3 Methods for Stained Hardwood Floor Repair
In this article:
- Common Hardwood Problems
3 Methods for Stained Hardwood Floor Repair
1. Recoating - for light wear and covering scratch repair
2. Refinishing - making old floors look new
3. Replacing - installing new floors
- How Much to Recoat Hardwood Floors
- Cost to Have Wood Floors Refinished
- Scuff Prevention Tips
- DIY Flooring On A Budget
Whether you live in a modern or traditional house, in the city, suburb or country, having hardwood floors always makes your home look trendier and offers a warm, cozy feeling. It’s a reflection of your taste and style.
Natural wood floors retain the original color of the wood. Stains accentuate the wood’s grain, enhancing its unique character and beauty.
But nothing good lasts forever, even the toughest hardwood floors can be subject to gouges, scratches, and heavy wear. It can make your home look worn out.
Stained hardwood floors need proper maintenance to look beautiful. However, even with proper maintenance, accidents happen.
This article will explore the various types and severity of damage your hardwood floor can sustain. We’ll discuss repair methods, wood floor repair cost, cost to have wood floors refinished and how much to resurface hardwood floors. Depending on the type of hardwood and the extent of the damage, there are types of repairs you can make yourself. We’ll look at DIY flooring on a budget and wood floor gouge repair.
Let's begin by going over some of the most common mishaps that can damage your floor and how to repair them.
Common Hardwood Problems
The more layers of the floorboards that are damaged, the more difficult it is to repair.
If you look at a stained hardwood floor from the side, there are three layers.
- The Finish – Usually a hard, clear coating of polyurethane that protects the stain and wood below.
- The Stain – A colored pigment applied on top of the bare wood.
- The Hardwood – These are the floorboards cut from certain varieties of hardwood trees, the most common is oak. There are many species of hardwoods, including exotic hardwoods.
Damage to the hardwood floor is inevitable. It can be from humans, pets, wear and tear, temperature and humidity or the natural settling of your home.
Here are some of the typical problems with hardwood floors:
Buckling, Crowning, and Cupping
Hardwood floors usually contract or expand with the fluctuation of the surrounding temperature and humidity. If there is not enough gap to allow for expansion between the wood planks, the wood may swell and raise. The floor will look uneven and can be dangerous too.
Scratches, Dings, and Dents
Over time, your hardwood floor will have these issues. The protective finish starts to wear off. People walk on the floor wearing shoes, dropping objects, hyper pets, kids, or moving furniture without the protective pads. We’ll get into how to fix scratches in hardwood floors from a dog later in the article.
Fading Hardwood Floors
If your hardwood floor is in a room with direct sun exposure, the UV light will fade your floor making it look worn out, old, and unattractive.
Hardwood Floor Warping
This issue usually occurs in the basement where the floor is exposed to high humidity and water, causing the floors to swell and warp.
Gouge in The Floors
Accidents happen. Sometimes someone might drop or drag something heavy across the floor. How about your overly enthusiastic dogs? Those scratches are usually deeper and can go all the way into the wood.
Other Damages – Burns, Pet Accidents, and Food Spills
Fire and liquids are two enemies of hardwood floors. Burns can occur on floors near kitchen stoves, wood stoves, and fireplaces. This kind of damage can penetrate deep into the wood.
Pet accidents and food spills are a common problem. The damage is usually to the finish unless it goes unnoticed and seeps in between the seams and gets absorbed by the wood.
Now that we’ve covered the common problems let's find solutions.
3 Methods for Stained Hardwood Floor Repair
Depending on the type of damage, repairs can be quick and easy or complicated and costly. We’ll work our way from surface scratches to deep gouges.
The three methods are Recoating, Refinishing, and Replacement.
1. Recoating – For Light Wear and Covering Scratch Repair
When there is no damage to the wood, just the surface wear or one large scratch that you’ve had to fix, we recommend recoating. Recoating removes or repairs surface scratches by adding a fresh top coat of polyurethane.
You may need to take care of noticeable scratches by gently rubbing with fine steel wool over the scratch parallel to the wood grain. Ask for 0000 or 000-grade steel wool, and a package should cost around $4. Here's a link to get it from Amazon...
Then, add new polyurethane to make the repair blend in. It costs about $12 for a 32 oz. can. Make sure you know whether your floor is satin, semi-gloss or high-gloss. You’ll want to use a lamb’s wool applicator or natural bristle brush. Never use a foam brush, or you’ll have air bubbles. Expect to pay $8 for a quality brush.
Another quick repair for light scratches is to apply wax on the area and buff it smooth. If it’s a slightly deeper scratch, use the steel wool method described above before applying the wax and buffing.
