NOFMA Tip Sheet: Repairing Factory-Finished Wood Flooring
First, a quick review. Repair means to restore to a good condition. Patch means to restore in haste in a makeshift way. Educated and responsible wood-flooring contractors repair floors with damaged or defective pieces, they don't patch them. When viewed from a standing position, a repair should not be noticeable. The replacement pieces should have natural features similar to the surrounding flooring and maintain the overall appearance of the floor.
Once the flooring is installed, the job, with the exception of the cleanup, is usually complete. But what if the movers drop the sofa and gouge the entry floor, or slide the refrigerator into place and dent and scratch the kitchen floor? What if a defective piece of flooring was missed during installation, or the customer has an objection concerning some pieces that are noticeably different from the surrounding flooring? The damaged and unacceptable flooring will likely have to be repaired with new flooring pieces. Hopefully, some leftover flooring is available, or else an extra carton is at the site. If not, "The Paper Trail" (FCI Nov/Dec 2003) will note the specifics, including product line and color, so additional product can be ordered.
A solid-wood repair should begin with acclimation of the replacement boards to the job site. Check the moisture content and width of the damaged flooring. The new wood should have a similar moisture content before it can be installed. How long will this acclimation take? Only your moisture meter can tell. You may need to deliver the flooring a week or two before the repair. If the replacements are expected to gain moisture and expand, plain-sawn boards may expand too much and require excessive edge trimming. Selecting a more vertical-grain flooring to minimize edge trimming may be the ticket, but be sure the boards selected blend with the general look of the surrounding flooring.
Since the flooring is a finished product, protection of the surrounding flooring is extremely important. A sheet or two of clean cardboard can act as a work surface and hold your tools. Remember to clean the floor of grit before starting and use clean cardboard. More often than not the home will be completed with final furnishings or be occupied, so dust containment is important; close off doorways to adjacent rooms, cover furniture, and place filters over HVAC return-air grills.
• Power tools: circular saw, miter saw, and vacuum.
• Hand tools: claw hammer, sharp 3/4-inch and 1/2-inch wood chisels, utility knife, nail puller (end nippers), nail set, tape measure, pencil, block plane, flooring nailer and fasteners, epoxy glue and applicator.
• Safety equipment: ear plugs and safety glasses.
• Additional items: release tape, drop cloths, dust containment film, and cardboard pads. Additional chisels may be needed for engineered flooring as well as a wide-blade razor scraper (wallpaper stripper), trowel, and adhesive.
The overall replacement procedure for solid wood is the same as described in the last article:
1. Carefully remove the damaged board.
2. Precisely measure and cut the replacement board.
3. Remove appropriate groove lips.
4. Plane and dry-fit.
5. Glue and tap in place.
Factory-finished material requires that more care should be taken not to damage any of the surrounding or replacement boards, and that ultimate cleanliness be maintained.
The replacement procedure for mechanically fastened (with cleats or staples) engineered flooring is the same as solid wood:
1. Set the saw to the correct depth.
2. Cut the long cuts.
3. Cut the angled cuts.
4. Chisel out the pieces.
5. Pull the fasteners.
6. Properly cut the replacement
7. Dry-fit, then apply epoxy and insert the replacement.
The wide-blade razor scraper is useful for scraping adhesive from the concrete or subflooring. A very sharp utility knife or razor holder is useful in cutting the adhesive from the tongue and groove. A wooden wedge, cut on an angle at the end to produce a point, is used to clean all the debris from below the tongue.
Once the opening is completely clean, cut the replacement piece and dry-fit. Trowel adhesive on the substrate at the proper rate, apply epoxy to the exposed tongue and in the existing groove for added insurance, and insert the replacement board. Have some extra pieces to cross-lay over the replacement boards and the existing flooring. This will keep the replacements at the same level as the existing floor. Add weight to the cross-laid boards over the repair. As the adhesive ridges relax, the replaced flooring will flatten to the level of the existing floor.
Snap-lock or click systems and floating flooring can also be repaired. Due to the proprietary nature of these floors, directions for repair should be requested from the manufacturer. Some have special tools to aid repairs.
Practice, and learning from your experiences, can make the repairs successful. Lay up a panel at the shop and practice on the different types of flooring. Don't rush the job, especially if acclimation is necessary. Again, when completed, the location of the repair should not be noticeable.