ReadyMade Magazine Feb/Mar 2011

At Home: Hands On

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Hands On: Scratch and Sniff


RM Scratch and SniffWritten by Amy Devers

Illustration by Brendan Wenzel

Hi Amy, What can I do about my homes wood floor, which my two beautiful golden retrievers have badly scratched? I am thinking of bringing in a pro to sand them, but I don’t want the dogs to scratch them again. —Kim Smith Saghy

Hi Kim. I LOVE golden retrievers! I grew up with them, and they’re such fun, personable dogs. Sorry to hear they have scratched your floors, but I’m sure they’ve brought you more than enough joy to compensate for it. Of all the flooring materials out there, wood shows those scratches more prominently than any. If its time to sand them up and refinish, go right ahead. (You’ll know its time if drops of water no longer bead up on them or the finish has lost its luster.) I am by no means a pet expert but, from my experience, our dogs did most of the scratching and chewing when they were young, hyper, and still learning the house rules. Hopefully this is the case with yours as well, and now that they have a few dog years on ’em your newly refinished floors will fare better than before. Either way, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Schedule Regular Paw-dicures

I know that vigilant nail upkeep is very important for the mutual welfare of floors and dogs, so make sure you have a puppy pedicure protocol in place. Long nails make it harder for them to walk and for their pads to make contact, so they have to dig in to get a grip. If you hear clicking when they walk, their nails are definitely too long. As you probably know, trimming dog claws is a delicate business. The sensitive quick grows into the length of the nail so you cant just snip claws to the desired length; you have to trim close to the quick without nicking it. Also, I dont have any experience with this, but the word on the street is that filing them down with a Dremel tool is the best way to go for smooth, short, paw-happy, floor-friendly claws. If you’re not already an old pro at doing this, check with your vet or groomer before you begin. Keep an eye on the fur between their pads too, and trim it if it gets too long (so it doesnt impede their traction).

2. Consider an Oil Change

If you do refinish your floors, consider an oil finish like WOCA oils. They’re just as durable as polyurethane, but less slick, so I predict more sure-footed dog action. A few coats of wax (BioShield Wax Finish #39 is a great nontoxic option, will help too.

3. Strategize Area Rugs

If there are spots on your floor that get the most wear and tear, consider putting down area rugs to help absorb some of the impact. I like FLOR carpet tiles for this because they stay put and dont curl up on the edges, so a flurry of activity wont send them flying. Plus, they are easily replaced if the dogs get too rambunctious with them.

What are good flooring options for a back door entrance? Theres seriously disgusting carpet on the three stairs that go from my kitchen to the landing/door area and a new pup that goes in and out of that door regularly. —Tim Wahl

I also love puppies! Who doesnt, right? (Only jerks and cartoon villains.) However, I have no affection for seriously disgusting carpet. Gross. I bet you’re dying to get that out of there. When you do yank up that nastiness, check out for recycling options. The three stairs complicate the project somewhat. Wall-to-wall carpet is an easy solution, but its certainly not the best as you’ve already found out. You may decide to tackle the stairs and the landing as two separate elements.

1. Utility Room

Forbo Marmoleum linoleum tiles are a good choice if you’re mainly after utility. They’re low-maintenance, water-resistant, and more disgust-repellent than carpet. Plus, if you install them well, you can put almost any other flooring over them (if you want a change in a few years). The tiles can work on the stairs with the addition of some metal stair edging. It might be a little slippery though, so thats something to consider if you expect to be tracking in snow or rain. I wouldnt recommend them for larger staircases, but for three steps they should be safe.

2. Fuzzy Underfoot

FLOR carpet tiles have the qualities of wall-to-wall carpet (warm, fuzzy, graphic) with the added benefit of being easily removable for cleaning or replacing. They’re durable—so they wont get torn to shreds by your little pup—but they’ll still be soft underfoot and underpaw. The kink is that they wont work well on your stairs, so they’re just for the landing. You’ll need to do a combo platter with the best of both worlds: a base of Marmoleum top to bottom with the landing area carpeted with FLOR.

3. Uniquely Yours

You can also do something totally different on the stairs. If, for instance, when you take up the carpet you find that you have nice-looking treads, you might decide to just sand and paint them. Great. Done and done. If they’re slippery, you can always attach some stair tread pads, no problem. Or you might decide to reface them with prefinished hardwood treads. Yep, you can do that. has a bunch of solutions to choose from and a very helpful installation how-to video that’ll explain it all.

My fingers are crossed that you have a sound, level subfloor underneath so you can get right down to business with your new flooring. If not, drop me a line and we can tackle the underbelly issues ASAP!