What's The Best Way To Fix Gauges and Cracks in My Hardwood Floor?

Even the most well-kept floors can be subject to deep scratches, gouges, or cracks over time. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including pets’ claws, kids’ toys, high-heeled shoes, or moving furniture. While life’s accidents are unpredictable and mostly unavoidable, there are ways that you can help prevent this damage from occurring, and also ways to fix it.

In order to prevent serious damage to your floors, you should always practice proper floor care: performing regular cleanings, making sure there are pads under furniture legs, placing runners in high-traffic areas and mats at exterior doors, and cleaning up spills immediately. Even though these methods will not keep damage from occurring entirely, they certainly help minimize any dings and scratches in the floor and help prolong the life of your floors.

While prevention is always the best measure to avoid unsightly damage to your floors, over time, many floors will develop cracks in the wood and blemishes from wear and tear. There are many options for getting rid of the cracks and scratches. The most extreme of these options is to refinish the floor. If your engineered or solid hardwood floors have been determined to be thick enough to refinish, you can opt to sand down the wood, taking off the top layer and those deep gouges, and then applying new coats of finish to the boards. Oil-based polyurethane finish is one of the most durable finishes and will mitigate a lot of the daily wear and tear that a floor sees, especially in the high-traffic areas of the home. This is a large undertaking and should only be done if there are a number of deep scratches in the flooring.

If the scratches on your floor aren’t too deep and are just in the layer of finish and not the wood itself, you can simply screen the floors and take off the existing layer of finish, and then recoat the floors. This is a much less time-consuming way to spruce up your hardwood floors. They can also simply be colored in with a furniture pen, stain marker, or regular stain applied with a cotton swab if you simply wish for the scratch to appear less noticeable.

However, sometimes the scratches in the wood are beyond a screening or even a full refinish. Gouges in the boards that have taken out large chunks of wood will need to be filled to prevent the weakening of the board. Deep gouges can be fixed with a wood putty, which comes in a number of shades to more easily match the color of your floors. It is also more resistant to shrinkage, so it will hold better when the boards shift during the winter or summer. The putty can then be sanded down to ensure that it is flush with the board, and then coated with finish.

Cracks in the hardwood can be an easy fix, depending on the severity of the crack. This often happens with older wood floors, or in homes that are too dry, as too much moisture has been lost from the wood. If the crack is small enough, you can use a filler to seal the wood, and then stain or color it to match the shade of the floors. However, wood filler should not be used on large gaps or holes. Hardwood flooring will shrink and swell based on the weather and humidity, and eventually will break the bond of the filler.

The gaps between boards are typical for hardwood flooring due to the aforementioned shrinkage/expansion during different seasons, and do not need to be sealed with any kind of filler when the gaps widen during the cold winter months. If a cold draft is coming up through the floors, your best option is to look into the insulation in the structure of the home, as the boards will expand back into place when it warms up and fillers will compress in the gaps and damage the boards themselves. A preventative solution is to place a humidifier in rooms with hardwood flooring during the winter, and keep the humidity of your home consistent to avoid excessive shrinkage or expansion.

It should be noted that severe cracks in any plank of wood will likely warrant replacing the entire board itself; a professional will be able to not only assess the problem, but also perform the replacement to keep you from accidentally doing any further damage to the boards.


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