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What is ‘photosensitivity’ in wood flooring?

Everything changes, they say.  And this is certainly true of your hardwood floors.

But, the changes don’t necessarily need to be thought of as problems.  Sure, crowning and cupping, and other moisture-related damage, plus surface scratching and day-to-day wear can affect your flooring negatively.  And these are things to to keep under control or eliminate where you can.

merbau-flooring-tinted03But, it’s important to remember that your wood floor is a natural material.  And perhaps that’s why you’ve invested in it in the first place, because it brings a natural warmth and beauty to your space.  With this in mind, it should be understood that like any natural material, wood floors age. They mature like a fine wine.

One of the ways that this is demonstrated is by color changes, particularly in wood species that are ‘photosensitive’.  Well, what the heck does that mean?  Here’s the scoop.

Very simply put, photosensitivity is the reaction materials have to light.  More specifically, when we’re talking about wood floors, it’s really UV light that has the most impact on color change, which is the primary effect you’ll see over time.  As discussed in my post about aluminum oxide finishes in wood flooring, a floor finish can minimize the effects of UV light, since all wood floors will change color slightly.  But, in certain species like Jatoba for instance, the possibility of a pronounced color change over the years is well documented.

So, what do you do?

Well, one good idea is to plan for the color change even before you install a photosensitive wood floor.  Ask the experts about photosensitivity and whether or not the species you’re interested in is prone to it. And if the answer is yes, don’t shun your choice –  embrace it!

Then, consider some of these tactics:

  • think about what your floor will look like, as well as what it looks like when you buy it
  • think about how much light you’ll get in the space where you’re installing it
  • if it’s a lot of light, invest in blinds that you can close during the day to minimize exposure
  • re-arrange furniture and mats frequently to make sure the floor ages evenly

And I think a big piece to this question of photosensitivity is this; don’t think of it as a problem.  It is a feature of your chosen floor, a measure of its genuineness and natural appeal.



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