Why Do Wood Floors Change In Colour?
Everyone with wood floors knows that direct sunlight can be a problem especially around patio doors and floor to ceiling windows. Most of us have moved a rug or a piece of furniture and noticed the covered part of the floor is either lighter or darker than the surrounding wood.
The longer the wood has been covered up, the more noticeable the difference in colour. Why does this happen and what can be done about it? Let’s start off discussing why it happens.
Why wood Floors Fade and Change Colour…
Fading, bleaching and darkening in wood floors because of sun exposure is a pretty complex subject. Ultimately, colour deterioration in wood floors is the result of overexposure from 3 things: ultra violet (UV) light, visible light and the infrared (IR) light which causes solar heat.
UV light has the most impact on colour change of the actual wood. Wood is extremely photosensitive – which means it reacts to sunlight. You only have to put a piece of unfinished wood out in direct sunlight for a short time with part of it covered to see how the sun’s ultra violet rays affect it. How fast a timber reacts to UV light depends on the species.
For example many tropical, exotic woods used in flooring, like Brazilian Cherry or Ebony, react to UV exposure very fast and they turn a much darker shade. On the other hand, hardwoods, like Red Oak and Maple, generally bleach out and become lighter, and at a much slower rate.
And it’s not only the wood itself that is subject to discolouration – the type of finish on the floor can also play a big part in how the wood will react.
Infrared light, combined with UV light and visible light, reacts with the finish and slowly turns the finish darker or yellowish. That’s why over a long period of time certain types of wood floors with oil based polyurethane finish turn that orangey/yellow colour.
Think of how the sun reacts with wood it in terms of our skin.
Direct exposure to sunlight affects different types of skin in different ways. Some of us get darker or tanned in the sun’s rays fast and others much slower, while others will burn very quickly. The type and quality of sunblock used can also play a part in those slowing down those outcomes, but not indefinitely as it will eventually wear off or start to break down. Ultimately, overexposure of harmful rays on all kinds of skin will cause damage.
It’s the same with the paint, rubbers and seat fabrics in your car, with your curtains and blinds, carpet and rugs, the tiles or shingles on your roof, as well as the fabric on your sofa… and yes, your wood floors.
How can I stop Sunlight from damaging my Wood Floor?
Unfortunately, the issue of fading and colour change from exposure to direct sunlight does not have a single fix-all solution. But there are a number of different steps that you can take, that if done all together, will greatly minimize the amount of direct sunlight your wood floor receives and slow the process down.
Here’s the list starting with the easiest and most affordable…
- Move rugs and furniture:From time to time, rearrange your furniture and floor coverings to allow sunlight to hit the previously covered areas of your floors. This will equalize the UV and IR light exposure and even out the fading process so a consistent colour will be achieved within the entire room. If it’s not possible to move furniture, consider removing at least the area rugs during the sunnier months and replacing them in the darker winter months.
- Window Coverings:It makes sense that if you can keep sunlight off your floor it won’t fade as much. Drapes, curtains, shutters or blinds are some of the best defences against fading wood floors. If you keep them closed on the side of your house when the sun is hitting the windows it will drastically cut down on any UV and infrared light reaching the floor.
If you have mini blinds or other types of horizontal louvers and you don’t want to shut them completely, position the slats so that they angle upwards allowing the sunlight to be directed towards the walls and ceiling instead of towards the floor.
- Awnings: One of the best ways of stopping the sun’s harmful rays from damaging your floors is by blocking them before they even get to your windows. Awnings work great in this regard. You can get them in retractable or stationary designs and there are many different types of materials and styles to suite all kinds of houses.
- Low-E glass windows:If you are doing an extensive renovation and are swapping out windows, or you’re building a new home, you should look into low-E (low-emissivity) glass windows. These windows have special coatings that do a great job limiting the amount of UV and IR light that passes through the panes. There are a few different types of low-e glass windows and you need to talk to a glass professional to see which ones are suited to your home.
What if my wood floors are already faded?
If you’ve tried moving and/or removing the rugs and furniture and it isn’t helping blend the areas together as quickly as you like, or if the colour difference is very dramatic, then the only option you have is sanding and refinishing the floors. This is the fastest and best solution to the problem.
We definitely suggest putting into practice some of the suggestions above first before having them refinished so it doesn’t happen again so quickly.
Fading is an inevitable part of having wood floors. What you can do though is 1) minimize the amount of damaging light your wood floors are subjected to and 2) balance the amount of light each part of your floor gets so all areas blend well together as the whole floor changes slowly over time.