I’ve written about how to replace damaged individual floor boards previously in Invisible Repairs For Hardwood Floors, but sometimes you just need a quick wood floor repair for little problem spots.
This type of repair doesn’t require any carpentry skills and takes only about 10 minutes to fill in soft spots or missing chunks of wood. You don’t have to remove whole boards and make a big mess either.
With the tutorial in this post, you can repair small areas of damage with just a chisel and some wood filler. So, when you have a small section of wood flooring that is damaged, but not badly enough to justify the work of replacing the whole board, that is the perfect wood floor repair for you.
Step #1 Dig Out the Damage
Using a chisel or awl, dig out the soft or damaged wood until you get to sound, strong wood. It doesn’t have to be a clean squared off patch. In fact, it works best if the area is a more random shape. So, let the wood guide you as to how much or little needs to be removed.
Step #2 Tape Around the Patch
We’ll be filing the hole with epoxy, so you’ll want to have the area taped off right to the edge to make sure the area around your patch isn’t affected. Blue painter’s tape works best. Don’t use anything stronger because you may pull off the surrounding finish on the floors.
Step #3 Fill with Epoxy
For most of these repairs, I use Abatron WoodEpox, but KwikWood is another good option for the smaller areas. If you aren’t familiar with how to mix up and apply WoodEpox, check out Wood Repair with Abatron Epoxy for the specific instructions. You can also use other wood fillers if you prefer, but I have found these two to be the most effective.
You want to really press the epoxy or filler down into the patch to fill all the voids. Also, make sure to overfill the patch just a bit so that you can sand it smooth and even with the surrounding area once cured.
One you have the patch filled the way you want, pull off the tape to reveal nice clean edges.
Step #4 Sand & Stain
Once the epoxy is cured and has hardened, remove the tape and sand the patch smooth and level with the remaining floor boards. Do your best to not sand the finish on the floor boards, but only the epoxy. If you sand the finish off the surrounding boards, it will be difficult to blend everything in and will make more work for you later.
Clean up any dust and wipe the area down with some mineral spirits. Now, mix up some wood stain that is closest to the color of your existing floor and wipe it onto the patch. Wipe off any excess and let it dry for a few minutes.
Step #5 Draw the Grain
Sometimes, depending on the grain of the wood, the patch can still stand out visually and may bug some people. For the pickiest among us, I have a solution to help make things really disappear and blend in. It’s not necessary, but it does put the finishing touches on the patch nicely.
Using a sharpie or artist’s brush with paint, do your best to draw the grain lines of the wood back into place. You can make this as complex or simple as you want. Try to follow the pattern of the existing wood (like you see being done in the picture.)
I usually do this before staining as well to help everything blend together a little better.
Step #6 Coat with Finish
Once everything is dry, brush on a good thick coat of polyurethane onto the patch to seal and protect it. Only apply to the patch and not the surrounding boards. Make sure you match the existing sheen of your floors, whether that is satin, semi-gloss or high gloss.
Let the finish dry overnight before it receives and foot traffic, and you’re ready to go!
When to Use This Patch
This type of wood floor repair works best when you have just a small area that needs to be repaired and it doesn’t makes sense to replace whole boards. You save more of the historic fabric of the building and only repair the damaged spots.
It doesn’t look perfect, but it is a whole lot better than a gouged or missing chunk of flooring and a lot less invasive than board replacement. This is also a good stop gap repair to take care of problem spots until a more comprehensive restoration of the floors fits the schedule and budget.
Good luck and have fun with it!
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
12 thoughts on “Quick & Easy Wood Floor Repair”
I have 110 year old pine floors that need some minor repairs and renewal of the finish, but I have no idea what was used to finish them originally. I’m pretty sure it’s not polyurethane because it doesn’t have that thick plastic coating look, but that’s about all I’ve got. Any advice on how to figure out what finish I have?
Thank you for your question. Please check out Scott’s article here for tips to determine your wood floor finish.
We hope this is helpful.
-The Craftsman Blog Team
Hello Scott, I really enjoy the blog! Do you have a guide for what criteria to use to determine if a floor can be saved? I have 1900 built home in michigan, am seeing as I remove layers of carpet (yuk), wood flooring tongue and groove, pretty big gaps (up to 1/4inch) and probably no subfloor underneath, and some painted areas. My concern that also keeps me up at night also include sanding that paint which might be lead based, as well as the overa ll cost as this is my first rehab and it’s not in an area that is going to give a crazy great return on investment. There is also tongue and groove on some walls in an unfinished attic type (but large!) room. Maybe I get use them for repairs? I hope you have an article or book to get me started
Hi Scott, I had greenheart floor boards installed in my new home just under 3 years. Great finish, I now have 2 problems. 1. The filler the company used is cracking up and coming out in long lengths. This is creating gaps between the strips of wood. 2. In some areas where the wood is joined the pins / clips are protruding which are very sharp. Please advise the best methods of repairing without spending a lot of money. Thanks Linda
Hi Scott! I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to repair the poly finish on some old floor boards. As I was stripping paint off of old woodwork (which was still en situ), some of the stripper worked its was beneath the masking tape and plastic that I had down as a drop cloth. When I took them up, the poly came off too. The damaged poly spots are blobby in shape and butt up next to the woodwork. Should I attempt to sand the poly just around the damaged area and then surgically reapply it or will this end up creating more of a mess in the long run?
Hi Scott I have a couple of silky oak planks that I want to use on a kitchen bench top they have a couple of knots and holes in them what type of filler would you recommend so the knots are still visible . I also want to polish my Cyprus pine flooring it has shrunk to about 2mm gap between each board . What type of glue would you recommend to mix with the sawdust
Hi Scott, thanks for all the tips! I am working on my 90 yo porch. Some of the tongue and groove boards have pulled away from eachother in weird ways but I think it’s been that way a LONG time. I’m just now realizing it, I think, because a pair job we did about 6 years ago is starting to crack along those seams and large chunks of ancient putty and caulking are trying to rise up (hot summer, old tree down and providing no shade for the first time ever). Would this be an appropriate repair here? I’ve sort of already begun (!) and it seems like it would work better than caulking or any other remedy I can think of. Thoughts??
We have oak floors with cherry plugs-yuck! Can we ever stain this floor to match up?
Scott – does the Abatron accept the stain well? I got a recommendation from a furniture repair person who recommended Sculpwood. I bought some and then talked with the manufacturer and it turns out it doesn’t take stain. Argh. Could I dig out the ugly generic plugs in my floor and put in Abatron?
As for doing the grain lines – try using a #0, #00/(2/0), #000/(3/0) artist paint brush. These are really tiny brushes which allow you to draw fine grain lines. Takes a little longer, but well worth it. Thanks
Haldis, the Abatron does accept stain well (though it’s not a perfect match) and you can also use some of their dry pigments when mixing the epoxy to get as close as possible. Good tip on the artists brushes!
This is quite brilliant, thank you!
We have some gouges out of our woodwork, thanks to my cats, and I’ve wondered for years how best to repair them. I think this would work for those areas, too.
It would work great for those as well Susie.