Repair & Care
Repairing Hardwood Floors
Types of hardwood floor repairs are numerous. We've broken down the more common ones many people can handle themselves in the first few sections of this page. Throughout the page we've included dealing with squeaky stairs that includes causes and solutions. Additionally, you can find why the main flooring is squeaking and how to eliminate the problems with several methods.
Some scratching can easily be fixed with wax sticks sometimes offered with prefinished floor manufacturer care kits. Often with non glossy finishes a simple magic marker similar to the stain color of the floor can be used if the scratch has penetrated the finish and into the underlying wood itself.
For minor scratching on most new prefinished floors a q-tip and matching finish sheen can be applied to the scratch, making sure not to over apply, otherwise you may see it in the right amount of light looking across the floor. It is important to check with the manufacturer to see what type of finish was used on the floor itself if handling larger problem scratches.
Major Scratches from Furniture or Appliance Movement
We see the emails often. The appliance guys pushed the new refrigerator back into place and left some very deep scratches in the new floor. In this case there may not be an easy fix. The only real solution to some, if they are engineered for example, and cannot be refinished and stained successfully is removing and replacing the boards that are damaged.
In our serious case scenario, it is important when buying a prefinished floor to buy extra material in case problems like this occur. It may be a few years before the material is actually needed. However, a few years down the road you may find the product color or style has been discontinued. Finding an extra box can be extremely frustrating. Often you are left with three choices; live with the scratches, cover it up with a large rug that doesn't look right, or replace the entire area.
Taylor Wood Doctor Touch Up and Repair Kit - Larger Repair Issues
Here's another product used more by professionals due to cost. Unlike other standard repair kits that retail for about $ 30.00, the Taylor Wood Doctor offers applications that can be used after a repair, for all types of wood surfaces in the home. Included is a small butane powered hot melt gun. Unlike cheaper wax sticks or putty that can fall out of small dings and dents, plastic thermo polymers are used. Sixteen colors are presented in solid colored block bars. Colors can be mixed to achieve a desired shade.
Also included in this invaluable tool kit is a small stainless steel scraper blade, used to craft any problems you may need to correct bevel damages and the like. Cleaning dirt from affected areas serves a second function. Scotch bright pads are also featured and used to buff to the desired sheen finish level of the floor. Pens of varied colors to match grain patterns can also be found with this kit.
Site Finished Floors - Spot Sanding
Let's say we have an area that has affected two boards. Once again finding the matching sheen that was used for the original surface coat is important as any old finish type will not work well. Using 3M blue type tape, mask off the repair perimeter at the board seams. Hand sand gently and consistently over the entire area until the scratches are removed. Apply finishes in the same manner the original floor was done. Sealer, allow to dry, screen by hand sanding with a progressively finer grit, tack and apply finish coats. Always remove tape after coating.
Aluminum Oxide or Ceramic Type Finishes
These types of finishes will be much harder to repair by using the spot sanding method mentioned above. Better solutions lie in obtaining a matching finish sheen applied with a Q-tip or individual board replacements.
Pet Stains. How Do We Fix The Problem?
For minor problems where the stain hasn't darkened from years of soaking, sanding will remove some of the discoloration, but traces may remain. Staining the entire floor a darker color could mask the problems, but is not a guarantee. Even the darkest of floor stain colors like ebony cannot hide pet urine stains that cannot be sanded out successfully.
What Options Do I Have?
Unfortunately extensive urine stains cannot be repaired on the surface completely. Often solutions are to live with them by covering areas with throw rugs or replacing the entire floor. Smaller areas on the other hand offer solutions.
A viable but time consuming solution without it being noticeable is finding similar aged material that was used for the original installation. Often material can be removed from closets, where new can be installed that will not be seen. Unfortunately with many older homes with little or no closet space there may be nothing to choose from. Local salvage yards are an option or perhaps a home of similar age in the neighborhood is being torn down.
If worst comes to worst, removal from a room that is not as visible can be chosen. Perhaps the installers can remove older boards from the center of the room and create an accent piece for the room with new material. At least this way the new material will not stand out if taken at random.
Patina In Older Floors
Reasons why a simple fix with new hardwood doesn't work well has to do with the patina of the older floor. Using new will not match the timeless transition the existing wood floor has taken on. Also with much older products appearances are different. Old growth hardwoods were commonly used whereas today they are not. Grain patterns are likely to be different.
Painting The Floors?
Painting is another consideration. They don't have to be completely painted by hiding the graining or making the floor look like front porch grey or black. One could create a weathered or distressed look which happens to be very popular as of this
date September 2012. One could take examples from Anderson floors who has a line called Olde Paint (Antique Linen shown right).
Okay. How About The Smell?
There's a company named Urine Off that specializes in a product that works effectively to remove pet urine odors from not only wood but other floor coverings. The company also offers a black light that can detect urine stains that aren't visible to the naked eye.
Home Hunting? Floors Covered By Carpet? Any Pet Stains Underneath?
This may sound off the wall...but...you could bring your cute little poodle (borrow one from a friend) with you on home hunting trips. Real estate agents aren't as likely to refuse them entry opposed to a German Sheppard.
Animals are drawn to urine. If little Toto concentrates his or her snout to the floor in one or several areas there are likely to be pet stains on the older hardwood floor underneath. How extensive the damage may be is always uncertain unless the carpet is removed.
