring

For the look of wood without fear of water damage, start researching installing vinyl luxury plank flooring. Like laminate, vinyl plank flooring is a floating floor (and can be purchased in bulk!). Research the installation and your options for underlayment for a wonderful finished product after a full day of work.

Laminate wall accent

home design trend laminate flooring on wall

Courtesy Armstrong Floors

Laminate flooring on the wall is one of the newest home trends. Homeowners have capitalized on this trend and created an accent wall in the their basement or bedroom, a contrasting wall feature, or a fireplace surround (if you do this, make sure your project is stunning and safe).  Use this video so you know what kind of home project you’re in for, and talk to the experts to get the right laminate floors for your project.

Tile floor

Tile floors look great and are fairly easy to install—if you know what you’re doing.  As an added bonus, tile floors can be installed over radiant flooring.  As a natural conductor, tiles make any room warm and cozy.  You’re going to need the right saw, tiles, and grout for the job—and the patience to wait all day for your new, fantastic looking tile floors.

5 Floors that Can Handle Water (& spring cleaning tips that keep them looking great!)

one muddy boot and spring mudApril showers bring May flowers—and puddles, mud, and all the other messiness that comes with spring.  If you’re in the market for a floor that can handle all the spring messes (plus spills, wet paws, muddy footprints, etc.) our rainy weather can dish out, we’ve compiled a list of floors that are easy-to-clean (especially for muddy foot and paw prints), durable, and look great—no matter what kind of water gets tracked in.

luxury vinyl_showroomLuxury Vinyl

Luxury vinyl is the perfect floor for a high traffic area that gets a lot of muddy footprints.  Many of these floors look like wood, but do not have the traditional wood floor problem of water damage from sitting water.  If you do get muddy footprints or water tracked in, just use a cloth or dry mop to clean up the mess.  Luxury vinyl planks floors can also be installed as a do-it-yourself project if you’re handy.


tile flooring in entryway with front table and lampPorcelain tile is water, odor, and mildew resistant; the perfect recipe for a flooring that can withstand water.  Tile floors are also a great buffer for your wood floors.  Install tile floors in your entryways and mudrooms so you can “catch” all the water and mud that gets tracked in before it hits your wood floors. As an added perk, radiant heating can be installed under floors which keeps them warm to the toes and dries out any water tracked in.

Laminate floors

installing luxury vinyl plank in a basmentLaminate floors are incredibly durable and easy-to-clean, which is why they are ideal for spaces where the mud and rain is tracked in.  There is one note of caution: while laminate floors can take the mud and wet footprints, be careful with standing water.  Standing water on laminate floors can warp the floors, so make sure you clean it up promptly.

Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl can handle water, even a foot of water.  That’s right we’ve seen sheet vinyl floors that have survived a flood and still look great.  Because there no seams, homeowners with sheet vinyl floors don’t have to worry about water damage from moisture seeping in between the planks.  Today’s sheet vinyl floors also come in a variety of styles that look great.


Tips to keep your floors looking great during spring

Use rugs for décor and a catch-all for mud and water.

If you don’t want water and mud tracked in, use rugs to catch all the water, gravel, and debris that gets tracked in.  Place a wide rug or long runner by each door to give your guests (and pets) a place to clean off their feet before they come in.

Leave your shoes at the door.

Once you (and your guests) walk in, take off your shoes and ask your guests to remove their shoes as well.  If you do leave your shoes on when you come in, clean your shoes off as well as you can.  Train your pets to stop at the door so you can clean their paws off before they leave muddy footprints across the floor.

Regularly sweep or dry mop your floor.

To prevent scratches and keep your floor looking great, regularly sweep or dry mop your floor.  A regular sweep picks up small debris that can scratch your floor and keeps stains from setting in.

Ask before you clean.

When you have new floors installed, don’t assume that you can use the same cleaners on the new floor as you did on the old one.  Some cleaners can damage your new floor and void your warranty.  If you have any questions about cleaners, ask the experts at your local flooring store to make sure you use approved cleaners that remove the spring messes and remove the stains.

Deep clean (or schedule) a deep cleaning periodically.

