If you’ve ever lived in an old house – a really old house, then you are likely familiar with the problem of termites and what they can do to wood floors. The good news is that if you have access to replacement wood (in our case, pine boards taken from the attic, which used to house a second story until an unfortunate “incident” with a tree some years ago), you can do a remarkable repair job that will look good as new in virtually no time flat.
Removing the Old Wood
The first step in our wood flooring repair project is to size up the area to be repaired and remove the damaged wood. It’s good to get a birds-eye view of the work to be done – especially if there are multiple locations to be replaced. In this way, you can best map out the best method of allocating the replacement wood efficiently.
For this we recommend a couple of handy tools. We grabbed the following tools, but you can use whatever you have on-hand:
- SMC Mastermind 3-inch corded Circular Saw
- Stiletto 11.5″ Titanium Flat Bar
- Ridgid WD7000 Smart Cart Shop Vac
- Milwaukee M18 6.5″ Cordless Circular Saw
- Bosch Multi-X 12V Oscillating Multi-tool
- Bosch CET4-20W 4-gallon Compressor
- Bosch Finish Nailer
- Belt Sander (preferably with vacuum attachment)
- Orbital Sander (preferably with vacuum attachment)
So starting with the SMC Mastermind 3-inch Circular saw, we ripped two lines down the middle of the first board. You want to rip two lines because, with tongue and groove, you want to be sure to remove the wood by pulling it horizontally away from the adjacent boards, not lifting upwards, which will damage pieces you intend to leave in place. At this stage it’s good to use a circular saw that has an outlet that will connect to a shop vac, thereby minimizing dust:
After you’ve ripped a couple of channels into the wood, you can then use a small flat bar or pry bar to remove the channel:
Once the channel is removed you can coax the remaining wood out and clean the area to be replaced:
Keep in mind that if you don’t need to remove an entire board, you can use an oscillating multi-tool to cut a perpendicular line across the wood. You’ll want to first make sure you do it over a joist, however, so that the new board has somewhere to be nailed fast:
Another note is that, should you run into difficulty removing part of a board (it can be tough), use a wedge-shaped notch cut to allow you to swing the wood back on itself safely without breaking off the tongue of the adjacent piece:
Installing the New Wood
After the difficulty of removing wood, adding in the new piece should seem like child’s play. The only thing to note here is that you want to measure and cut very carefully so as to minimize the amount of gaps between the pieces of wood. We cut the wood outside, using a cordless circular saw and then brought it in for final installation.
Installation is a simple matter if using a finish nailer to nail the wood directly to the joists (in our case there was no underlayment since this was an old house). Two pops per joist is sufficient, and you’ll want to angle the nails, especially at the ends to ensure the new wood is secure. The final steps will serve to fill in the gaps and small nail holes that will be invariably present.
Finishing the Wood
Finishing the wood involves a few steps. First, you will need to use a belt sander to get the wood flush with the adjoining pieces. Remember to use a tool that can be connected to a shop vac to again pick up the majority of dust during this step (these pictures were taken on an area where we purposefully didn’t use the shop vacuum – look at the amount of sand present in the first two workspace photos):
After you’ve got the wood flush, use an orbital sander to provide the secondary level of sanding and achieve a smooth finish that’s suitable for your clear coat finish:
The last step involves adding putty to fill in the gaps and give you a smooth, filled surface, suitable to stain or clean coat. You want to use a putty that is strong, yet allows for a natural blend with the finished wood:
When you’re done you should barely be able to notice where the wood was replaced:
The Final Word
It’s a lot of work to replace wood flooring, but the end result is always worth the work. When a floor is salvageable and only in need of spot repair, it’s a whole lot more efficient and practical to replace small areas than to re-lay an entire floor. We hope this guide was helpful, or at the very least, has inspired you to take on your own wood flooring project.