September 16, 2022

An Inconvenient Truth: Why Hardwood Flooring Changes Over Time

On a long enough timeline, the effects of aging become apparent in everything–our pets, our spouses, the faces that stare back at us in the mirror, and, yes, even our hardwood floors. But while cellular degradation can be blamed for the gray hairs and wrinkles we tend to collect over the passing years, the culprit is something else entirely for hardwood flooring. You can blame photosensitivity.

Why Wood Changes Colors in Sunlight

Sunlight is known to cause cancer and aging in humans, however it is also the main reason why hardwood floors, among other household items, age. Typically, sunlight causes hardwood floors to darken, though it may cause some to lighten. Areas with rugs, furniture, or more shade than other places will be unevenly bleached/darkened. The color that the wood turns when it receives too much sunlight is entirely dependent on the type of wood and the type of finish.

The three types of light that cause the change are UV (ultraviolet), visible light, and IR (infrared light). The main culprit is UV light as it has similar effects to wood that it does to humans. The IR light causes solar heat, which also contributes to the changing of color. However, it isn’t only the wood that reacts to sunlight. When woods are finished with oils based in polyurethane, the finish reacts to the light and turns a dark orange color. Although this finish is generally only used in older homes, it is something to keep in mind and watch out for when finishing floors.

The Effects of Light on Various Types of Wood

When exposed to sunlight, tropical and exotic woods like Brazilian Cherry, Tigerwood, and American Cherry tend to darken and darken faster than other woods. Other woods like Teak and Brazilian Walnut darken but darken slowly. More domestic woods lighten quite slowly over time. 

The timeline for woods changing color is generally as follows: the first few months of exposure leave noticeable changes, and as time goes on the changes aren’t noticeable. 

How to Fight Light

Similar to humans putting on sunscreen, there are ways we can protect our hardwood floors from the sun. In order to protect hardwood floors, simple and easy changes must be made. If furniture is covering some of the room but not all, moving the furniture is recommended to prevent uneven color changes. For those who like to keep their rooms the way they are, films can be added to windows to keep UV light out. Not only does it protect the floors, but it also protects those living in the house! Another much simpler option is finishing the floors with a UV inhibitor. 

In places like the South, where sunlight is present all day everyday, window films are more common. For example, companies specializing in wood floor repairs in Austin or Palm Beach may be more inclined to recommend a window film, while places up north might recommend a UV inhibitor finish simply because of the environment the house is in. 

When considering installing hardwood floors, it is crucial to take into account the amount of sunlight the house would receive so as to take precautionary measures against aging. Like most humans, hardwood floors look best young. Maintaining the sleek shine of new hardwood floors can only be done if the floors are protected against the sun.