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Sun Exposure: Causes and Prevention

As many homeowners know, direct sunlight can take its toll on hardwood flooring. The wood can either darken or lighten, depending on the type, and can display patterns on the flooring where objects and rugs have been placed. Unfortunately, there is no way to altogether prevent sun discoloration on hardwood floors. There are, however, a variety of ways that homeowners can combat sun exposure and flooring damage.

The Science

Darkening and bleaching due to sun exposure can be a pretty complex subject. There are three primary causes of color deterioration in hardwood floors:

1) Overexposure to ultra violet (or UV) light

2) Overexposure to visible light

3) Overexposure to infrared (IR) light

As far as having the largest impact on color change goes, UV light takes the cake. Because wood is photosensitive (or it reacts to sunlight) minimal exposure to direct sunlight will permanently alter the wood. How fast the wood reacts to UV light depends entirely on the species.

Wood isn’t the only factor in flooring discoloration; different types of finish also play an important role in unwanted color change.

Infrared, UV and visible light all react with the finish, turning it a darker, yellowish color. If you’ve seen hardwood flooring with a distinctly yellow/orange hue, you can bet that it was faded by the sun.

Oftentimes sun discoloration isn’t obvious until items in the room are removed or rearranged. Suddenly homeowners are confronted with the stark contrast between their original floors and their aged flooring, making it impossible to change the setup of the room.   

Prevention

1) Finishes with UV inhibitors

There are constant changes being made to hardwood floor finishes in an attempt to combat the suns rays. Although there aren’t any finishes that can completely stop the process, there are some that can substantially slow down the fading. If you’re planning on staining your floors, make sure to ask for a pigment stain rather than a dye stain, because they are known to be more colorfast.

2) Window Coverings

Drapes, curtains and blinds are a must when it comes to protecting your hardwood flooring. Make sure you’re diligent about closing the blinds when the sun is hitting the windows that expose the flooring and you’ll drastically reduce damage to your floors.

3) Awnings

The easiest way to protect your hardwood from sun exposure is to stop the sun before it reaches the floor! Installing awnings will stop the sun it its tracks, allowing you to style your home while protecting your floors.

4) Window Films

Window films are thin, multi-layered films that are applied directly to your window. They are designed to cut down the IR and UV light drastically, making the rays of the sun much less damaging than they would be normally. You can apply these films yourself or have a technician apply them for you, but make sure you research the different types of window films before choosing your brand.

If your floors have already undergone dramatic fading, then there is unfortunately no solution other than to sand and refinish the floors. Don’t forget to employ some sun prevention techniques after you’ve redone your floors!

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