A regular sweeping isn’t enough; give your floor a regular deep clean (or schedule an appointment to get your floors deep cleaned) to keep your floor looking like the mud of spring never was (or at least never was in your house).

7 Ways to Find Relief from Spring Allergies in Your Home

Woman With Allergy sneezing From Flowers and winter indoor allergiesIt’s the time of year that allergy sufferers dread: spring (and summer!).  While everyone else looks forward to spending time outside in the warm temperatures, allergy sufferers look forward to all the symptoms that come with seasonal allergies: sneezing, wheezing, runny noses, and congestion.  There is hope for relief from those annoying symptoms: use these tips to make your home as much of a “hay allergy free” zone as possible.

Designate an area where you can remove the allergens.

Allergens stick to your clothes; that’s why pet-free homes inevitably have pet dander in the ducts.  To keep seasonal allergens out of your home, choose a room where you can leave your clothes (a mud room or laundry room) as soon as you walk in the house.  Launder your clothes as soon as possible to keep yourself from sneezing and wheezing.

Choose your vacuum carefully.

To pick up any allergens that make it into your home, buy an allergy sensitive vacuum.  Choose a vacuum with a HEPA filter or double bag to ensure that you can vacuum the allergens that do come into your house away.

Thoroughly clean all your hard floors.

Allergens are everywhere, even on your hardwood and tile floors.  Use these tips to get your wood floors deep cleaned (or hire the pros to give you a thorough clean without causing any damage).

Clean your ducts.

As the old saying goes, “what comes around, goes around.”  If you have a forced air system, any allergens that come in continually re-circulate though your home’s air ducts every time your heat or air conditioner runs. Contact a professional duct cleaning company to rid your ducts, and your indoor air, of all those annoyingly common indoor allergens.

Select your furnace filter carefully.

Your furnace filter should be replaced every few months.  Cheaper air filters trap dust, a common allergen, but not much beyond that.  If you have allergies, purchase a furnace filter with a high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) next time you shop.  Furnace filters with high MERVs do not allow finer particles to pass, effectively removing allergens from the air. If you choose a filter with a high MERV (the max is 16), contact a HVAC professional because these filters can put too much pressure on your furnace fan and possibly damage your furnace.

Give your carpets a professional deep clean.

It’s incredibly tempting to head to your local store and rent a carpet cleaner to rid your home of any outdoor allergens. If you want to completely purge your home of allergens, take your carpet cleaning a step farther: contact a professional carpet cleaner. A professional carpet cleaning goes above and beyond a regular vacuum or a rental carpet cleaner.  A professional carpet cleaner removes allergens and dirt from your carpets.  To make sure you’re regularly removing the allergens, set a regular carpet cleaning schedule annually or biannually.

Keep your home’s humidity low.

Rooms with a humidity level above 50 percent can breed mold, mildew and dust mites, making you sneeze inside—adding to your misery after sneezing outside from your hay allergies.  Use a humidistat to monitor your room’s humidity level.  If your humidity level is above 50%, use a dehumidifier to lower your home’s humidity.

Your Top-to-Bottom Home Spring Cleaning Checklist

kitchen after using spring cleaning checklistThe weather in Wisconsin can finally be classified as spring, which means it’s time to give your home the deep clean that comes with warmer temperatures.  It’s finally time for a good spring cleaning.  To help you get your home completely cleaned before spring turns into summer, we’ve given you a complete spring cleaning checklist that ensures your home gets cleaned from top to bottom (if you do have any questions when you get to the bottom—the floor—ask us or use these tips to make sure your floors are cleaned well).

Every room

___Remove spider webs.

___Clean duct and air return covers.

___Dust ceiling fans and wash light fixture coverings.

___Clean the windows.

___Clean the tracks, screens, and interior parts of windows.

___Dust trim and crown moldings.

___Have your carpets professionally cleaned.

___Deep clean hardwood floors (make it an appointment to have your wood floors professionally cleaned or use these tips on how to clean your wood floors here).

