Looking to protect the hardwood floors in your office from damage? Scratches, scuffs, wear and tear...These are the last things you want for your beautiful wood floors. But how do you protect your flooring from office chairs? The best solution is switching to chair casters for hardwood floors.
Video: How To Protect Your Wood Floors From Office Chairs
Check out the video below to see why office chairs damage hardwood floors and the simple fix to keep them protected
Most office chair buyers stick with the standard wheels that come with the chair. However, the standard nylon chair casters are poorly designed for hardwood floors. The dual-wheel material is molded from hard plastic (usually nylon). And these hard wheels tend to slide across a surface instead of rolling smoothly.
Unlike the dual-wheel caster design, rollerblade-style office chair casters are made of a soft polyurethane material. This elastic, rubber-like material grips the hard surface so the wheels roll smoothly instead of sliding. Making this type of wheel safe for all floors including hardwood.
Almost All Office Chairs Have Hard Plastic Casters
One thing you’ll find is that 99% of office chairs come with the dual-wheel plastic casters that we mentioned previously.
Oddly enough, office furniture companies almost always use the cheaper plastic materials for chair casters, regardless of the price of the chair. And honestly, we're not exactly sure why. For example, a quick look at office chairs on Amazon.com finds very similar wheels used for both the cheapest and the most expensive chairs.
To highlight the point, here’s an example of the chair casters found on a low-cost office chair, which comes in at just around $100:
And here’s an example of the chair casters used for a high-end office chair (Herman Miller Aeron) that sells for around $1500:
Look similar? With just a few small differences in the design, the wheels are effectively the same. Despite the huge difference in price between the two models.
For home office workers in the market for office chairs, this means that regardless of whether you buy a high-end or low-end office chair, you’ll almost always end up with the same type of wheel, made of the same material, that creates the same problems down the road for your wood floors.
That higher price of the chair does take into account name the brand, ergonomic design, and the material for the seat, but it does little to account for the wheels.
Considering office chair casters take the brunt of the weight and do most of the work, it’s similar to having economy car wheels on a luxury vehicle.
Don't Blame the Office Chair...It's the Wheels' Fault
It’s easy to spot worn-down hardwood floors. In many older homes with hardwood floors, you’ll notice dull areas where foot traffic is common. You’ll also easily spot nicks and scratches (sometimes deep ones) where furniture was moved around without the proper protection.
And even more common is damage to the floors in your office.
You've seen it before. You walk into your home office, look down at the floor, and see something like this where the office chair sits:
When you see this you likely are frustrated or upset with your office chair. However, it is actually the caster wheels on the chair that are to blame.
Those plastic roller wheels that come standard on all office chairs are poorly designed for wood floors.
The twin-wheels are made of a hard plastic (usually nylon). So when you move around in your chair, the nylon material will tend to slide or rub on your wood floor instead of smoothly rolling.
This problem can actually become worse the longer you have the wheels. They get clogged with dirt, hair, and other debris, causing even more scraping across the floor.
It seems that these wheels provide just the bare minimum. They allow the chair to roll and hold the weight of the user.
Even worse, small bits of the hard nylon plastic start peeling and breaking away with standard caster designs. This breakage can cause even more damage to the hardwood floor.
The breakdown in the plastic material, combined with the movement of debris stuck in or onto the wheel, can slowly damage the polish and finish on a hardwood floor. Once the finish is scraped off, you’ll begin to damage the wood surface, as well.
How to Keep Your Hardwood Floors in Perfect Condition
Although you may have purchased or be considering an office chair for hardwood floors, the standard design we’ve mentioned above (dual-wheel plastic) is eventually going to damage your hardwood floor.
So how do you keep your floors safe?
Replace Your Chair Wheels
The best and most effective way to prevent damage that standard office chair wheels cause to hardwood floors is to change the type of wheels you’re using.
This is a good option regardless of how much you paid for a chair. And also a great idea if you purchased or are considering buying used office furniture.
The office chair rollers (pictured above) are designed specifically to keep hardwood floors safe from scratches.
The clear polyurethane (rubber-like) wheel is like a super material for your wood floor. Polyurethane is strong enough to support heavy weights, soft enough to glide smoothly, and durable enough to outlast your chair.
The soft polyurethane grips the surface of your floors, ensuring they roll smoothly. Unlike the nylon dual-wheel casters, which slide and wear down your flooring.
Since most office chairs are designed with the same type of wheels, replacing them with poly urethane casters takes just a few minutes. You can remove and replace the chair wheels without any tools.
These furniture casters for hardwood floors can be used without any additional equipment or floor coverings. Thanks to the design of the wheels, you won’t need to worry about purchasing a chair mat or any other accessories to prevent floor damage.
Should I Use an Office Chair Mat for My Wood Floors?
It is recommended to avoid using chair mats for hardwood floors or other hard surfaces.
These may seem like a good idea at first, since they are covering part of your flooring. And some office chair mats are even advertised as safe for hardwood floors. However, chair mats can actually cause more harm than good.
As you roll in your office chair, the mat can slide or rub against the hardwood floor beneath. So, any dirt or debris between the layers will actually wear down and damage your floor.
They also come with many other limitations. Your movement area is restricted by the size of the mat, which defeats the purpose of your rolling chair. They cover part of your beautiful wood floors. And they also require extra care and maintenance.
Even the expensive ($200-$800) glass chair mat should be avoided for all hard floors.
Chair mats (plastic or glass) have a time and a place in offices. But only for plush or high-pile carpet.
How to repair damage to hardwood floors from chair casters
Unfortunately, you may be here because you’ve already experienced first hand what standard nylon chair casters can do to a hardwood floor. If so, you may want to do some repair work on your floor before the damage gets any worse.
Polish (or Repolish) your Hardwood Floors
The first, and lowest-cost option is to repolish the floor. Repolishing can help buff out some of the damage and restore some of the luster, which is good if you've already noticed a fair bit of discoloration from UV exposure.
Refinishing is an option, but we only recommend this for serious damage to your floor. It can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to refinish your wood floors, depending on the size of the room and whether you choose to do the work yourself, or hire a professional contractor.
And when refinishing, you won’t be doing just a small part of the floor, but the entire room; otherwise you’ll end up with very uneven looking floors.
DIY refinishing also comes with some risks if done incorrectly. It could lead you to have to replace the floor altogether, which is far more expensive than refinishing.
If you plan to refinish and aren’t willing to use your floor as a test run, we recommend searching for local professionals.
Replace your hardwood floors
It’s unlikely that you’ll need to completely replace your hardwood floors even after extensive damage from office chairs. We recommend this only if it’s absolutely necessary for other reasons, such as purchasing a home that has major, pre-existing damage from a flood, fire, or other major damaging event. Most damage related to chair casters can be repaired with polishing or refinishing.
The Right Office Chair Wheels Can Help Save Your Hardwood Floors
How are your hardwood floors looking? If they’re still in pristine condition, then your best option is to keep them looking that way.
The standard wheels that come with most office chairs will eventually damage your floors. To prevent any damage (or further damage if your floors have already taken a beating), consider upgrading to rollerblade style office chair wheels.
Unlike the standard nylon chair casters, the rollerblade-style chair casters use soft, rubber-like material that will gently glide over your hard wood floors. You won’t have to worry about damage, and you can potentially save yourself the hundreds of dollars it might cost to repolish or refinish your home office’s hardwood floors.