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How to Replace Damaged Areas of Hardwood Flooring

If your hardwood floor is in generally fine shape, with only a damaged spot or two, it is easy and economical to make small repairs by replacing a strip or plank of flooring. You can also fix buckled areas of flooring and avoid having to completely refinish your floors.

Most floors use a tongue-and-groove design for connecting adjacent strips. This design makes replacing a single strip or plank challenging, but not impossible. First, look for any nails in the damaged board and drive them as far through the board as possible by using a hammer and nail set. Carpenters use nail sets to drive nails flush with trim without damaging the trim with a hammer. After you’ve cleared the nails, it’s time to remove the damaged board and install a new one. Follow these steps:

  1. Use a carpenter’s square to mark a perpendicular line across the section of the board to be removed.

    If you’re removing the entire strip, skip this step.

  2. Use a 1/2- or 3/8-inch-diameter spade bit and power drill to drill holes along the marks.

  3. Use a wood chisel to split the damaged board into two pieces.

    Doing so makes removal easier.

  4. Pry out the damaged board.

    If you take a strip out of the middle you can pry the remaining pieces away from the adjacent boards before prying them up. Remove any additional boards the same way but cut them so the end joints are staggered.

  5. Square up the drilled ends with a very sharp wood chisel, and use a nail puller to remove any exposed nails or drive them in out of the way with a nail set.

    You want the ends of the good sections smooth and square for easier installation.

  6. Cut a replacement strip to the same length as the one you removed. Cut off the bottom side of the groove on the board.

    Removing the bottom groove enables you to install a board between two others by inserting its tongue side first and then lowering its groove side into place. If you don’t remove it, you won’t be able to get the board past the tongue of the adjacent board.

  7. Test-fit the strip to make sure it fits.

    If it doesn’t, recut the board.

  8. Remove the replacement strip and apply construction adhesive to the backside of the strip. Install the strip and gently tap it into place.

    Use a scrap piece of wood to protect the strip’s surface while tapping it into place. Nail the board with 2-inch-long ring-shank flooring nails and drive the heads just below the surface with a nail set.

Matching the finish of the new strip to the existing flooring may be difficult, but give it a shot before you refinish the entire floor. Apply stain and sealer or whatever finish the strip needs to match the existing floor.

Occasionally, a hardwood board buckles. When this happens, you need to fix it fast for two reasons:

  • To avoid further damage to the floor

  • More important, to get rid of a real tripping hazard

To fix a buckled floorboard, you need to be able to access the floor from below. The way to tackle this problem is to put weight on the buckled area from above — a cement block works well. Then install a 1 1/4-inch screw in the buckled flooring from below. Allow the screw to penetrate only halfway into the flooring, or it may come up through the finished surface. Driving the screw through the subfloor and into the flooring pulls the flooring down against the subfloor and gets rid of the buckled spot.

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