Repair & Care
Repairing Solid Nail Down Hardwood Floors
You may note several methods in which to repair or replace one or two boards on a nail down hardwood floor. The principle is the same as I've seen This Old House regular Tom Silva use a method to drill holes into the affected areas first then hammer and pry the damaged sections apart. This works fine for those that want to keep sawdust to a minimum.
See Our Video - remove and replace one board.
Our method calls for making two cuts on the board to be replaced. The first step calls for adjusting the circular saw to be used the actual depth or thickness of the flooring. This helps to keep sawdust low and not having to cut into the subfloor. Our example shown is a repair on a bordered floor that involved covering radiator holes and some damaged sections.
Where Should I Make The Two Cuts?
Most professionals simply cut two lines with no set measurement in mind down the middle of the board. On the other hand, by keeping the cut to about 3/8 of one inch from each long seam, you'll be cutting through the nails that were used to fasten the floor. This can speed up the process especially if they're barbed cleat
nails that can be very troublesome to remove anyway. As always keep a keen eye on safety if attempting such a project.
But, if you're dealing with an older floor, say prior to the 60's this method cannot be used safely. The years before specialized flooring nailers, thicker steel cut nails were used to fasten the flooring. No circular saw will go through these nails without rattling the man behind the tool. It is also not a safe way to do this kind of repair. This could be one reason why Tom Silva doesn't bring out the skill saw because he sees these older floors all the time.
In my travels I'm always looking for new ideas or "how guys do things different." This repair was done in the Baltimore area with the installer making the two cuts to each board end joint, then making a cross cut on an angle in the center, thereby making it easier to remove the first piece.
As luck would have it our installer did not take the long cuts all the way to the end joint of the next board. Doing so will create fewer problems as when the strips being removed can sometimes cause damage to adjacent pieces. Once the cut out is removed you'll find the center piece will come out easily by wiggling and raising the piece at the same time.
Chisel Away The Scraps
In our photo example the chisel itself is used to bite into the loose pieces and tapped on an angle with the hammer. This will force pieces into the center and no damage will be incurred on other areas. Keep as far away from the next seam if that area is to be saved.
Surprises are always common when working in older homes. We were taken back to find the actual thickness of the flooring was half inch. Obvious it had never been refinished, nor did it have an end matched tongue and groove system, which was common with older floors that were generally top nailed rather than nailed into the sides.
Another surprise was the method of installation with 6 penny finish nails. It definitely made removal a much easier task.
Repairing Floors So It Doesn't Look Like A Repair
Amateur repair jobs really stick out. You may think you've done a pretty good job. Hey, I'm the same way with repairs that may be out of my realm. Take for instance that roofing repair I did last year. I'm just happy it's on the other side of the house that nobody sees but myself.
Let's take a few examples. The first one shows where a drying machine vent was removed. Instead of replacing the entire board somebody just decided to cut a plug and drop it into the floor. The cuts were good but isn't there a better way? What's the difference anyway? It looks like a great place to put the trashcan or maybe a planter?
Look closely at the patch repair on the right, probably done by a carpenter. Reasons for the plug repair and not complete board replacements probably had to do with the fact the flooring runs under the walls and cabinets. Removal is a time consuming and difficult job. Instead a shortcut was taken.
There were a few options here. First one is cut the two boards out from around the wall and cabinet, install new and run quarter round along the cabinet area. A great tool for this task would have been the Fein Multimaster that allows some superior precision cuts where other power tools cannot reach.
Option number two requiring more time and patience starts with removing the baseboard and making cuts near the wall. Once completed the base would cover the new cuts. A professional appearance would have the boards cut back to the last end joint, remove and install new by gluing into place.
How to repair? Take a look at weaving floorboards in a kitchen remodel.
This job example shows water damage near an exterior door. It sure looks like a patch job doesn't it? Would this help sell the house if you needed to? Doubts could be raised in the eyes of the potential buyer. Their thoughts could be..."how many other band aids are in this home?"
Using matching material is key in work like this. The better professionals know how to work with floor repairs. They've learned from mistakes or others in what works and what doesn't. Finding the proper matching material could run as deep as taking boards from other less noticeable areas of the home and using in more visible areas.
Another eyesore with this repair is where the end joints line up in the floor. Ordinarily the more attractive repairs will show as if they did not exist in the first place. The next photo example (right) details how the job was prepared before the installation of new hardwood. Each full length board was taken from the floor. In other words, the hardwood was cut back to all end joints. Once re-installed it will look as if there was no repair done.
How Much Does It Cost To Have A Professional Come In?
For jobs like this professionals will charge by the time and material method, unless you have saved some boards from the original installation. Time equates into hourly rates which can get pricey because the value and final outcome of the work is unsurpassed.
Thinking of hiring a carpenter? Not a good idea unless they have experience in fine interior work. In my days of installing floors I've been called in to fix more than one carpenter repair. An everyday carpenter handles rough work and doesn't pay attention to details. In most cases they're dealing with framing houses where minor miscalculations won't be a big deal. Ever wonder why houses are out of square? Yea, some can claim it on house settling but I'm not one to believe such.
A Professional Patch Job Example
Here's one performed by a very talented hardwood floor repair guy. An old heart pine floor needed major patchwork because walls were moved during a remodel. The before and after pictures are truly stunning.