What Would Bob Do? Fixing Scratches on Wood Floors

Over time, a hardwood floor is bound to get scratched, nicked, or even gouged. Here are a few techniques for handling these imperfections—and some tips for keeping them from happening in the first place.

How to Fix Scratches on Hardwood Floors

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I have various scratches on my wood floors. Some add character, but some are just too big and need to go away. What is the easiest way to fix scratches on hardwood floors without causing any lasting damage?

Apply wax or acrylic floor polish over light scratches in hardwood floors, but take caution: Over time, such polishes can dull and darken the floor, eventually requiring removal. That’s never an easy task; it involves powerful cleaning agents (for example, mineral spirits and ammonia) and no small quantity of elbow grease.

Related: Rx for Hardwood Floors

Alternatively, coat floors with a product specially formulated to renew the wood—Bona Pro Series Hardwood Floor Refresher, for example, or Hardwood Floor Reviver from Minwax. Sanding isn’t required, but to achieve best results, you must thoroughly clean the floor prior to application. Also, allow ample time for the finish to dry. Plan to reapply the product every several months and always refrain from using any such treatment on wood laminate or factory-finished floors.

If a scratch has penetrated deep enough to expose bare wood, there’s a low-effort way to conceal the imperfection: Simply fill it in with a stain that matches the floor color. Stain markers and blending pencils are commonly available in a range of tones; check your local hardware stores or home improvement retail chain store. But traditional wood stain works equally well. Apply it with a small brush or even a cotton swab—just be sure to wipe away any excess before it has the chance to dry.

To address a deep, wide gouge, opt for a precolored latex wood filler, one that closely matches the color of your hardwood. Apply the filler with a plastic putty knife, which is the tool least likely to cause any further damage to the floor. Once the filler has dried completely, use fine-grit sandpaper to level the surface so that no difference in elevation exists between the patch and its surrounding area. Finally, coat varnish (thinned with 10 or 20 percent turpentine) over the repair.

Whether from pets or children, boots or rolling furniture, unprotected wood floors are virtually certain to get scratched. If you’re committed to keeping your hardwoods in tip-top shape, consider the following tried-and-true methods of safeguarding wood against the most common threats to its flawlessness:

1. Position fiber doormats near all exterior doors, as tracked-in dirt and grit are the enemy of beautiful, pristine hardwood floors.

2. Encourage friends and family to remove their shoes upon entering the house—especially women in high heels!

3. Sweep often in order to contain any dirt or grit that manages to sneak in despite your best attempts at barring its entry.

4. If you are going to slide furniture across a wood floor, always place felt protective pads under its legs (or use a piece of leftover carpeting, soft side down).

5. Restrict medium- and large-size dogs from all rooms with hardwood flooring, or be sure to always keep their nails neatly trimmed.