5 tips for repairing or restoring wood floors

July 28, 2015

Wood floors are beautiful and durable. Problems affecting the surface, such as stains, scrapes and water damage, are easy to fix if caught early. Here are five tips.

5 tips for repairing or restoring wood floors

1. How to re-coat a polyurethane finish

  • Sanding and refinishing a floor is a job for a pro. But anyone who's at all handy can bring a dull polyurethane finish back to life with a new coat of varnish. You can't put down new polyurethane if you've used wax on the floor.
  • If there's wax on your floor, remove it with commercial wax remover. You'll need to rent a buffer and a 150-grit sanding screen to roughen the old finish.
  • To make sure the new coat will stick, tape off a couple of 15 centimetre (six inch) squares in an out-of-the-way area. Sand them with 100-grit paper and wipe clean. Brush on some polyurethane; wait 24 hours. If coating hasn't developed an orange-peel texture and it doesn't flake when scratched with a coin, it's safe to re-coat the floor.
  • Sand the entire floor using the buffer. Clean up the dust thoroughly: vacuum and wipe down the floor with an alcohol-dampened rag.
  • Apply the finish using a long-handled applicator and a disposable paint tray. Plan your exit so that you can paint your way out of the room.

2. Fixing colour variation

  • If a scratch is lighter in colour than the floor, it means the scratch has penetrated the finish and stain under it and exposed raw wood. It's easy to mask such deep scratches with a furniture marker.
  • Get a marker that matches the colour of your floor, and dab it on to replace the stain. Let it dry and apply a coat of the finish used on your floor. Apply additional coats if needed to make the new finish flush with the old.

3. Touching up floor scratches

  • You can touch up a small surface scratch on a varnished floor with clear nail polish.
  • Thin the polish by about half with lacquer thinner, and brush it over the scratch with the nail polish brush. Let it dry thoroughly. Sand it gently flush with the surrounding finish using 220-grit paper backed with a block of wood.
  • Keep sanding with progressively finer grits until the sheen matches the surrounding floor.
  • Hardware stores usually stock papers no finer than 400 grit, but you can get finer grits at an auto supply store. The finer the grit you sand with, the shinier your floor will be.

4. Making patched holes blend in

  • Patch small, deep holes with wood putty using a shade darker than your floor colour.
  • The patch will never be invisible, but if it's slightly darker than the surrounding wood, it will look like a tiny knot instead of badly matched putty.

5. Replacing floor boards

  • If you have boards that are too damaged to touch up, call a good carpenter or floor installer to replace them.
  • The job typically involves cutting down the centre of the damaged board and chiselling or prying it out.
  • Usually the lower lip on the new board's grooved edge is cut off so that the board can just drop into place.
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