Accidentally scuffed hardwood floor while sanding the baseboards

Q: I recently redecorated a room that needed the baseboards sanded down. I put protection down for the floor, but to my horror when I lifted up the paper I had sanded some of my wood floor too.

Now I have white scuff/sand marks in my floor around the baseboards. How can I get rid of the marks so that it looks better? Anything will look better than it does at the moment.

A: I think I would try just touching these scuffed areas with polyurethane dabbed on a rag to see if it will at least put some colour back into the surface of the finish.

Sanding marks in spot patch

Q: I have waxed parquet oak floors. There are several places where the stain was lightly sanded out, and then stained to match the surrounding wood and waxed. However, the sanding marks still show.

A: It sounds like the spots were sanded across the grain. You need to sand with the grain so these sanding marks don’t show.

Black stains where some of the nails were

Q: I removed the carpet from our stairs. Some nails from the carpet strips must have been wet a time or two, because there are black stains where some of the nails were. It looks like rust to me. How can I remove these stains? Or at least lighten them? I thought that Clorox may work, but some say that this will darken the stain.

The Fe will react with the Cl and form FeCl3. CLR (The household cleaner) does not recommend any use with wood. I looked at OxiClean and there was no information there. CARBONA has a product that is targeted for rust, but it is only available over the Internet. Any suggestions? What about something as simple as vinegar or baking soda?

A: Household bleach isn’t near strong enough to remove stains in wood. Try to scrape or sand them out. The treads will have to be completely sanded and finished.

Similar Q: I am redoing my oak hardwood floors and there are black marks from staples used to staple down the carpet pad. How do I get rid of these black marks?

A: If they won’t sand out and you feel they are too much of an eye sore, you could use a fine nail set and depress them below the surface, then fill the depression with a wood filler that will be less visible.

Grooves from piano being moved

Q: We recently sold our piano. We neglected to tell the people moving it out that they should lay something down to protect our hardwood floor. We now have grooves going all the way from the living room through the dining room from the piano wheels. We are renting the property, which makes me really nervous! When I run my fingers over the grooves, it seems as though they are only in the finish of the floor rather than the wood itself. (I’m guessing that’s a good thing?) What is the best way to fix this, since they continue through several rooms? Does the whole area have to be stripped and refinished?

A: If the depressions are into the floor surface which is likely you will probably have to sand the floors. You might try wetting a towel, placing it over a spot in an inconspicuous spot and iron it dry. See if the moisture is able to get past the finish and pop the wood back up. It’s worth a try.

Indentations from a floor nailer?

Q: We had a new hardwood floor installed three weeks ago. When we got to installing the baseboards we noticed hundreds of indentations. Could they be caused from a floor nailer? We haven’t used the room so it isn’t us that did it. How could these indentations occur? We checked an open box of wood left over and there were no scratches on these. They are everywhere, some the whole length of the board.

A: Could be from a floor nailer, unless they are round dents appearing even in the center of the boards, in which case it may be high heel dents.

Filling small blemishes in wood floor

Q: Hi, I have a two part question about my hardwood floor. We recently had my 4 yr old’s birthday party and had a felt pad came off a chair leg. There are a few minor dings as well as nicks from toys and one bigger blemish. Would using wood filler be the best way to fill the smaller pea sized tor dents? There are only a handful. The larger blemish seems to be from the chair leg being dragged. It is about 3 inches long and maybe 1/8 inch or so wide and just deep enough to feel it with your finger slightly. What’s the best way to touch that up (I don’t have any replacement boards)?

The second part of my question would be, seeing as how we have a 4 yr old and can likely expect a few more nicks and gouges, would a refinish down the road fix these marks anyway? Particularly the chair drag mark? Appreciate your time.. this is a great site!

A: Small blemishes can be filled with a color match filler such as Color-Rite which comes in hundreds of colors in a tube. Your second part really captured what I was thinking as I read your email. Yes, you will no doubt get other marks along the way and yes, future sanding will eliminate them. I compare it to a new car. You never want to get that first ding and are so frustrated when it occurs. But we know it will happen sooner or later. At least with your floors, they aren’t a piece of furniture. They are meant to be walked on. Given that the marks are minor, they will become unimportant not too far in the future.

Follow-up Q: Thanks! I had one other question if you don’t mind. I have what I believe is white line syndrome. I know the likely cause as I spilled a mop bucket on a part of the floor when carrying through the room in January. We managed to dry up the spill very quickly and ran the fan for a few days over the area. The wood is finally dried out and has shrunk a bit. Can fixing this issue wait until I do a full refinish?

