Scratched hardwood floors in historical properties possess character and richness. Yet when your own hardwood floors are scratched, you might find yourself less enamored. Residential solid hardwood or engineered wood floors are often scratched in glaringly obvious ways. Prominent dog claw marks, gouges from furniture legs, and hairline scratches can stand out against otherwise flawless wood.
While deep sanding with an electric floor sander will bring down many of those scratches, sanding is messy and invasive. Also, if you have engineered wood floors, the top layer of hardwood veneer is so thin that deep sanding often is not possible. Isolating and repairing scratches in wood flooring is a simpler, lower-cost option than sanding the entire floor, plus it will help preserve the health of your hardwood floors for years to come.
- Working Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Materials Cost: $5 to $20
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
- Fine grit sandpaper
- #0000 grade super-fine steel wool
- Tack cloth
- Hardwood floor cleaner
- Multi-pack floor color marker paste
- Solvent based wood filler
- Matching wood stain
- Putty knife
There is no single way to repair all scratches in all types of hardwood flooring. Rather, you need to first assess the type of scratches you have, whether they are fine or deep, then decide on the repair method in conjunction with the floor's appearance. Repairs short of deep sanding involve a selective toolkit of methods that fade, blend, and color the scratches to reduce their contrast against the rest of the flooring. When purchasing the multi-pack of floor colorants, choose a resin-based paste specified for flooring and not the waxy markers often referred to as crayons that are more suitable for furniture. For the steel wool, avoid soap-impregnated products such as Brillo.
Assess the Flooring and Scratches
Site-finished hardwood flooring, the type that is installed unfinished and later finished in place, is easier to repair than pre-finished hardwood flooring. Site-finished wood flooring's protective coating is relatively easy to sand. Pre-finished wood flooring's multiple urethane and aluminum oxide layers form a tough skin that can defeat sanding and blending efforts. Scratches that run parallel to the wood grain can be color-blended more effectively than cross-grain scratches.
Clean the Working Area
Before beginning any scratch repair, the wood floor must be thoroughly cleaned on and around the area of the scratches. First, remove as much debris as possible with a soft-bristled broom and a dustpan. Next, use a commercial cleaning product suitable for hardwood floors. Do not use waxes or pastes since the intent is only to clean the flooring, not to seal it. Avoid cleaners that leave a shine or protective coating behind. For especially dirty hardwood flooring, choose an oxygenated floor cleaner.
Repairing Fine Scratches
Fine scratches in wood flooring are both thin and shallow. These are the types of scratches that may be caused by sliding boxes or chairs across the floor. Since they are shallow, these scratches can often be sanded by hand to minimize their depth, while supplementing with color-blending techniques.
- Choose a floor color marker that is similar to the floor color.
- If possible, test the marker for color accuracy in a non-visible area.
- On the scratched area, lightly brush the floor colorant over one area of the scratches. If this proves successful, continue to the rest of the scratches.
- For a natural alternative for lighter colored wood flooring, try rubbing a raw walnut or walnut meal into the scratches. Depending on the color of your flooring, a solution made of equal parts olive oil and vinegar can be effective, too.
- If you need to sand, begin with the fine grade steel wool. Lightly rub it over the scratches, then clean with a tack cloth.
- If the scratches are numerous and the floor coating around the scratches is still in good condition, try rubbing wood stain over the area and then quickly wipe it clean. The stain should penetrate the raw wood only.
Repairing Deep Scratches
Deep scratches in wood flooring are the type of scratches that may be caused by dog claws or by sliding heavy furniture or appliances across the floor. If the deep scratches are numerous and you have solid hardwood flooring, the best avenue is often to sand the entire flooring. For more localized scratches, the preferred technique is to fill in and color-blend the scratch.
- Begin by testing the colorants in a non-visible area to determine the closest color. If needed, floor colorants can be mixed to achieve the perfect color.
- If the crack is around 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch deep, fill in with the floor color marker resin.
- When applying the color marker, be careful to stay within the crack.
- Smooth down the wet filler.
- Let the filler dry at least two hours.
- For deeper or wider cracks, mix up the wood filler. Some wood fillers require you to add a time-sensitive hardener at the end.
- Carefully press the wood filler into the crack.
- Wipe off excess while the wood filler is still wet.
- After the wood filler has dried, sand it down by hand. Avoid sanding the flooring around the scratch repair.
- Tint the cured wood filler to match the flooring.