If you have a hardwood floor, fixing scratches and repairing dings is part of life. Foot traffic, pets, furniture moving around and even accidents can scratch or ding your wood floors.
The question is, when do you try to fix your floor yourself and when do you need to hire a professional?
Please see the table below for a summary and the explanations further down if required:
Med/Heavy - Screen & Recoat
Heavy - Refinish
Med/Heavy - Warranty Claim
Heavy - Replace Boards
You can check out good quality touch up pens here.
Here are three simple steps to help you decide which course of action to take:
Step 1 – What Type Of Wood Do You Have?
How you repair the scratch is going to depend on what sort of wood you have. Is it solid or engineered? If you are unsure, please see here for a detailed explanation.
Most solid wood floors have a polyurethane finish (either oil or water based) and most prefinished engineered have an aluminum oxide finish or something similar.
Step 2 – What’s The Damage?
Okay now you know what type of wood you have, the next thing to work out is; if the scratch is in the finish or the wood itself?
Here’s how to tell:
Stand at an angle to the scratch a few feet away so the light hits it and you can see the damage. Now keeping your eyes on the spot, move towards it until you’re standing directly above it.
If you no longer see it or it becomes not as obvious, then the scratch is in the finish; not the actual wood. If however, you see it clear as day, like in this picture then you have damage to the wood itself.
Now assess the area – are you looking to just touch up a few minor spots or do you have extensive damage all over?
Step 3 – Action!
Ok please read very carefully here as this can be the difference between quickly fixing scratches in your hardwood floor and incurring a much bigger expense to do so.
Solid Wood Floors
- If you have minor surface scratches in the finish, then this is extremely common for any solid floor that’s not brand new. They are barely noticeable and not worth the hassle of fixing them since minor abrasions will simply reappear with time. Unless you want to be reapplying polyurethane each time the finish is imperfect, then don’t become OCD about it and leave them alone!
- If you have moderate to heavy damage in the finish where it just looks old and dull and you want to bring it to life again, then you do what’s known as a screen and recoat. You don’t need to resand and refinish your entire floor! Screen and recoats basically involve taking off the existing coats of polyurethane and applying fresh coats. This will rejuvenate your floors and make them look brand new again without the expense of resanding or even completely redoing your wood floors. Be sure to screen and recoat the entire area affected as well as connecting areas otherwise, there will be a difference in the finish. Contact a professional; don’t attempt this yourself if you don’t have the proper tools and/or experience. Here’s a recent one we did:
- If you have minor-medium scratches in the wood itself in few/moderate areas, you can easily repair these yourself using furniture repair kit wood markers aka touch-up pens. Just be sure to get the right ones like these and not some imitation ones otherwise; it’ll look like you tried coloring in your floor and you missed! 🙂
- If you have moderate to heavy damage in the actual wood where it has deep scratches in large areas (very rare) then this is only one of two times you ever need to resand and refinish your entire floor. The only other time you would need to is if you wish to change the color. Be sure to refinish the entire area so you get a consistent, even look in both color and finish. There are just too many variables affecting the finish like time, wear, application consistency, etc. so do it right and refinish everything if you’re picky about this. If any of the boards are damaged beyond repair, they will need to be replaced via lace-in. Contact a professional; don’t attempt this yourself if you don’t have the proper tools and/or experience.
Engineered Wood Floors
- If you have minor surface scratches in the finish, then this is part of the wear and tear on a hardwood floor and I wouldn’t stress over it. Most of the time, these minor abrasions can’t even be seen unless you get on all fours with your cheek to the floor. Just leave them alone.
- If you have moderate to heavy damage in the finish where it just looks old and dull and you feel it’s wearing through, this should be covered in the product manufacturer’s warranty. Most offer lifetime warranties on their finish so get with your retailer and file a claim (they’ll do it on your behalf). Just be sure the finish really is worn through and it just doesn’t need a good clean 🙂
- If you have minor-medium scratches in the actual wood itself in few/moderate areas, you can easily repair these yourself using furniture repair kit wood markers aka touch-up pens. Just be sure to get the right ones like these and not some imitation ones otherwise; it’ll look like you tried coloring in your floor and you missed! 🙂
- If you have moderate to heavy damage in the actual wood where it has deep scratches in or across boards, then hopefully you have extra material left over from the same batch where individual boards can be replaced. This is one advantage of engineered hardwood floors; you can remove and install individual boards/areas like a puzzle if required with minimal mess and time. Contact a professional; don’t attempt this yourself if you don’t have the proper tools and/or experience.
Protecting Your Floor
Once your floor is repaired, it’s just good commonsense to use sliders and/or high quality furniture pads like these to protect your floors from future damage. Area rugs, keeping your dog’s nails trimmed and taking your shoes off inside all help to protect and prolong the life of your hardwood floor.
Remember to know your limitations! If you can comfortably touch up a few minor scratches on your own then no problem but attempting to resand or refinish your floor without the adequate knowledge, tools and experience will be a very expensive mistake.
I hope this overview helped – please reach out should you have any other questions.
Best of luck on your project!