Repairing Scratches in Hardwood Flooring

Repairing Scratches in Hardwood Flooring


Hardwood is some of the most sought-after flooring material for not only homes but also businesses.  It can really add a sense of elegance and sophistication to home décor, as well as creating an ambience of dignified professionalism within your office.  With proper care and maintenance, hardwood flooring may even last for decades.  In spite of the sturdiness that solid and even engineered hardwood provide, scratching is unfortunately a common occurrence and generally not 100 percent avoidable.  Moving furniture, running pets, playing children, and routine carelessness all contribute to scratches, dents, dings, and gouges on hardwood surfaces.  Yet there is no need to worry… too much.  A handful of methods have remained tried and true for buffing out these inconvenient, sometimes unsightly marks.

So you’ve dragged your suitcase heading out the door, repositioned a table, or bumped into your media cabinet accidentally.  If you have a hardwood floor, any of these accidental or occasional mishaps have the potential to scratch the floor surface.  Before you start freaking out or taking any unnecessary measures, it is important to always examine the scratch first.  Depending on how deep it is—or if it is even a scratch at all—it will require different methods and levels of care.

For common, shallow surface scratches, an easy step-by-step process is generally the most accepted way to remove them.  With a fine steel wool cloth, gently rub over the surface of the scratch.  This should always be done in the direction of the wood grain, or you will have even more scratches to repair.  If the scratch is deeper, lightweight sandpaper may be used, again taking care to not go against the wood grain.  Once either the light sanding or steel wool rubbing is done, it is advisable to apply mineral spirits to the affected area.  This will make the following steps easier, since the mineral spirits will catch any dust left over from sanding as well as pick up any dirt that was on the hardwood before the scratch. 

Premixed wood filler is by far the best way to remove scratches (or fill them if it is deep enough).  Some forums and web sites swear by other materials such as wood putty, crayons, and even Sharpie permanent markers.  However, these should always be avoided as they will more often than not discolor the hardwood surface, making the scratched area even more noticeable.  Also, make sure to apply the wood filler with a plastic putty knife to avoid the creation of more scratches on the hardwood.  Use the lightweight sandpaper to then buff the wood filler to the same level as the hardwood surface.  Finally, refinish the board with whatever coating that matches the rest of your hardwood floor.  If your floor has a polyurethane finish, never—and we can’t stress this enough—use wax finish to seal the scratched or damaged area; if you want to refinish the floor in the future, the polyurethane coat will not stick to the wax, creating a blotchy, uneven surface on your hardwood that will be more noticeable than any scratches in the first place.

For deeper cuts and gouges, shellac sticks that you can buy at your local hardware store are always going to be your first line of defense.  Make sure the shellac matches the color of your hardwood as closely as possible.  Simply apply with a burn-in knife that contains an electric heating element.  Once the shellac cools into the gouge, sand it down with very fine sandpaper until it is even with the rest of the hardwood floor.

Despite our warnings previously against home remedies for scratch repair, using walnuts deserves an honorable mention, albeit with reservations.  Lightly applying a raw walnut along the scratch can be a quick fix in case of suddenly-arriving company, but should not be used for deep scratches that go below the wood finish or areas with heavy scratching.  This method is more commonly applied to wood furniture and not wood floors; even though this works in some cases, it is best to follow the accepted sanding or steel wool cloth methods.  If you choose to go this route—or any other alternative method, for that matter—it is always a good idea to try it on a sample piece rather than your actual floor.  While these traditional methods may take longer, they will ensure that your hardwood floor looks as if nothing has damaged it.

For more information on how to rid your beautiful hardwood floor of unsightly scratches, don’t hesitate to call us at (866) 705-1340.

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