Older Nailed Floors. Fasteners may be loosening.
The Fix? You'll be hard bent on finding a simple permanent solution because the fasteners are usually hidden as most floors are installed by nailing into the tongue portion of the board. Hence, the nail is out of view. There are four permanent solutions to this problem unless complete replacement is done. Depending on how your home is built, only one or two may apply to you.
Shim From Below
If you have access to the underside of the subfloor in the basement, wedges (shown right) can be inserted between the subfloor and floor joist system. Wedges come in the form of cedar shake packets you can purchase at any home improvement centers, or a simple package of wooden shims. Floor joist movement can also be a contributing factor where shims would provide relief from squeaks.
Ring Shank Nails
One could use ring shank nails and nail into the affected areas on a 45 degree angle, making sure the nails penetrate and hold into the subfloor or floor joist system. Another option is using deck screws and fastening from the underside, making sure the screws are not long as to protrude from above. When using screws consider the thickness of the subfloor and the actual finished flooring.
Screws From Below
For example let's say our plywood subfloor is 3/4" thick and the flooring the same. Older floors may have been sanded a few times with the thickness being reduced. Choose a screw that penetrates into the flooring by half to play it safe. If there is no subfloor, screwing into the floor joists and into the flooring on a 45 degree angle is the only option. You'll need to be a little more careful here in choosing screw length.
You Need A Helper Stand On The Squeaky Noisy Area
To handle this repair effectively you'll need someone to stand on the areas while the work is being done. The preference is for the heaviest volunteer you can find. It's necessary to use downward pressure while screwing or nailing so as to keep the flooring and subfloor tight against one another, or the problems will continue.
Apply Talcum Powder
The third option is used for minor noisy problems. This can also be used for floating floors. Apply talcum powder to the floor while sweeping the powder into the grooves. Pound the areas with a rubber mallet to help the powder settle into the seams then sweep clean.
Floating Floor Fixes
With noisy floating floors, options are limited because we have nothing to attach to as in our solid hardwood example above. Besides, most floating products are installed over concrete subfloors. Using any of the above methods except for talc powder is a big no no. Floating floors will lose their need to expand and contract and larger problems will develop. Other options may be found on our related pages below.
Direct Glue Down Flooring
Problem noises with these types are mostly from adhesive losing it's bond from subfloor to hardwood. We have a complete page devoted to repairing popping or squeaky glue down floors.
Minor squeaking can be beneficial especially if located at the entry ways. It may sound off the wall, but minor squeaking can become somewhat of a burglar deterrence. Same is true of steps.
Found wood flooring under the carpet? Chances are good previous owners didn't care about protecting the floor when some painting chores were done. The result became a collage of assorted paint drippings and splatters all over the place, not to mention a few spills and paint can rim marks.
What's The Easy Fix To Remove Paint?
It depends on what you're trying to achieve and the scope of the mess. For minor problems mineral spirits and fine steel wool pads can be used along with a plastic scraper. In most cases however, a professional should be called in to completely refinish the floor. You may feel you have the talent to handle it yourself but what often happens is many folks doing it themselves tend to work on problem areas too much when using sanding equipment. They often don't realize the damage until it's too late, providing they're trying to bring back a pristine looking floor without the character.
Older floors are likely to have the paint penetrating what finish may be left on the surface. In other words, the paint has reached the pores of the hardwood. Easy fixes are out of the question. The hardwood will have to be sanded down to a consistent bare wood appearance.
New Hardwood Floors
With newer floors, corrective actions are easier due to the slickness of the finish. By way of explanation, paint can be removed much easier as chances are good nothing has seeped into the pores themselves. Common with higher gloss levels. Conversely, ones that exhibit the grain feel and appearance may trap some paint. The light use of a nylon bristle brush (tooth brushes work too) and working the area with a minimal amount of water will often eliminate the residue. Wipe dry immediately.
Squeaky stairs have been known to be a good burglar deterrent but more times they are annoying. The reason for squeaky or noisy stairs has to do with the parts used to assemble. House settling, wood expansion and contraction are all results of these conditions. Nails loosen from framing members that includes treads, risers and the underlying rough stair stringer that supports everything.
What's The Easy Fix?
It could be as simple as inserting some thin wooden wedges under the stair tread or nosing providing the treads themselves are not the retrofit type. How do you know which type may be on your stairs? Often stairs that don't have this characteristic may have a decorative piece of cove molding installed under the tread (photo right). By removing the trim you're able to insert a wedge or shim under the tread that will provide it more stability.
Can You Get Below The Stairs?
Being able to access the stairs from below would be the next easy solution. Once again our shims could be the easy fix. By having a partner stand on the steps above locate the annoying sounds, tap wedges into place in between the tread and stringer.
For stair treads that may be bowed it may present another option. By fastening a block to the back side of the riser below the offending tread will help push up the tread eliminating the noisy sounds. Other materials used for this repair are angle brackets. Fasten one side into the riser from the rear and into the tread above it with decking screws.
Last Choice Charlie
The final option is one we prefer to stay away from as it requires fastening into the surface of the stair tread into the rough stringers that help support the staircase system. If you're the artistic type and don't like lousy looking nail holes in your stairs one can opt for fastening all treads with deck screws. Pre-drilling holes for the insertion of decorative plugs afterwards can be considered.