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.