A: The finish is peeling or de-laminating near the board edges. I wouldn’t bother going to any effort with the dings if you also have this issue. Leave it for when you are ready to have the floors sanded.

New floor has a tiny gouge mark in nearly every plank

Q: I just had new red natural oak flooring installed, and there’s a tiny gouge mark in nearly every plank of wood. You can see these little indentations clearly in the sunlight and definitely feel them with your finger nail. The installer says that is normal and no wood is perfect. I think it is a manufacturing defect but no one will admit fault. What do I do? Here are some pictures of the gouges of my new floor. Most of them are very similar in size, as if a machine caused it, which is my guess.

A: Did he have a staple stuck in his shoe? Things can happen and I feel bad for the guy. Not sure why he didn’t notice early on there was a problem.

Aluminum oxide and ceramic coatings are very tough. They are abrasion resistant by design. So pre finished floors usually are tougher than site finished floors. For my way of thinking this can be a negative in the long run. Because the coatings are so tough it is about impossible to simply abrade the coatings at some point with a polisher and screen to apply another coat of finish. Every finish will eventually have signs of wear and need to be refreshed but with factor finished floors this usually means a complete resand, removing the micro bevels in the process. I prefer site finished floors but it is a coin toss and a matter of preference. You may be so gentle with your floors that you may never have to worry about refinishing them. If you have a large dog, that idea goes out the window.

Follow-up Q: I’m not sure what happened, I’m still thinking it was when he threw his stapler or hammer down repeatedly. I feel bad for him too, but now I have to go threw the whole disruption and moving everything again. Did I tell you it is the entire downstairs, about 1400 sq feet! I don’t have the site finished floor as an option — it’s either all new floors or refinishing the pre finished floors that are now down, that have the aluminum oxide coating on them.

Follow-up: The installer has finally admitted fault and has offered to refinish the floors or tear them all out and put new ones down. I have been reading that the finish on pre finished floors last longer than refinished, and that pre finished floors with aluminum oxidode are hard to refinish.

I am leaning towards all new floors for those reasons.

Spot sanding water marks off waxed floor

Q: Hi. I’ve attempted to spot sand some water marks off the floor. Have retreated the areas with same wax as rest of floor, but they appear darker now. Do you know what I’ve done wrong?

A: If this is stained wood or tinted wax perhaps you used too coarse of an abrasive, thereby opening the surface of the wood more than the surrounding area. I think I would have used some fine steel wool and a tiny bit of mineral spirits.

Touching up stain in dent

Q: We have dark walnut stain on oak floors, with Swedish finish. A dropped tool put a small dent (half dime sized) that broke through the finish and now the light wood shows. I can live with the dent but need to make it match the rest of the floor and touch up the finish. I’m a pretty good DIYer. Best course of action?

A: That sort of thing is annoying, isn’t it? It happens though and they are wood floors, meant to be walked on. Hard to believe this tool impact actually also removed the stain but that is what it sounds like you are saying. You could dab a touch of the stain on the spot. Additionally there are pre mixed tube fillers such as Color Rite which come in hundreds of shades. If you can find a good match then smooth some into the dent and let it set up. Re-apply if needed. Next day you may want to add a drop of the finish on top of this to harden it and help blend the shine. Hope that helps. I don’t know how Swedish finish is these days but way back it really smelled bad.

Sanding grooves visible after first coat

Q: After sanding and staining our hardwood floors we applied polyurethane, clear semi-gloss. As the first layer started to dry we noticed the floor is covered with the sanding grooves! What can we do to make them not or less noticeable?

A: I’m surprised you didn’t see these marks as soon as you started applying the stain. Short of starting the entire process over, choosing the proper grits to use along with a proper preparation procedure, your next best bet is to go with a very low shine as a finish. The higher the shine the more unforgiving it will be visually. So, I would go with satin or even a matt finish. This will help hide and deflect attention away from the sanding marks.

Repairing caster wheel dent

Q: I have a wood floor that looks like hand scratched with a gloss. We are just moving into this home. They had a pet gate at the top of the stairs with a caster wheel that put a half circular rut into the floor. What is the best way to not make it look so noticeable? Touch up marker, sand it lightly, polyurethane?

