When it comes to resilient flooring, it’s hard to go wrong with hardwood. It’s durable and can withstand heavy foot traffic with ease, but also comes in an endless array of colors and styles. Despite this, hardwood flooring can be scratched and it’s not always easy to repair. In this guide, we’re going to tell you how to fix light scratches and deep gouges, while also providing tips on scratch prevention.
Supplies for repairing scratched hardwood
What you’ll need to fix a scratch in hardwood flooring depends on a number of factors including the depth of the scratch. A few things are universal, however, like the supplies you’ll need to prep the floor beforehand.
Cleaning supplies are a must, and include things like paper towels, rags, degreasers, mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol. The main thing to remember is the area that needs to be repaired must be clean before applying any techniques discussed in this guide.
Putty knives are also commonly used, although you’ll want to choose a plastic one – not metal. If the area is near any molding or trim, consider painters tape as well. Sandpaper, wood filler, stain and sealant are other items that may find their way onto your shopping list.
Repairing light scratches and scuffs on hardwood flooring
Light scratches are something almost every homeowner will have to deal with, and something you may not even notice on lightly colored floors. The wood grain itself can help to hide scratches, but if it’s shallow enough, you may be able to fix it with a simple touch-up kit.
The first type of repair kit is essentially a “wood” marker. They are designed to work on wood furniture or hardwood flooring, and come in a wide variety of colors. In most cases, a kit will come with 3-5 markers. This allows you to start with the lightest shade and work your way up to a perfect match.
The key is finding a close match to begin with and choosing a brand. There are off-brand scratch repair markers like this set, but you can also find kits from brands like Bruce or Mohawk. Alternatively, if the hardwood in your home has light scratches in several areas, a high-quality floor polish may be the best choice.
Hardwood floor products in this class have several different names, so they can be called restorers, polish or refinishers. As with wood markers, you simply need to follow the directions on the product you choose. Some refinishing products may need to be reapplied or removed eventually, however.
Dealing with deeper scratches
Pet nails and everyday use can cause light scratches which can easily be repaired using the steps we’ve outlined. Deeper, more noticeable scratches require more work; although it’s something we feel any homeowner will be able to tackle themselves.
For deeper scratches, our first recommendation is wood filler. The type you need depends on the depth of the scratch although wax markers can do wonders on some types of wood. Products like Fil-Stick are the easiest to use, but can be difficult to match with some species of hardwood or engineered flooring.
With compounds that require a bit more care, you’ll need to fill the scratch, and remove excess material with a putty knife. These wood repair kits offer the widest range of colors. They are affordable, but not as easy to apply and can take more time to dry as well. Both of these methods will work on solid hardwood floors and engineered flooring.
For hardwood flooring with a gouge or small piece missing, you can also try wood filler. There are fillers that are colored to match flooring, and ones that are stainable like this filler from Minwax. While the directions can vary, the general process remains the same when using these types of products.
Using Wood Filler
Before applying wood filler to the floor, make sure the area is clean. You may need to lightly sand the area depending on the depth of the gouge, and should clean up any dust left behind. When using mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol, make sure the area is dry before applying the filler.
- Take a small amount of the wood putty filler from the container using a plastic putty knife. Work the filler into the gouge, pressing it firmly.
- Repeat this process until the damaged area is filled. You can use the putty knife to scrape any access material from the board, but need to leave the repaired area slightly raised.
- Allow the filler to completely dry, which can take up to 6 hours depending on the depth and amount of wood putty used. When completely dry, lightly sand the area flush with a soft sanding block.
- If you plan to stain the patched area, remove any dust from the board and follow the directions on the stain. Allow it to dry before applying a protective finish to the area.
Repair or Replace?
Almost every scuff or scratch can be sanded out or filled, but sometimes you’ll encounter damage that seems like it might not be able to be repaired. In these cases, using a repair kit or replenisher is a waste of time and money.
For solid hardwood flooring that has a lot of general surface wear or is covered in light scratches, refinishing is the best alternative. It’s also something you can do yourself, if you’re comfortable using sanders and a variety of hand tools. You can read more about that process in our guide, but using a professional is often the best choice for larger rooms.
Depending on how the flooring was installed, you can also replace boards or entire sections. If it’s floating engineered flooring, the process is simple. You only have to remove the baseboard in the section where the damage is, and work your way over to the damaged board. This is one reason we always recommend keeping an extra box of material on hand when you have new flooring installed in your home.
Glued-down engineered flooring can be replaced in a similar fashion, but you may have to deal with damage to the edge of the surrounding boards. Solid hardwood flooring is usually nailed down, which makes it challenging to replace. It may not require a professional, although it largely depends on the placement and damage of the board. The video below gives you an idea of what to expect in this case.
How to keep Hardwood Floors from becoming scratched
No matter how hard homeowners try, it can be impossible to keep even the hardest of wooden flooring from becoming scratched. Over several decades, it’s bound to happen although there are several steps you can take to minimize those chances.
Our first piece of advice is to place floor mats at the entrance of your home. For maximum protection, you’ll want one outside, and one inside which can remove any hard debris from your shoes. Even a small, hard pebble can scratch hardwood flooring when it’s stuck in a shoe.
Watching the type of footwear worn inside is also important. Tennis shoes are never a concern, but high heels could be with softer hardwoods. The same goes for pets with nails. Those nails should be kept, and may need to be buffed smooth if you want to ensure they don’t leave damage behind.
Area rugs are a great way to protect any high traffic area in your home, including hallways and living rooms. Moving heavy furniture and appliances can also leave scratches behind, which is why we highly recommend using felt pads and protectors beneath them. Last but not least, set a regular cleaning routine to ensure the floors are free of any debris that may cause a scratch on hardwood flooring.
Q: Are there services that can professional repair scratched hardwood?
A: Yes and you should have no trouble finding someone in your area to take on the job. That said, badly scratched flooring may have to be completely refinished.
Q: Can you refinish all types of hardwood flooring?
A: Most all solid hardwood flooring is capable of being sanded down and refinished several times. With engineered hardwood, it depends on the thickness of the veneer on top of each board.
Q: Is scratched engineered hardwood or solid hardwood easier to replace?
A: Engineered flooring. Most of these planks are in click-lock format, which makes installation and removal simple.
Q: Is it difficult to refinish hardwood flooring?
A: That depends on your skill level and the size of the room. The amount of damage is key as well considering it takes more time to sand out deeper scratches. If your flooring is badly worn, we highly recommend calling in a professional to take a look.
Q: What is the most scratch-resistant type of hardwood flooring?
A: One with a high Janka rating on the hardness scale. Softer woods like pine are much easier to scratch in comparison to oak, hickory or exotic species.