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How to Repair Hardwood Floors

Learn how to replace broken boards, fix loose boards and fill in gaps on hardwood flooring.
Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

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Hammer Nail into Hole of Exposed Floor

Replacing Old Tongue-and-Groove Boards

The interlocking design of tongue-and-groove boards means that it is necessary to cut through the board joints to release them from their position. A circular saw is ideal for this purpose. Take care to avoid damaging any utilities below floor level.

Use a nail cutting blade to cut through any concealed nails. Set the circular saw to the exact depth of the damaged board (Image 1).

Run the saw down the entire length of the board on each side of the damaged area where possible (Image 2).

Pry out the damaged board using a pry bar (Image 3). Rest the bar on a wood offcut to prevent the bar from damaging adjacent boards.

Remove the tongue from the new board, using a sharp chisel (Image 4). If the boards are very thick, you may need to use a saw.

Reposition the board in place (Image 5). Since blind nailing is not possible, use finish nails and fill the holes.

Cutting Across the Grain

An alternative way to cut the damaged board is to cut it across the grain, along a joist. In this way a smaller section of board can be removed. However, the adjacent boards would also have small cuts on their edges. For an exposed floor these would have to be disguised with an appropriate filler.

Replacing Chipboard Floorboards

Replacing a section of chipboard floor is similar to replacing tongue-and-groove boards. A circular saw is the best tool to use. Any superficial damage caused to other boards is not important, since the floor will be covered.

Replacing Old Square-Edged Broken Boards

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It is simpler to replace square-edged boards than tongue-and-groove boards, since they do not have interlocking edges. Take care to avoid damaging cables and pipes below floor level.

Mark a pencil line on the damaged board over the nearest joist (Image 1). If the damage is central, mark lines on joists either side of the damage.

Lever up the broken board, using a pry bar (Image 2). Rest the pry bar on a wood offcut to avoid damaging the floor.

Once the board has been raised high enough, place wood offcuts underneath to hold it in a secure position (Image 3).

Saw along the pencil lines to remove the damaged section of board (Image 4). Protect the floor with a spare piece of board.

Using the damaged section of board as a template, mark the new board and cut it to size (Image 5).

Position the new section of board in the gap, and nail it in place (Image 6).

Matching Board Dimensions

It may be difficult to buy replacement boards with matching dimensions.
If the new boards are too wide, reduce the width with a power plane.
If an exact depth match is not possible, buy boards that are slightly less deep than the desired depth. Position pieces of hardboard on the joists below to level the boards.

Securing Loose Boards

Loose or creaking boards are a common problem, particularly in older buildings, but they are straightforward to fix. Take care to avoid damaging cables and pipes below floor level.

On one side of the loose floorboard, drill a pilot hole down through the board and into the joist below (Image 1).

If the floor is exposed, hammer a nail into the hole (Image 2). If appearance is not important, use a screw, which will be more secure.

Use a nail set to drive nail heads (if using nails) just below the surface (Image 3). If required, repeat on the other edge of the board.

Filling Gaps Between Boards

Gaps between boards look unsightly and can cause drafts. This is not normally a problem with tongue-and-groove boards. For square-edged boards, large gaps should be filled.

Cut a strip of wood to fit in the gap. Apply wood glue to both sides of the strip (Image 1).

Insert the wood strip into the gap, driving it in with a hammer for a tight fit (Image 2). Allow it to sit slightly above the floor surface.

After the glue has dried, use a block plane to remove the excess wood, and to create a smooth finish flush with the floor (Image 3).

Exposed Board Solutions

If floorboards are exposed, finding a replacement board that matches the existing boards is an issue.

  • Use an original board from a less visible area of the room, such as under a sofa. You can then use a new board in the less conspicuous area.

  • If you are replacing more than one or two boards, try reclaimed or seasoned boards. Often their dimensions are more likely to work, and a certain degree of wear on replacement boards may better match the existing floor.

  • If you have no alternative but to use a replacement board made of a different type of wood, you may be able to treat the wood with wood dye or stain. There are many different types available.

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Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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