How to Fix a Wood Floor Scratch

Here's how you can replace damaged planks in a hardwood floor in less than two hours.

November 30, 2000

It's a remodeler's worst nightmare: You're just finishing the punch list on a high-end kitchen project and one of your workers slides the refrigerator back into place. There's a piece of gravel caught on the roller, and now there's an 8-inch gouge across the new hardwood floor. It's too deep to sand out and replacing the floor could cost you your margin on the job. Here's how you can replace damaged planks in a hardwood floor in less than two hours:

Step 1: Remove the damaged boards

Use a circular saw to make lengthwise and diagonal cuts in the affected boards, being careful to avoid cutting into the good floor planks. If the floor is factory finished, protect undamaged boards by placing tape on the surrounding boards as well as on the saw's base plate. Use a chisel to complete the cuts and pry out the damaged boards. Remove any exposed fasteners. Vacuum away remaining debris.

Step 2: Select and size replacement boards

Choose replacement boards of the same species and grade as the original floor. If the original floor was factory finished, be sure to use replacement boards from the same manufacturer and with the same finish. Avoid unnecessary cutting by choosing boards that approximate the length of boards being replaced. Start at the edge of the opening where the tongue is exposed. Cut the replacement boards to length by removing the tongue end of the boards. Also remove the bottom lip of the groove end and edge as necessary on the replacement boards. Be sure to cut very carefully. Pre-fit all boards. Where the groove edge lip has been removed, bevel the upper edge for "rolling" into position. (Tip: for a tighter cut line, use a knife instead of a pencil to mark the length)

Step 3: Replace the boards

Apply epoxy to secure the replacement boards and tap into place using a rubber mallet. Secure the new boards by blind nailing by hand or with a nailing machine wherever the tongue is exposed. Repeat steps two and three for each board, until you reach the last board. It may be necessary to bevel the bottom edge of the tongue end (the cut end) of a replacement board to ensure a snug fit.

Step 4: Fitting the last piece

The last replacement piece is a tight fit and will need to be "rolled" into place. It should be cut to fit as in step two. The groove edge of the replacement board will need to be slightly beveled, in order to roll into place. Test fit several times, making slight adjustments as you go to ensure a tight fit. Again, apply epoxy to the points of interface between floorboards and between the new board and the subfloor. Be sure to wipe away any excess epoxy. If the floor is factory-finished, your job is complete and the floor should look like new.

If the floor is site-finished, read on.

Step 5: Matching the finish

First it is important to use the same color finish, preferably from the same manufacturer, as the original floor.

Step 5A: Sand and fill

Use an edger sander with 80-grit paper to smooth the replaced flooring. Use a straight edge to check for uneven spots and use a scraper to flatten rough spots. Fill any gaps between boards with a high-quality wood filler that will accept stain. Feather the edges for a smooth transition from new to existing floor. When feathering into the existing floor, scrape the color away from every other grain line; follow the grain pattern of the wood with the scraper to ensure even absorption of the stain.

Step 5B: Finish sand

Once the floor is sufficiently smooth at the transition from new to existing, it's time to finish sand. Finish sanding is done by hand, using successively finer papers. Start with 80 grit, then 100 grit, 180 grit and, finally, 240 grit.

Step 5C: Clean and stain

After sanding be sure to sweep and vacuum all sander dust completely. Then, using a white, cotton cloth, rub stain into the bare wood with rubbing motion generally parallel to the grain. Feather stain application slightly to overlap with existing finished floor. Wipe away excess stain. Remove excess stain along edge of repair with mineral spirits, if necessary. Let dry overnight and apply finish coat to repaired area. Screen and re-coat entire floor for an even finish.

For a more detailed version of this how-to story, including several additional step-by-step photos, visit the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association web site at

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