Replacing boards in a wood floor

Q: I’m trying to find out how to refinish a small area of a hardwood tongue and groove wood floor. I have some pictures. Can you help? I removed the really bad section and an adjoining section to see exactly how much work this is going to be. (I do a lot of handyman work, but I’m not a flooring professional).

The wood flooring is >10 years old and was glued to what looks like concrete subfloor without any nails or staples. Today I will fit together some replacement puzzle pieces (I have 20 spares pieces. I cut out some of the existing damaged boards so as to minimize having to cut shorter pieces.) and re-glue with a weight while the glue cures.

I think I can figure out how to tight fit the replacement boards by leaving the notch for the long side alone, cutting away the bottom notch on the short side and then cutting off the tongue on the long side with a bevel, and then cut the tongue off the short side with a slight bevel. For any shorter pieces, I will probably make a straight cut and see if I can find a marking pen with a matching color. I am using a flooring glue that I used previously for a piece of linoleum and a notched trowel.

But this is a lot of work to remove the old material and refit the replacement boards. I’m wondering if with some 220 grit sandpaper and some matching stain and a clear water-based poly that I might be able to avoid spending another couple hours piecing in some of replacement boards (there are three more areas with slightly damaged boards as shown in the attachments). Since the floor came from the factory pre-finished, I don’t know whether it will be feasible to refinish the damaged boards, assuming that I can find a matching stain.

Maybe you are going to tell me that I could have refinished off the bad section and would have saved myself a lot of extra work. I appreciate any thoughts that you might have. My client is OK waiting until after Christmas to finish off the three remaining damaged areas. If you can help me find a matching stain from the pictures I would gladly order the materials from you.

A: This does not look like a fun job at all. Great if one likes a challenge. I’ve found over the years it is near impossible to exactly match the colors of factory finished floors. What you have here appears to be somewhere between ‘natural’ and ‘Puritan Pine’. https://www.minwax.com/wood-products/stains/minwax-wood-finish#colors

So, the best chance for the closest match would be to replace the damaged boards with new ones from the same batch. Even then, given the number of years that have passed and the exposure of this floor to sunlight, it has probably changed to some degree from what it looked like when first installed. I can see that many of the boards, though they may not have black stains do exhibit a breaking down of the finish. The entire floor should be totally sanded and finished from scratch. It is a big job. Twice the work of a job site finished floor because those micro bevels need to be sanded away. This is a lot of grinding, grinding on an angle to flatten and remove most of the bevel. Then major sanding with the grain to remove scratches and smooth the floor. Likely six sandings with different grits of sandpaper.

I would use a mastic for the repairs such as a Bostik adhesive such as Bostik’s Best. When fitting boards I try to leave the tongue on and only remove the bottom edge of the groove side. Very tedious work.

Follow-up: Thanks for you help. I finished replacing the boards. It took a couple hours, tight fitting. And, yes, leaving the tongue is the way to go, especially since the floor was originally glued. This made carving out the material under the tongue difficult.

I needed to cut a couple and tight fit them. Then had a heavy piece of a marble shelf BBC that I used as a weight.

The new boards look good but the surrounding 18 year old finish is faded due to the sun and wear. But at least my client is happy. And she will be selling in a couple years. At least the bad spot is replaced.

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