When it comes to flooring, we’ve seen it all: gauges, scratches, scrapes, nicks, dings, dents, warps, gaps…not to mention cracks, cuts, holes, fractures, blemishes, gashes, discolorations, chips, smudges, blisters, spots, and blots. Our eyes are trained to notice these imperfections, which for us are about as easy to ignore as a tarantula in the middle of the floor.
Hardwood Flooring First Aid
Here are some hardwood flooring ailments—and possible solutions for them. When in doubt about what type of care to give your floors, contact us for a professional opinion.
Small minor scratches. A surface scratch is a shallow scratch in your finish or one that has only slightly penetrated the wood. For smaller, more minor surface scratches, go to your hardware store and ask for one of those “wood crayons” or “wood markers” (they’ll know what you’re talking about). Common names for these: furniture touch-up kits, wood finish stain markers, woodwork scratch cover touch-up pens; every manufacturer seems to call them something, but they all do the same thing: conceal. To get an accurate match, if you don’t have any leftover spares of finished flooring, you might take a photo of your floor so you can “take a sample” of your flooring to the store.
For minor scratches, these marker-type products can offer a temporary cosmetic fix. Be sure to test your product on an inconspicuous area of the floor to make sure it agrees with your flooring (sometimes a product makes the floor look good at first, but once it dries, it might look dull and even worse than the flaw you’re trying to cover).
If you test the product on the floor and it looks good after it dries, go ahead and use it on a visible area. Keep in mind that the grain of the floor will show some age and, with wear and tear, your scratches will come back.
For larger scratches, using one of these products may backfire and make things look worse. Proceed with caution. When in doubt, stop in our store and contact us for advice. If your fix doesn’t work, contact us and we’ll help you choose the best touch-up kit.
Large, deeper scratches that run across the grain. These may actually be considered gouges if deep enough in the wood. You may or may not be able to fix these yourself to your satisfaction.
If you decide to try a fix, rub the floor with a fine-grade sandpaper. If you’re lucky, you will have a few leftovers from your flooring install that you can experiment on first. Follow the grain of the wood. Next, moisten a clean, soft cloth (use mineral spirits, not water) and wipe up any dust and particles from where you sanded the gouge. After the area dries, if you have the original floor stain, use an artist’s brush and apply the stain to the floor. Just use a light coat and rub off the excess. Cover the spot thoroughly. You might need to apply several times to get it right.
Another option: buy a matching wax filler stick and apply to the damaged area until it is filled. Remove any excess filler.
For a deeper gouge, try wood putty filler. Fill the gouge with the putty. Let it dry. Then gently sand it out. Finally, apply a light coat of the original finish if you have it. If you don’t have the original finish, come see us, and we’ll help you choose a matching finish that is safe for your floors. If you try these DIY methods and don’t succeed, contact us. In the worst case scenario, that section of your flooring may need to be replaced
The zero-cost fix. If you think you can live with it, you could place an area rug or a piece of furniture over the spot. As luck usually has it, the offending gouge is located on a part of the floor where moving something over it isn’t feasible. But sometimes it’s all you need—at least as a temporary measure if you’re entertaining or something.
Loose floor planks. This is an eyesore, no doubt about it. If you’re lucky, you can reattach the floor to its subfloor without having to go underneath the floor. How to do it: Look for nail or screw heads that might have raised up. Remove raised nails with a hammer. Remove raised screws with a screwdriver. You now see holes in the spots where the nails or screws were. Drill new 2-inch wood screws into those holes. Countersink the heads of the wood screws slightly beneath your floor planks. Last, use wood filler to cover the screw head and make sure to smooth the surface so it’s even with the rest of the floor.
Cracked hardwood. Think of how dry your lips get in the wintertime–sometimes getting so dry they crack; it’s similar with hardwood. What to do? Take a spare piece of finished wood if you have one and visit us to buy some matching wood putty. For minor cracks, this may be all you need. However, you may need to replace part of the flooring if the crack or cracks are bad enough. Contact us with your questions.
Gaps between planks. Wood, like other living things, needs moisture to thrive. Dry winter air can affect wood and shrink it, causing gaps. It’s a royal pain to try to clean between such gaps. The level of moisture needed by wood depends on its species. Talk to the company who installed your floor and find out the level of relative humidity your wood requires.
Usually for gaps, watchful waiting is best. See what happens each season– gapping can behave differently with the change in seasons. Engineered flooring manufacturers also recommend ranges of relative humidity for types of engineered flooring; contact your installer or the manufacturer of your product to find out.
Warped wood. This is a depressing sight. And one you should not ignore. Although wood needs moisture to survive, too much moisture can warp your wood. Find the source of the moisture so the problem doesn’t spread and so it doesn’t happen again. Warped wood must be replaced; sorry, no DIY fixes here.