Regain Your Footing: Top Tips for Common Wood Floor Repairs
Wood floors are durable and easy to maintain, but they're still subject to accidental gouges, scratches, and heavy wear. Before you call in a refinisher, consider trying some of the easy fixes outlined here.
Few things can add as much warmth, character, and charm to a room as hardwood floors. From the amber glow of heart pine to the deep dark polish of walnut, hardwood brings a bit of nature into your home and sets an inviting mood from the living room to the kitchen. Generally, hardwood floors are durable and easy to maintain (not to mention better for allergies), but they do get the occasional gouge, scratch, or area of wear. Fortunately, you can usually fix these blemishes quickly and easily yourself with no need for expensive replacement boards.
In high-traffic areas, the finish and stain can wear away from your hardwood floors, leaving the wood exposed and creating a visually unattractive patch. In such cases, you’ll want to sand the affected area, extending beyond the damaged section of the floor by about an inch. Try to sand to the edges of boards so that when the repair is done, it will look more natural. Use a fine-grained sandpaper for this job and make sure when you’re done that the floor is as smooth as glass. While you’re still in sanding mode, find a different, less-visible area of the floor—like in a closet or under the bed—and sand away a very small patch of finish and stain. This patch will be the test area you’ll use for a bit of detective work.
If your floor is natural unstained wood, then try a few types of floor urethane on your test patch. Water-based urethane will dry clear, while oil-based formulations will impart a slight golden tinge to the floor. See which matches best. Be sure to get the sheen right, whether it be gloss, semi-gloss, or satin.
If you have stain on your floor, try a few different types on the test patch to get the best match. Know that the color you’ll wind up with after you’ve applied urethane over the stain will be most similar to the color you see when the stain is first applied and is still wet.
Now that you’ve nailed down the stain and urethane, make sure the worn part of your floor has been sanded completely smooth. Vacuum up the dust several times before you proceed. Once the area’s scrupulously clean, apply stain (if needed), and then apply multiple coats of urethane according to the manufacturer’s directions, letting each coat dry between applications.
Grit on shoes, overly enthusiastic pets, and heavy items that have been dropped or moved can all leave scratches on our precious hardwood floors. If you have light surface scratches on the floors, all that might be required to make them fade is application of a solution such as Lumber Liquidators’ Scratch Away, which cleans and polishes floors while reducing the appearance of scratches. If the scratches are deeper, then you’ll want to follow the instructions above, sanding the floor down to the bottom of the scratch before restaining and/or refinishing.
If the damage to your hardwood floor goes beyond a simple scratch and moves into the category of a gouge, then you’ll need some type of filler to repair the nick before sanding, staining, and finishing, because it would simply be impractical to sand to the bottom of the blemish. A blend stick or finishing putty works well on these types of repairs.
For the sticks, you’ll have to mix the different colors together to get the right match to your floor. Then press the material into the gouge and wait for it to dry. Putties are applied the same way and can usually be sanded and stained to blend in once they have dried, although you’ll want to start with the color that most closely matches your floor and apply stain from there.
Of course, the best way to treat your hardwood floors is to try to keep them from getting scratched in the first place. That’s why it’s critical to keep them clean using a product specifically formulated for hardwood floors, such as the Bellawood Hardwood Floor Cleaner. (Supermarket floor detergents can damage your floor’s finish and are best avoided.) Remember that dirt and grit on your floors can act like sandpaper, scratching the finish. Keeping your floors clean removes this potential hazard and will help them look their best for years to come. And, when you’re shopping for wood floors, be sure to look for quality products that offer an extended warranty—anywhere from 30 to 100 years—on finishes.
This article is sponsored on behalf of Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.