While recoating is generally for light surface damage, occasionally you’ll have a deeper scratch that penetrates the wood. You don’t have to refinish the entire room for one big scratch. You just need to sand the scratch, fill the hole, stain it, and recoat it.
We really should just name this section “How to fix scratches in hardwood floors from a dog.” Many of the significant scratches in hardwood floors come from big dogs putting on the brakes or going crazy watching a squirrel from the window. Those big claws do the same damage as dragging an unprotected piece of furniture. The scratches can go deep into the wood. Here are the steps to fill any large scratch or gouge.
- Use lightweight, 160 grit sandpaper to sand along the scratch. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain, even if the scratch runs perpendicular.
- Rub the sanded area with a rag and mineral spirits to pick up the fine dust.
- Fill the scratch with a wood filler that matches the color of the floor. You can find colored wood fillers at the hardware store. Use a plastic putty knife to press the filler into the scratch gently. Follow the directions to ensure it’s dry before sealing.
- Sand the filler with 180 grit or finer sandpaper. If you don’t have a filler that matches the color of the stain or wood, you can buy stain markers that closely match the color of your floor. Merely stain the filler once it’s dry. You can also use regular colored markers in a pinch.
- Seal with the correct polyurethane.
For gouges, you’ll use the same products and techniques above except you may have to apply the filler in two or three layers to allow for proper drying.
Assuming you already have a brush and polyurethane, here are the additional DIY costs for wood floor gouge repair.
- Sandpaper -$10
- Mineral Spirits - $9
- Plastic Putty Knife - $1
- Wood Filler - $6
- Stain Marker - $6
If the damage to the floor is widespread, not just one scratch, you’ll need to refinish the floor. It’s not a job for amateurs.
However, if you are going to refinish the floor yourself, add the cost of a respirator for $40. You’ll also need to plan on renting a heavy floor sander, hand sander and buy a shop vac and various grits of sandpaper and wire sanding discs.
Before we move on, let’s take a moment to understand the difference between recoating and refinishing.
Recoating or buff and recoat is a process that gently sands and buffs the surface marks and general wear. Recoating involves utilizing a buffer and a mesh sanding screen to roughen the current surface of the floor so that a new coat of finish will adhere to it. The long-lasting polyurethane preserves and renews the finish like new. You can do it to just one board after the scratch and gouge repair.
It’s more of a facelift than major surgery because it does not affect the wood or the color. However, the floor needs to be in good shape with no bare wood or gaps. Deep scratches or gouges should be sanded and filled before recoating.
To watch a short demonstration of the process, check out this short video on buff and recoat.
Refinishing is labor and equipment intensive. You're sanding the entire floor until it is smooth and even. It creates a lot of dust as you remove old finish and some of the wood’s surface. For older floors with substantial wear or damage, it’s the best option, if there is enough wood left to sand.
Refinishing is a difficult and complicated process that should only be undertaken by a professional or very experienced DIYers. It’s very easy to ruin your floors from over sanding or applying the wrong finish.
2. Refinishing – Making Old Floors Look New
If the floor is old or has damage that caused buckling, crowning, and cupping, you’ll need to refinish the floor. It involves sanding the entire floor surface down to bare wood until the floor is even. But, it can also include plank replacement and reinforcement of the floor joists if the problem is severe. With refinishing, you need experience, time, and the right equipment to do a proper job.
If the floor is so bad, such as termites or dry rot where resurfacing is not possible, you need to replace the floor.
3. Replacing – Installing New Floors
Replacing floors is a drastic step. In most cases, it’s not something for a DIYer. You’ll need a professional unless you install an Easiklip solid hardwood floor.
Easiklip is DIY flooring on a budget. It installs without glue or nails. You can number each board as you install them. If you ever need to replace a board (assuming you purchased extra and kept them), you simply unclip the boards in order until you reach the damaged boards. Just replace them and reassemble your floor like a hardwood puzzle, good as new. For more detailed info, check out this article on how to easily repair your Easiklip hardwood floor.
Worried about paying someone else TOO MUCH MONEY to install your hardwood floor?
Do you want to know how much it REALLY costs to install hardwood? Check out this case study of a DIY hardwood installation with costs, timeline and list of materials:
If you have a traditional hardwood floor that’s permanently attached to the subfloor, be prepared for some expensive inconvenience. Unless you are in the flooring business, to replace one or two damaged boards requires experience and more tools than you probably have. Without getting involved with a lot of detail, this is what you’ll need to do.
- Remove the Damaged Boards
To do this job, you’ll need the following tools:
Make sure you mark the boards, so you don’t remove the wrong one(s). You need to know the thickness of the floorboards to set the depth of the saw. Most old floors will be ½ to 1 inch thick. Cut the boards lengthwise into strips and remove the ends with the multi-tool or chisel. Now remove the pieces and vacuum any saw dust.