___Clean blinds and curtains.

___Shake out all rugs.

___Have your area rugs professionally cleaned.


___Clean the top of cabinets.

___Wash the top & front of your refrigerator.

___Remove & clean shelves in your refrigerator.

___Clean and vacuum behind the refrigerator.

___Wipe down your vent hood and clean any screens.

___Clean the backsplash.

___Wash your kitchen walls.

___Wipe down exterior of appliances.

___Clean behind your stove.

___Clean your oven.

___Mop the floors.

___Clean grout (if you have tile floors).


___Clean light fixtures and fans.

___Scrub tile grout around shower and on floor.

___Wash the walls.


___Wash all bed linens.

___Flip mattress.

___Dust bed frame and all furniture.

___Vacuum behind furniture.

___Have carpets professionally cleaned.

___Deep clean hardwood floors (make it an appointment to have your wood floors professionally cleaned or use these tips on how to clean your wood floors here).

Floors Perfect for Homes with Pets

boys with dog on carpet choosing right pet-friendly floorFrom their great personality to their crazy antics, our pets have a way of working into our hearts. Inevitably that means, as a valued member of our family, our furry friends also work their way into our homes and across our floors.  When it’s time to replace those floors, it makes cents to keep our dog and cat friends in mind when you choose your next floor—your next pet-friendly floor.

Luxury Vinyl

Pros: Pet paws, high traffic, accidents, soda…this floor can take whatever your home (and your family) dishes out.  These floors are very hard to scratch and stain resistant so they can take running dogs and cats, long claws, and any accidents that might happen.  Pet hair can easily be removed, and they are incredibly easy to clean.  Luxury vinyl is available in a tile or wood look, can be installed with or without grout, and can be a do-it-your-self project (depending on the product).

Cons: Luxury vinyl can be very hard so you’ll need to add rugs for the comfort of your pets.  Scratches can be also hard to fix, so make sure you tell your associate you have pets when you purchase the floor.  The cost of luxury vinyl can be intimidating, but you can often get discounts for volume purchases.


Pros: Porcelain tile is water, odor and mildew resistant, making them ideal for homes with pets.  As far as looks, tiles come in a huge variety of colors and styles.  Tile can be installed as a do-it-yourself project, and is extremely affordable.  It’s also easy to keep clean.

Cons: When the temperature drops, tile floors can feel cold under your bare feet.  To keep your feet warm, consider having radiant floor heating installed under the tile.  Radiant floor heating can run off of your hydronic heating or can be installed as an electrical mat.  Because tile floors are so hard, it can be hard for pets with joint issues because it’s harder for them to get traction when they run through the room.


Pros: Hardwood floors are durable and can be refinished when needed.  Wood floors look great and are easy to clean up any fur or debris that your pet tracks in.  There are a ton of colors and styles, so you can choose the color and width of the floors that you want installed in your home.

Cons: Wood floors are one of the most expensive flooring options, and are prone to scratching.  Hardwoods also can be damaged by water from your pets’ paws, water bowls, or accidents.  Keep a rag close at hand so you can dry up easily.  If you choose hardwood, put a wood-friendly mat under the food and water bowls.  Wood floors are not a good match for basements because they can be damaged by moisture that seeps through the walls and floor (find out what floors are best for basements or just ask us via email or when you come in).


Pros: Laminate flooring is as tough as nails (maybe tougher), which means it can handle all the running, playing, and crazy that comes with high-energy pets.  With a broom or a damp mop, this flooring is easy-to-clean and easy to remove all the fur that tends to pile up.  Laminate floors come in a variety of colors and styles, making them a beautiful addition to any room.  These floors are also very affordable and can be a fairly easy do-it-yourself project so they can be a low-cost upgrade to any home.

Cons: Laminate floors can be damaged by water spills—especially when not wiped up right away.  These floors are also very hard, which can be tough on pets with joint issues because they can’t get traction.  Laminate floors are very loud and tend to echo, especially when pets are running through the room.


Pros: Cork is antimicrobial, beautiful, and a green product.  It is mildew-resistant and soft to the feet, making it comfortable for pets to relax on.  Cork can be stained to the color you choose.

Cons: Cork is prone to damage from scratching, which can be a problem in a high traffic household (or a many-paw household).  While cork is easy to keep clean, it does need periodic maintenance over the life of the floor.  Cork can also be damaged by water, which makes it a problem in areas where your pets come in from outside or around their water bowl.