Wood Flooring Repair

The beauty of wood flooring is hard to beat. It can also be hard to maintain. This Fix-It Guide on wood flooring repair tells how wood flooring works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a wood flooring problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to eliminate water marks from solid wood flooring.

 Wood Flooring Repair

Wood flooring can be solid wood (left) or laminate (right), and it can range from 3/16 to 3/4 inch in height.

How Does Wood Flooring Work?

Wood flooring comes in solid and laminate versions. Most solid wood flooring is 3/8- to 3/4-inch thick, sanded and finished to stand up to abuse. The wood may be hardwood such as oak, walnut, cherry, or mahogany, or softwood such as pine or spruce. Laminate flooring material is made of layers with wood typically the main ingredient. The top layer may be either real wood or a photograph of real wood, covered by a polyurethane wear layer.

What Can Go Wrong with Wood Flooring?

The most common problem with a wood floor is damage to the finish. The damage may be water marks, burns, scratches, or gouges. If the wood floor is one of the newer prefinished varieties, check with the manufacturer before attempting to repair the finish. Repairs to all wood floors depend on the finish that protects the wood. You may have to experiment a bit to find what works. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions when using any stripping or finishing products.

Fix-It Tip

If you know the brand of the flooring finish installed in your home you’re half way to fixing any problems. For example, if you find out it’s Minwax spar urethane, you can read the side of a can to find out how to repair it. The same goes for Danish oil or any other finish. If your flooring is prefinished or a laminate, check with the manufacturer to find out what products are needed to repair the surface.

How Can I Identify a Wood Flooring Problem?

  • If there are water marks on a solid wood floor, you may be able to wax or steel wool them away (see below).
  • If there is a minor surface burn on a solid wood floor, sand it lightly and wipe it clean, then finish as desired.
  • If the burn is deeper, scrape out the burned wood with a sharp knife, and apply scratch hider, a putty stick, or stick shellac.
  • If the wear layer of a laminate floor is damaged, cover it with a polyurethane finish for protection.
  • If a piece or section of laminate flooring is severely damaged, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for removing and replacing parts of a floor.
  • If there is a shallow scratch, try scratch stick. For deeper scratches, fill with matching wood putty, putty stick, or stick shellac and let dry.

Fix-It Tip

Preventive maintenance is the best option. Keep sand off of solid and laminate flooring because foot traffic can quickly wear away the finish. It’s like putting sandpaper on the soles of your shoes.

What Do I Need for Wood Flooring Repair?

Most of the materials and tools you’ll need for fixing a wood floor are available at the local hardware store. They include these:

Wood Flooring Repair

Periodically clean wood flooring with a product made for the type of finish the flooring has: stained, oiled, or polyurethane.

  • Paste wax or solvent-based liquid floor wax
  • Soft cloth
  • Fine-grade (0000) steel wool
  • Mineral spirits
  • Putty stick
  • Shellac stick
  • Finish products

What Are the Steps to Wood Flooring Repair?

Eliminate water marks from solid wood flooring:

  1. Rub the water marks with fine-grade steel wool and a little paste wax or a solvent-base liquid floor wax.
  2. If the marks remain, wipe the wax with a soft cloth and rub again with steel wool and mineral spirits.
  3. Wipe clean.