- Insert the Replacement Boards
Cut the boards, so they fit snugly in length. Remove the bottom half of the groove with a table saw, chisel or plane. Be extra careful not to damage the top. Insert the tongue into the other floorboard. Use a piece of scrap lumber as a beater board to coax it in. Face nail it into position using 1 ½ in. brads.
Here's a great video that demonstrates how to repair a damaged plank in a real wood floor:
Now you can refinish the rest of the floor.
How Much to Recoat Hardwood Floors?
Wood floor repair costs vary by the type of repair, size of the floor and the geographic area in which you live. You can find some companies that can recoat a hardwood floor for as little as $1 per square foot, but plan for at least $2 per sq. ft. Because it is just the surface, the job can be finished in as little as one day. The cost to buff and recoat a room measuring 15x15 feet or 225 square feet should cost around $200 to $250.
Cost to Have Wood Floors Refinished
The cost to have a wood floor refinished depends on a lot of variables. For example, California has strict laws on VOCs, Volatile Organic Compounds, or the fumes you smell in paint and polyurethane. As a result, the cost of floor finishes in that state have doubled, dramatically increasing wood floor repair cost there.
One of the best answers to this question comes from a flooring contractor who wrote a response to this question on the real estate website, Zillow.
“In North Carolina to have your floors refinished properly which means have them sanded with 2 or 3 different grits, have the shoe mold removed and replaced, have the floors stained or sealed (for natural) and have them finished with 3 coats of polyurethane or waterborne floor finish and use low dust protocols in both cases, the price should be between $3.75-$4.00 per sq foot for oil based and between $4.00-$4.50 for waterborne. Oil-based should take four days and water-based 2-2½ days depending on square footage.
The operator and quality of the products do matter a lot! With that said you can find hacks on Craigslist to it for $2.50, but you will have wear through, color loss, may not get your three coats and or have peeling and have to re-do it anyway. The products and sandpaper alone cost almost $1.75 per square foot if you use the good stuff so how can someone do it for $2?”
The prices quoted above dated to 2014. They may be slightly higher where you live.
The Home Advisor website lists the average cost to refinish a 300-sq. ft. hardwood floor between $970 and $1,250. However, those costs can rise due to variables such as the number of coats, quality of the materials, the condition of the floor and other things.
You can do it yourself and possibly save some money. But, if you make mistakes, you may have to do it all over again.
For another view of pricing, watch this demo video. You can see how this DIYer refinished a 60-year-old floor in a 480 sq. ft. garage apartment for about $200.
The man admits he was more interested in reducing cost over quality, but you’ll see all the equipment, techniques, costs and labor involved.
If you’re set on refinishing a hardwood floor yourself, here are some excellent tips in this video by Lowes.
When the damage to the floor is too deep, such as pet urine or water damage that sat for too long, your repair can be more extensive. You’ll need to replace one board or all of them.
Scuff Prevention Tips
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is appropriate when preserving your precious hardwood floor. Here are a few maintenance and preventative tips to keep your floor looking gorgeous and new.
- Always use felt pads under all chair and furniture legs
- Use throw rugs at entrances and hallways to catch debris
- Common in most countries, remove shoes when entering the home
- Use runners or mats in high traffic areas such as hallways and kitchens
- Have pet’s nails manicured regularly
- Clean and buff floors regularly to avoid grit from ruining the finish.
DIY Flooring on A Budget
You can go through the hassle, expense, and labor of refinishing your floor yourself. If you’ve never done it before, expect it to take a few days longer than you anticipate. There is a learning curve to everything. Sanding and finishing a floor is no different. If you get dust or air bubbles in your polyurethane, plan on starting over.
You can hire a professional flooring contractor to do the job, and hope you picked a reliable one. Expect to pay about $3.75 to $4.50 per square foot. You’ll still be banned from the rooms or the house until they're done, maybe 2 to 4 days.
Or, you can install a brand new, solid hardwood floor right over the old floor for about $5.50 per sq. ft. You’ll avoid all the mess, including renting heavy floor sanders, applying smelly stains or finishes, taping and vacuuming multiple times.
Easiklip installs using ingenious aluminum clips. There are no nails, no glue, and no fuss. It’s prefinished, you don’t have to sand, stain or seal. Plus, you get 25 years warranty.
Each board is solid 3/4-inch oak, and you can choose from four colors to match any décor. You can start the job in the morning and have guests over for dinner. It’s that fast and easy to install.
Here's a quick video that shows how to easily install solid hardwood flooring by Easiklip:
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