A: You mean hand scraped? It depends how deep the ‘rut’ is, but I would try all the things you mentioned. The next step would be to scrape all the finish off the affected boards and do them over. As a side note, it is my view that hand scraped floors should never be finished with polyurethane but you have to deal with what you are inheriting.

Painters scratched wood floor

Q: Yesterday painters were here (third time) to repair and paint our ceiling after an air conditioning leak. I didn’t stand over the painters and watch them, but later that day I notice some dust or paint on a chair and then I noticed deep scratches on the floor, obviously where the ladder was. It was basically directly under the ceiling area they worked on. My husband and I are sick about this, and floor is only couple years old. These were prefinished wood floors. What, if anything can be done? Should the painter be held accountable for this? Thanks for any advice you can give.

A: It depends how bad the scratches are. Perhaps you could pick up a colour match stain pen to help hide the marks. I know Min Wax makes these. I would certainly mention this to the painters.

Gouges and scratches on newly refinished floor

Q: I just had my floors (yellow pine) sanded down to bare wood and refinished with three coats of polyurethane. Within 48 hours my wife dropped a pack-n-play causing several quarter sized gouges in the poly surface, and 84 hours after finishing the floor a cable service man came in and scratched up the surface with his tools. What is the best way of repairing all these gouges and scratches?

A: This is unfortunate, but if it helps this scenario isn’t the first and won’t be the last. For gouges you can use a colour match wood filler such as Color Rite. It comes in tubes. You might be able to dab some polyurethane on the spots only with a ‘Q’ tip after the filler dries. If it shows badly you will have to resort to lightly abrading the affected boards with fine sandpaper, 120 grit or finer, clean off the dust and apply painters tape around each affected board edge and apply a thin coat of the same floor finish. Remove the tape immediately after applying the finish. Likewise for the scratched areas. The next step, more severe, would be to abrade and coat the entire floor. I would attempt the less severe methods first. Remember, thin coats are always better than thick coats.

Scratched prefinished floors, covered in surface scratches

Q: What can I do with pre-finished rosewood floors that are covered in surface scratches? The scratched prefinished floors are only 3 years old but they look horrible especially in the sunlight.

A: There are chemical preparations that help to prepare these aluminum oxide finishes for re-coating. I haven’t used them and don’t know just how effective they are. It would likely be a fairly expensive process. I think you will end up having them sanded and finished. The coatings that are used on these floors is by design abrasion resistant. This makes it very difficult to scratch or abrade the coating sufficiently to apply another coating on top.

Note from webmaster: This post’s second question has a slightly more detailed answer to the same question.

Small dog has scratched up birch floor

Q: We have prefinished hardwood, birch floor in our home (M*****). Within one week of ownership it was terribly scratched from our small dog. After 3 years now I would like to have it ripped out and tile put in (personally I don’t feel it is a very durable product). However, I was wondering about having it refinished. Will this give it a tougher and stronger finish? I like the look of the hardwood, just not how delicate it is.

A: I had a birch floor in my kitchen, with the same results. Nice looking floor, however it is softer than oak and has little grain to hide these impressions carved into the surface. It really doesn’t matter how hard the finish is which is applied. That won’t make the wood itself any harder.

Filling dents with finger nail polish?

Q: There a lot of small dents in our hardwood floor. I was told that finger nail polish would fill it in and harden. What you think about using finger nail polish for filling dents in wood?

A: Finger nail polish is lacquer based. Lacquer would eat into a polyurethane coating. Lacquer is also not a very good finish. I would definitely not try this.

Touching up light surface scratches

Q: Sorry to ask this, but I did mostly see questions about gouges as opposed to typical light surface scratches. I’m in a rental apartment with original fir flooring, dating to about 1915. The floors look to have been refinished within the last 10 years or so, so I’m guessing a typical finish was used… polyurethane. There are several places where past tenants have dragged furniture around and caused light surface scratching that appears whitish. What is a good touch-up solution for wood floor scratches?

A: Lightly sand each affected board with fine sand paper just to dull the finish down. Tape off around each board and apply a thin coat of the appropriate sheen of finish. If it is a dull finish, use satin or matte. Remove tape immediately after applying the finish.

Related Q: I just purchased a new home with gorgeous dark wood floors. But when you start to look closely there are a number of scratches in the finish and it has obviously been neglected since the house was built in 2004. Is there an easy DIY way to improve the appearance of the floor? Or about how much would it cost to have professionally done?

