Hardwood Floor Repair: How to Fix or Refurbish Damaged Hardwood Floors

Wooden floors give your home a warm, welcoming feel. Over time, however, hardwood floor is worn down by daily wear and tear. Stains, scuffs, and worn paint or varnish detract from the classic look of your hardwood floor. Your wood floor can also become damaged by humidity or weather. Despite the wear and tear all is not lost. You can repair and refurbish your damaged hardwood floor to a new polished sheen. Most contemporary hardwood floors are varnished. Some are painted. This DIY project guide to repairing your damaged hardwood floor will explain how to refinish varnished wood flooring and painted wood flooring. You will also learn how to replace damaged floor boards that are beyond refinishing or repair.

The key to successfully repair a damaged hardwood floor is preparation. First, learn all you can about how to repair or refinish your hardwood floor. This guide will assist you with your home improvement project, but if you need further guidance check the library, or ask the experts in the flooring department of a home improvement store. Be sure you understand the process before you begin to repair, replace, or refinish damaged hardwood floor.

Once you understand how to repair damaged hardwood flooring gather supplies before you begin your DIY project. Begin working when you have enough time to spare the room for several days. You should also plan this DIY project when you can finish repair to your damaged hardwood floor at your own pace. This home improvement project will take several days, so don’t get in a rush to finish the job.

If you try to repair or refinish damaged hardwood floor too fast or skip steps you will end up with a wood floor that will require a redo, or you’ll end up paying extra to have a professional come in and re-do the job.

Repairing a damaged hardwood floor on your own is not too difficult. You can do this home improvement project yourself, but it does require preparation, time, and patience.

The first step in your DIY project is to clean the entire hardwood floor, including the damaged portion. Use hot water, an abrasive wooden floor cleaner, a stiff brush, and a sturdy work sponge. Use an abrasive cleaner made specifically for hardwood flooring. You will find hardwood floor abrasives at a home improvement store.

Begin in one corner cleaning small areas of the hardwood floor as you go. Use the brush and clean the hardwood along the grain using the abrasive scrubbing agent. Wash each small section as you work with warm, clean water.

As you encounter stains on your damaged hardwood floor use a clean steel wool pad. You will find that some stains can be scrubbed clean. Sometimes gooey or unknown substances have found a place to latch on to your hardwood floor. At times, abrasive cleaners and steel wool is not enough. Try Goo-Be-Gone on this spots. A small, plastic putty knife may also help you remove any foreign, unidentifiable substances on your damaged hardwood floor. Once the entire floor is clean, allow time for it to dry completely.

After a thorough cleaning of your damaged hardwood floor you will have one of three results.

If the floor was not previously varnished the floor board surface will be rough. Some of the grain will be raised, so don’t walk on the flooring barefoot. In this is the case you will need to sand the floor by hand. Don’t sand the hardwood too much, just enough to smooth the rough surface. Use fine grain sandpaper on a sanding block, or ask a flooring expert at a home improvement store for a prefabricated sanding block for the job.

Older hardwood floor that has been varnished may appear smooth after cleaning. However, discoloration, mildew, or other damage can be clearly seen on a cleaned hardwood floor. At this point you need to determine whether damaged hardwood boards need to be replaced.

Replacing damaged hardwood floor boards is the most difficult part of this home improvement project.

To replace a damaged hardwood floor board find the joist nearest the board you need to replace and mark it. Follow the trail of floorboard nails to find the joist. The joist runs at ninety degree angles to the hardwood floor.

Cut the damaged floor with a jigsaw. If you have a floorboard saw it will work, but there is no need to buy one for this job. Get the saw blade into the floor by drilling a hole large enough for the saw blade beside the joist.

Once the hardwood floor board is cut slide a small piece of wood beneath the board to lift it slightly. This will allow you to easily remove the hardwood floor board once you cut along the nearest joist on the other end. Tongue and groove flooring may require a jigsaw cut parallel to the remaining hardwood floor boards to release it.

Find out what kind of hardwood your damaged floor is. You will need to match the hardwood before you continue with your project. If you are not sure, take a sample of the piece you have removed to a home improvement store and ask an associate in wood or flooring.

Before you buy replacement hardwood, check for used floor boards at a salvage store. It’s easiest to match your hardwood floor with wood that has already been seasoned.

If you can’t find second-hand hardwood boards, buy new boards at a home improvement store. Some home improvement stores will cut the hardwood board to fit, so be sure to have your measurements with you.

New hardwood boards need to be seasoned before replacing the damaged floor you removed. Seasoning the new hardwood allows it to blend more easily with the damaged hardwood floor you’re refinishing. Season the new hardwood floor board by staining it with oil based stain that matches your current floor color. If you cannot match the stain exactly experiment with mixed stain colors diluted with mineral spirits. Find a color that is as close as possible. Since you are repairing the entire hardwood floor a close match will work. Once you stain the new hardwood floor board, sand it to give it some wear. The result should be a hardwood that is a pretty close match to the one you are replacing.

