How to Patch Scratches and Small Holes in Hardwood Floors

How to Patch Scratches and Small Holes in Hardwood Floors


Every type of flooring takes a beating from shoes, kids, pets, and moving furniture. At some point, even hardwood floors show signs of wear and tear. Scratches and small holes in hardwood floors draw in the eye and might be causing you stress too. It’s spendy to bring in a professional for small repairs, though, so consider doing the work yourself to fix those scratches.

It doesn't matter whether your hardwood floor is maplewalnutmahoganybamboo, or oak. The process for patching is the same, and typically includes using a filler of some sort.


Step 1 - Investigate the Scratch

First, take a closer look and and make sure the imperfection is really a scratch. Sometimes a mark can look worse than it really is. If you can, figure out whether the scratch is just on the finish or goes into the wood itself.

Step 2 - Fix Scratches

Superficial scratches can typically be buffed out. Try some furniture cleaner or wood restore oil.

To fix deeper scratches, you'll need to fill them in following the directions for fixing holes below. The easiest first line of defense is a wax repair stick made specifically for this task. Look for a color that matches your wood. If the paste wax won’t stick to your finish, you’ll have to move on to another tactic.

When fillers are required, make sure you locate the right one for the job. Latex fillers are common, but they don't hold stains, so they're primarily for deep but very narrow holes such as small gaps or nail holes.

Epoxy filler is another option that's a little more work, as it requires mixing together two ingredients to create the compound. It's shrink and crack resistant, so it makes a good choice for filling cracks. Like latex, epoxy fillers don’t work well with stain, so make sure you choose a color that matches your flooring. For the best match, use sawdust from your flooring and mix it with glue to make your own filler.

For areas with large scratches, use a sander to bring the surface down to the existing flooring. Start with 100-grit and finish with 150-grit or 200-grit. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain and feather out the edges slightly to blend in with the surrounding floor. For safety, always wear a dust mask, gloves, and a pair of goggles when sanding.

When you're done, you'll need to refinish that section of flooring, which is perhaps the most difficult part of hardwood flooring repair. If your repair spot is large, you may want to wait until you're refinishing the entire floor to make your repairs, or call in a professional that can match both your stain color and finish style. To do it yourself, you’ll want to know whether your finish is urethane or wax so you can match it with your repair.

sanding a wood floor

Step 3 - Sand the Holes

Hardwood flooring can start wearing away as time passes, and you may start to notice small holes in the wood. Clean these indents with a folded piece of sandpaper. Fold the sandpaper so it has a pointed edge.

It’s important to smooth the edges so the repair materials stick to raw wood rather than a finish on the flooring. Use a hair dryer or burst of air from a compressor to blow dust out of the hole or task a shop vac with the job.

Step 4 - Apply Wood Putty

Choose a wood filler that matches the color of your hardwood floor. Use a putty knife to put the putty into the holes in small quantities, and press it down so it fills the holes completely. Apply a bit of extra putty over the hole so you have a small mound.

Check and read the manufacturer’s instructions to see how long you should wait for the putty to dry thoroughly. It usually takes about 24 hours. Use sandpaper to smooth the bump down until it's level with the surrounding floor.

applying wood putty to a floor

Step 5 - Stain the Floor

For those fillers that accept stain, use a sponge brush to apply it to the area where you filled the hole. Let the stain dry thoroughly for a day, then apply two coats of polyurethane gloss.

Use the sponge brush again and allow the gloss to dry overnight. Sand the area lightly after the first coat dries, creating a shine on the restored hardwood floor. Keep the spot blocked off for two days so the floor cures thoroughly before you use it again.

Step 6 - If the Damage Is Too Bad, Replace the Board

When the damage is too extensive for an easy repair, it’s better to remove and replace the damaged wood. To do this, use a hammer and chisel to create a straight line cut across the board. Using a circular or other saw, cut a few relief lines along the length of the board so you can remove the pieces of board.

Clean out the empty section and ensure your end cuts are straight so the new piece sits flush on both ends. Remove the lower edge of the groove portion on the new board so it can lower into place. Make sure you cut your new board so the tongue fits into the groove of the installed flooring. Then install your new board and finish it with stain and sealer to match your existing floor.


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