A: Being a new house, these are probably factory finished floors with the micro bevel on all four edges. This is not an easy or guaranteed proposition first because the bevels need to be addressed, and secondly because the aluminum oxide or ceramic coatings used are, by design, meant to be abrasion resistant. But without thorough abrasion it wouldn’t be possible to gain proper adhesion. Some companies may opt to use a chemical preparation such as using a polyurethane floor cleaner, then using, for example IFT made by Basic Coatings. I haven’t used the product but I’m sure it is fairly costly. I have attempted a buff and coat of such floors. It failed. This is why I caution people about such floors. They are very convenient when first installed and the finish is all nice an perfect. However, cost to maintain it will be much higher in the long term. I would suggest having someone attempt a buff and re-coat since it is the least invasive approach. If it doesn’t work, the floors will have to be sanded and the bevels removed. That is a huge undertaking. The amount of sanding to flatten the floor is like doing the job twice. I’ve done a few of these and it required me to sand the floor 6 times with different grades of sand paper in different directions.

Another Related Q: Nearly two years ago my husband and I had G******* engineered wood installed in our home. Our friends had the same exact (so we thought) flooring and it was beautiful. Unfortunately, soon after we noticed many scratches and each scratch showed white underneath. Many of our guests comment on how worn the floors look. I am meticulous about keeping the floor clean.

The store owner who we bought the wood from came to take a look and then had the G******* representative look at the floors. They took a sample from some left over wood. They also went to our friend’s house to take a look at their 7 year old floors and saw how beautiful they still looked (no white scratches). They also took a sample of their wood.

What they found was that their wood had different saw cuts (ours ran the width of each piece and theirs ran the length). Theirs also was coated with a polyurethane finish and ours was coated with aluminum oxide. They say ours looks worn because of our lifestyle, although I know this is not the case. We had Armstrong floors in our kitchen and entryway and they were beautiful.

Have you run into this problem before? Is this normal for a aluminum oxide finish?

A: Both are polyurethane finishes, likely water borne. Aluminum oxide is included to increase abrasion resistance. However, as you can see, even an abrasion resistant finish can scratch and when it does it appears as light coloured lines. There are a number of difficulties with pre finished floors, in my opinion. One is the bevels on the edges and ends of the boards. The other is the coating, for if aluminum oxide is abrasion resistant, which it is, it becomes a very difficult proposition to buff (or abrade/scuff) it sufficiently to gain adhesion with another coat of finish. Then comes the issue of how to deal with the bevels. Also, the bevels are there because the floor itself is not flat from one board to the next. It might look flat, but it isn’t. This creates even further issues if a buff and re-coat was attempted. Darker colours will reveal the white scratch lines more than a lighter colour.

Is there a cleaning product or technique that will remove heel marks without removing surface gloss?

Q: All my floors, some 1000 sq. ft., are painted plywood finished with three coats of polyurethane. P******* scuff remover and everything else I’ve tried that’s successful in removing scuffs also abrade the finish, leaving my floor with scores of dull patches. Is there a cleaning product or technique that will remove scuff marks on hardwood floors without removing surface gloss?

A: Any polyurethane cleaner made by floor and finish manufacturers should do the job. I have the cleaner from Poloplaz. They do indicate not to spray directly on the floor and then leave it sit because de-glossing may occur. I tested this on several stained boards and it didn’t do anything to the finish.

Gouges, scratches and indentations over 80% of our NEW floor

Q: We had a Kempas hardwood floor installed 12/07 in our new home. When the finish people were in our home afterwards it was damaged by them dragging an air compressor, dropping a nail gun, and by painters dragging their ladders across the floor. Needless to say we are very upset. The builder never covered the floor to protect it so now we have gouges, scratches and indentations over 80% of the floor. The builder is wanting to replace a few of the boards. Do you know what the policy is on replacing tongue & grove boards? Please help. We are having to go to arbitration over gouges in hardwood floor and other issues for our home.

A: I can certainly understand your anger over the damage to your floors. I can understand that mishaps do occur to the best of workers. But when you are talking about dings, dents and scratches over 80% of your floor, that is closer to neglect. I don’t like to say it, but from my observation working in the trade for over 36 years, tradesmen may be good at what they do, yet are totally blind to the work of everyone else around them. With so many marks, this floor needs to either be replaced or sanded and finished on site. The latter will be the least expensive. As a side note, the floors should have been about the last thing done in your house.