If you did not have it cut at the home improvement store, cut your hardwood flooring to fit the area from which you removed the damaged piece.

Once all damaged hardwood boards have been replaced the rest of the hardwood repair job is easy, it is just time consuming.

Before you begin sanding, carefully remove the baseboards surrounding the damaged hardwood floor. Depending on their quality and condition keep them to replace once the floor is completed. If you plan to surround your refurbished hardwood floor with new baseboards, discard the old baseboards and put the new baseboard project out of your head until you finish the damaged hardwood repair.

Sand off all the varnish or paint on the damaged hardwood floor. This job requires you to rent a floor sander from a home improvement rental center or a free-standing tool rental center. The associate will explain how the machine works. He should also be prepared to provide you with coarse grain, medium grain, and fine grain sandpaper for the sander. Unless you want to stop in the middle of your home improvement project and go back to the rental center go ahead and buy extra paper for the machine. You can always return what you do not use.

The floor sander is equipped with a large sanding belt and a bag to capture dust. Sanding the damaged hardwood floor will create more dust than the sander bag can capture. Seal off the room in which you are sanding hardwood with plastic sheeting. You should also wear a breathing mask and safety goggles.

Before you begin sanding make sure every nail or screw is counterset so they will not shred the sandpaper. Begin with a very course paper. Sand the floor at a forty-five degree angle across the grain. This is part of removing the old varnish or paint from your damaged hardwood floor. You will sand with the grain once you’ve finished removing the old varnish.

Use a belt sander, corner sander, or disc sander with course sandpaper to sand the corners.

Once most of the old varnish or paint has been removed switch to a medium grain paper on both sanders. Beginning on the opposite side of the floor sand at a forty-five degree angle. You will be crossing over your initial sanding job. As before, use a small sander for the corners.

When you are confident that old varnish and paint has been removed use a fine-grade paper and sand with the grain of the hardwood. Don’t forget the corners. At this point your hardwood floor should no longer show scuffs, scratches, stains, or water damage. Every aspect of your hardwood floor has been repaired and sanded to a smooth finish.

Wipe all the dust from the hardwood floor with a damp cloth, not too wet. Allow the floor boards to dry completely before continuing your repair project.

If the damaged hardwood floor you are repairing or refinishing is relatively new it probably turned out relatively smooth after cleaning with the abrasive. This makes your DIY home improvement project much easier. You get to avoid the big sander. A smooth floor is common in modern homes in which the hardwood was recently varnished.

Prepare a smooth hardwood floor for a new finish by gently sanding it with fine, wet sandpaper along the grain. Use wet sandpaper to prevent sanding too deeply into the surface. Deep scratches will require the entire surface of the damaged hardwood to be sanded as detailed above. Don’t do that to yourself. You can find wet-dry silicon carbide paper at any home improvement store.

Once you’ve reached this point in your damaged hardwood repair project stop and take a good look at the flooring. If it is in good condition it is time to stain and refinish the wood. The only remaining damage may be gaps in the hardwood.

Some gaps are small enough to deal with and add character to the floor. Large gaps require floor boards to be replaced when you are replacing other damaged hardwood.

Gaps that are an eyesore can be filled with wood fillets. Fillets are thin pieces cut from scraps of damaged or replacement hardwood. Place wood glue on the fillets and tap them in place with a rubber mallet. Do not use a hammer as you might damage more of the hardwood. Allow this to dry completely before proceeding. Gently sand any filled areas before you begin applying your new hardwood floor finish.

With the floor clean, dry, and prepped it is time to finish your hardwood floor repair project. Select the varnish of your choice. Find a varnish that is recommended for flooring. Do not use cheap varnish or cheap stain and a cheap sealant. Cheap varnish will not withstand everyday wear and you will find yourself involved in another floor refinishing project much too soon.

Hardwood floor varnish is specially formulated to stain and seal your hardwood floors with a strong, polished finish.

Allow the varnish plenty of time to dry. This may take two or three days depending on the weather and humidity. Regardless of how long it takes, the varnish must be completely dry before you walk on your newly refinished hardwood. Don’t even look at it too hard until it has time to dry completely. Anything that settles on the varnish before it is completely dry will stick in the hardwood finish. Touching the hardwood or walking on the floor may create sticky goo.

The last thing you want to do is damage your new hardwood floor finish. A friend repaired her damaged hardwood floor and it had to be redone three times. It was in the kitchen and no one could stay off the varnish long enough for it to dry.

The last time a professional was hired to repair the damaged hardwood floor. That’s not necessary when you repair your damaged hardwood floor. The process is not difficult and your flooring will look like new once you follow this step-by-step method, remembering the key is patience.

Biggs, Fiona, et al. The House Book. UK, Parragon Publishing, 2002.

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