Fix-It Friday: Hardwood Floor Problems? Not So Hard!

hardwood floors
Fix-It Friday 12 Comments

If your hardwood floors are giving you a hard time, you can hardly blame them! How would you like to have people walk all over you, all the livelong day? (That is, unless you’re a perennial “people pleaser”, then you’re used to it – sorry ‘bout that.) Overtime, scuffs and scratches are inevitable, but there are ways to minimize them… like you can ask folks to take their shoes off before they walk all over you, I MEAN come in the house.

(A side note to those of us with the disease to please: Someone’s doormat, no! Someone’s sounding board, sure! Passive pushover, no! Assertive and affirmative, absolutely! Grin and bare it, no! Gin and beer it, whenever possible and for your own good time!)

The best way to maintain the appearance of your wood floors is to protect them from damage in the first place! Here are some general rules for protecting all wood floors.

Basic Wood Floor Tips and Maintenance

  • Black & Decker_2-in-1 Steam MopVacuum (sweep) and damp mop floors frequently, especially if you have pets. Debris on the floor acts as sandpaper that, when walked on, will prematurely wear away its finish. For a deep clean that kills germs too, using only water, try Black & Decker’s 2-in-1 Steam Mop.
  • Keep Fang’s claws clipped – a pet’s nails are very damaging to wood floors.
  • Clean up spills right away.
  • Use a cleaner/protector especially formulated for your floor’s finish regularly.
  • Put felt or plastic glide pads on your furniture legs to prevent scratches.
  • Do not use furniture polish on your floor – it will create an extremely slippery surface.
  • Use rugs in high-traffic areas, like in front of the sink or fridge.
  • Conceal minor scratches with a tinted wax stick or small amount of furniture scratch cover.

When Your Floor’s Got Issues

So what if your floor has an issue that is past the point of quick fixes, like our reader Grace26, who asks:

“Is there a way to ‘patch’ refinish a hardwood floor? I have a roughly 1’ x 2’ section of hardwood floor that has been badly scratched…”

The answer is YES!  But before getting started on this repair, Grace26, makes a good point, by realizing, “Even if it can’t be an exact match, which I am realistic about, I know anything will look better than it looks now.” While an exact match is tough, the object of the game, as with any aesthetic repair, is to make it look better than it does currently, so be realistic about that going into the project.

First thing you’ll need to do is determine if your floor finish needs to be resealed or if the scratch goes down to the bare wood and needs to be restained as well. A good way to determine the degree of the scratch is with a water drop test

water drop testSpill a couple drops of water on the floor. Do they bead up? If yes, your finish is fine – polishing with a product like Bona Hardwood Floor Polish will fill in fine scratches and revitalize the dull look of the wood.

If the water flattens out and makes the scratches temporarily disappear, it’s time for a resealing project. However, if after you wipe up the water, the scratches are darker than they were when dry, you’re likely scratched down to the bare wood, and re-staining then resealing will be necessary.

To find your proper stain color bring home several brands of stain color chips (cards) to find the closest match for your floor.

Reseal and Restain A Damaged Floor Section

  1. Clean the floor thoroughly with a non-residue wood cleaner like Armstrong Hardwood Floor Cleaner. In this case, don’t use products like Murphy® Oil Soap, which I love for regular cleaning.
  2. Make sure the floor is completely debris free and dry before continuing.
  3. Lightly sand the affected area being sure to feather the edges so there’s no overlap marks. If staining has occurred, try to remove the stain by more vigorous sanding in the spot, but again, feather the edges.
  4. Wipe up all dust with a tack cloth.
  5. If your scratches are down to the wood and the stain has been worn away, apply your matching stain according to manufacturers directions. Remember to always apply stain in direction of the grain. Also, remember to stir the stain before and during application so stain pigment is dispersed consistently. Allow section to dry.
  6. Apply the sealer. Some sealers are in a touch-up spray form, like DURA SEAL ™ Touch-Up Spray. Others are brushed or mopped on – follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Be sure to wipe up any excess sealer, especially where the old finish is still present. Sometimes a second coat may be necessary.

Note: If your wood floor has actual gouges in it, you should repair them before resealing or staining. Use a stainable wood filler like Timbermate Interior wood Filler, then sand smooth.

50 Shades Of Wood

Restaining a section of existing wood color is one thing, but if changing your wood floor color entirely is your goal, like reader our Nash, you’ll have a different project on your hands. Nash writes:

“What type of stain can you use on a wood floor that totally hides the wood color? As in, if I wanted to paint my floors gray (which I do), is there a stain that will make the wood completely gray? I’ve seen opaque stains, but they don’t really look opaque to me. And then, if stain wouldn’t work, what type of paint should I look for, and what steps can I
 take to make sure it will hold up over time?”

painting wood floors

Sounds to me, Nash, that even a solid body stain won’t give you the color you’re looking for. Any stain will still reveal some grain and texture of wood. If you want a truly opaque color you’ll need to use paint. For this type of project, and I hate to say this, use an oil based primer and paint – I know they’re not “green” and stink to high heaven, but damn it, they dry harder and are more durable on floors. You can always use a low VOC odorless mineral spirit for clean up like Klean-Strip® Green™ Odorless Mineral Spirits.

Before getting started with a floor painting project, test the paint and see how it reacts on your wood floor in a small inconspicuous section, say where the couch would be.

Note: A test patch will let you know if the paint is compatible with your old floor finish. If any weird bubbling occurs, you’ll have to remove the old finish before painting.

Be sure to lightly sand in between coats and be diligent about wiping up dust. Know that thin coats age far better than thick, so keep that in mind while you’re working.

Finally, allow ample drying time before putting back furniture and walking on it with heels – a week should suffice. I don’t recommend a clear top coat as floor paint is formulated to be left uncovered.

Now you know how to keep your wood floors maintained, protected, and beautiful! Best part is, when you pull out your heavy couch to retrieve the lost remote, if the couch foot puts a deep scratch in your new parquet, you won’t be floored.

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of next week’s Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.


Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.


  • gargouille

    I wonder about filling gaps between boards first…that’s a problem in a room whose floor I would love to refinish. The slats are thin and spaced too far apart. Rip up? Or is there a way to do that so that it blends and does not create an unsightly candy-cane effect? (I’ll post this question next week!)

    • Norma

      Hello Gargouille–just seeing this now…send in your question with pix!

      • gargouille

        Hi Norma,
        Thanks so much for catching this! I forgot that I asked. The answer is still pertinent, so I’ll post with pix very soon. Thanks again!

  • leahlarocco

    These tips are so very helpful! Thank so y

  • Nash

    Thanks for the tips! I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the grain of the wood, but I didn’t want any of the wood’s natural color to show through…more of a pickled gray is what I’m going for. Good to know about the oil based primer, I think you’re right on that score. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question! Keep the advice coming!

    • Norma

      You’re welcome, Nash, and keep the questions coming! Cheers!

  • Maggie

    Norma, years ago we stained the woodwork on our bedroom closet doors a dark color and polyurethaned them. Now I want to change the decor and want white woodwork. Can you give me any suggestions as to the type of primer and paint I should use?

  • Grace26

    I did the “water drop test” and I am down to the bare wood (despite pads on the furniture legs… guess I bought crappy ones). 🙁 But I will do all of the above and send you before and after pix. Thanks so much Norma!

    • Norma

      You’re welcome, Grace26!

  • ginn

    have completely sanded wood floors. there is a dark stain in one area. i am guessing from a prior rug or carpet that sat wet for a while. is there anything that will remove this dark area, or pull this out of the wood?

  • Pingback: iphone 6 bending()