How to repair and replace wooden floors
If you’ve ever lived in an old house – a really old house – you know the termite problem. They can wreak havoc on old wooden floors. If you have spare wood available (in our case core pine boards from the attic), you can make these floors look like new in no time. Knowing how to repair and / or replace hardwood floors in an old house can really save you money. Learn this skill and you can add value to your home while also helping to keep it looking awesome.
Tools needed to repair wooden floors
We recommend having the following tools handy for this task. It doesn’t take much to replace wood floors, but you will end up making lots of cuts. You will also need to attach the new parts with a pneumatic or cordless nailer.
First step: remove the old wooden floor
Before we can show you how to replace your hardwood floor, you need to get rid of the problem areas. We recommend choosing a secluded area to start with. Once you get the hang of it, you can move back to the high-traffic areas towards the center of your living room.
The first step in repairing wooden floors is to dimension the area to be repaired. You want to remove as much of the damaged wood as possible. Wooden spatula doesn’t look good, so don’t try to salvage a piece that is 80% good unless you absolutely don’t have enough spare material.
We also like to take a bird’s eye view of the work to be done. This will especially help you prioritize if you have multiple locations that need to be replaced. Once you’ve figured out the best way to allocate your spare wood for repair, it’s time to start your first area.
Make the first cuts
Start with a circular saw and make two rip cuts in the center of the first board. You want to tear two lines because you want to remove the wood by pulling it horizontally away from the adjacent boards. You don’t want to lift up as that would damage the tongue of the pieces you want to leave in place. We prefer to use a circular saw that we can hook up to a workshop vacuum to minimize dust.
You can use a small 3 inch circular saw or a full size model. Just make sure it’s plugged into a vacuum or dust extractor so you don’t make a mess around the house.
Lever out the bad board
After tearing a few channels in the wood, you can use a small flat bar or crowbar to remove the channel.
Once the gutter is removed, you can peel out the remaining wood and clean the area of the wood flooring that you want to repair.
Hold sub-boards in place
Keep this in mind if you don’t need to remove an entire plank when repairing hardwood floors. You can use an oscillating multitool to cut a vertical line across the wood to create a predetermined breaking point. Make sure you make the cut exactly over the center of a floor joist. This will give you a place to nail the new board:
Making a cut across a floor joist allows you to remove a partial plank.
Removing sturdy boards
You don’t want to break off tongues from neighboring boards. If you’re having trouble removing part of a board, use your oscillating multitool to make a wedge-shaped notch cut near the end. That way, you can safely swing the wood back on itself without breaking the tongue of the adjacent piece of unrepairable wood flooring.
If you pull the board towards you, it will not pry over the beam and damage the piece next to it.
Laying new wooden floors
After the difficulty of removing wood, adding the new piece seems a breeze. You’ll want to measure and cut very carefully to minimize the number of gaps between the pieces of wood. We cut the wood on the outside with a cordless circular saw and then brought it in for final assembly. You can also use a miter saw.
Obviously, the new wood lacks the luster of the old wood. That’ll come later when you revise it.
Finish laying the wooden floor by attaching the planks directly to the joists with a finishing nailer. Our 1920s house had no underlay so we had to carefully choose our mounting points. Two butts per beam is enough and you’ll want to angle the nails. This is especially true at the ends to make sure the new wood stays secure. The final steps are to fill in the gaps and small nail holes.
Finishing the wood
There are a few steps to completing the wood. First you need to use a belt sander to get the wood flush with the adjacent parts. Make sure to use a tool that you can connect to a shop floor vacuum to pick up most of the dust during this step:
We took this photo in an area where we purposely did not use the store vacuum to show the difference.
After you’ve sanded the wood flush, use an orbital sander to provide the secondary sanding level. This will give you a smooth surface that is suitable for your clear coat finish.
The final step involves adding wooden spatula (or wooden spatula to fill in the gaps and create a smooth, filled surface that is suitable for staining or clear varnishing. You will want to use a strong wooden spatula that will allow it to blend naturally with the finished wood ) Plan to sand the wood again after applying the putty to get everything nice and smooth and to remove any extra filler from the surface.
After you’ve put the final coat of paint on, you should barely notice where you’ve repaired and replaced the wood.
The last word
Learning how to fix and replace wooden floors is a lot of work. We believe that the end result always makes up for the work. If you find that a floor can be saved and only needs to be repaired in spots, it is much more efficient and practical to replace small areas than to re-lay an entire floor. We hope this has helped you learn a little more about wood floor repair. At the very least, we hope it inspires you to tackle your own wood flooring project.