Deep arc-shaped scratches in hardwood floor.

3 Hardwood Floor Problems You Can DIY and 3 You Probably Shouldn’t

Many homeowners dream of having hardwood floors. Whether new floors were laid down some years back or original hardwood was discovered under carpeting, these floors will require maintenance or repair at some stage. Depending on their condition, you may or may not be able to tackle some of these hardwood floor problems yourself.

But which ones can you DIY and which ones should you leave to a professional? Before investing a lot of time, money, and hard labor, let’s look at some common problems and the degree of difficulty for these repairs.

Do It Yourself

1. Scratches

Light wear and tear over time is unavoidable. Though hardwood floors are durable for many years, it’s impossible to completely avoid scratching your floorboards. Typically, cosmetic repairs are easy to DIY. These can include light surface-level scratching and even deeper scratching that has gone into the wood.

Scratches are often removed by either filling them in or sanding down the scratched wood. A surface-level scratch will need minimal materials, such as a fine steel wool pad, mineral spirits to apply after standing, and touch-up markers to match the stain and finish on the flooring. If the scratch is deeper than the surface, you will also need to fill it in with wood filler before recoating. Neither process is difficult nor costly, making it a good DIY project.

2. Dents

Dents are not quite the same as scratches and involve a different process. However, if the wood dent is not too deep, you can attempt to repair this problem yourself. If no wood is missing or splintered, it may be possible to raise the wood back up with heat and moisture.

Steam will cause the wood to swell back in place. This can also be achieved by placing a damp towel over the dent, followed by a hot iron. Once the wood has swollen back into place, lightly sand and refinish. If the dent is too deep for this method to work, you can fill it in with either a lacquer inlay or an epoxy.

3. Noticeable Wear

If you have done some minor repair to your floorboards, such as removing scratches or filling in gaps and dents, you may opt to recoat your floors. This may also be necessary if the floors don’t have the luster they used to and are showing discoloration from heavy use.

Recoating a hardwood floor is a much easier process than refinishing it and doesn’t require taking the floors down to unstained wood with a high-quality sander. To recoat, you will need to wash the floors well and then sand them to remove the previous finish. Once you have removed the finish, clean them again to remove sawdust and other debris, then stain and finish. Recoating is time-consuming and does require hard work, but it can be a satisfying do-it-yourself project.

Call the Professionals

1. Squeaking

Squeaking floors typically indicate loose floorboards that are either rubbing against each other or the subfloor. In order to fix squeaking floorboards, you have to be able to access the source. Easier fixes simply require lubricant or replacing loose or missing nails.

However, this may not solve the issue. If there are gaps between the hardwood floor and subfloor, shims can be hammered in to eliminate these gaps; this requires relaying the hardwood floor.

Improperly supported floorboards can also cause squeaking. Additional bridge supports may have to be inserted to increase support. This requires access to the subfloor and exact measurements. This is probably not a project you should attempt yourself. If not done properly, the squeaks won’t be eliminated and new squeaks may be discovered later.

2. Water Damage

If your floors have had severe water damage, creating visible physical damage, floorboards may need to be replaced. If the stains are white, then most likely the damage is mild and mostly cosmetic. However, if the stains are black, then water has absorbed into the wood and this may indicate mold. Severe water damage will also cause floorboards to separate from the subfloor and stick out. This is called buckling and is one of the more severe types of damage. The boards will need to be replaced.

This type of repair requires specialized skills and equipment. If not done properly, it can lead to more damage and costlier repairs. When dealing with water damage, it’s important to properly assess how much of the floor is damaged so that all damaged boards are either repaired or replaced, as well as all mold removed. Hardwood floor problems such as water damage and buckling should be repaired by a professional trained to quickly resolve such issues.

3. Cupping and Crowning

Other visible signs of damage are cupping and crowning. Cupping is when the edges of the floorboards expand and cup upward. The edges of the floorboard become higher than the center, creating an uneven surface. This also happens due to a buildup of moisture, typically from flooring that has been installed over a wet basement or crawl space. The top of the wood and the bottom of the wood experience two different levels of humidity, causing the bottom of the wood to be wetter than the top and expand across the bottom.

It may seem that the simple solution is to sand the floors down flat. However, if you sand the floor too soon, it will lead to crowning. Crowning is the opposite of cupping, in which the center of the board is higher than the edges. Additionally, if the moisture problem isn’t resolved, then the floorboards will suffer the same repeated problem.

If you’re having issues with too much moisture and physical damage such as cupping, buckling, or crowning, it’s time to call in a professional. Wall 2 Wall specializes in hardwood floor installation, repair, and refinishing and can help fix your hardwood floor problem. Whatever the level of repair needed, our experienced crew will resolve any issues and restore your beautiful flooring, making old floors look like new again.