6 Common Problems With Hardwood Flooring

Meg Scanlon
Written by Meg Scanlon
Updated November 29, 2021
A woman at home sitting in her chair
Westend61 via Getty Images

Hardwood can last a long time, but that doesn’t mean it’s indestructible

Wood flooring is a beautiful addition to any home, and it’s functional, too. Hardwood can make cleaning up spills and scrubbing off dirt easy, so it’s a great option for families with kids and pets.

But that doesn’t mean hardwood is totally indestructible. In fact, there are some problems with hardwood floors that can pop up from time to time. But with the right know-how, you can know just what to do.

1. Scratches and Dents

Scratched on a hardwood floor
Flavio Coelho / Moment via Getty Images

One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to prevent scratches and dents is by placing furniture pads under all of your furnishings, including chair legs. Pads also come in handy when rearranging furniture, as some pieces can glide instead of being lifted. Adhesive felt pads come in a variety of sizes to match leg size. Another great option is plastic carpeted bottom caster cups for couches and beds. There are also no-slip varieties if that suits your needs better. 

Removing shoes and leaving them at the door can also prevent scratches and dents, as well as those pesky black scuff marks.

2. Scuff Marks

Speaking of scuff marks, removing shoes when you first enter your home can prevent them. But if you should find some, there are some painless solutions to removing them. 

One is using a rubber eraser, either one found on a pencil top or a school eraser. Rub the eraser vigorously over the scuff mark until it disappears. Another solution is rubbing a tennis ball over the marks. One handy trick if you don’t want to scrub on your hands and knees is to cut an x shaped opening in the top of the tennis ball and then adhering it to the top of a broomstick or mop.   

Other homemade cleaning solutions include using a soft wet sponge and water to remove the scuffs. Avoid the more abrasive side of the sponge since this may be too abrasive for the wood flooring. When done, dry thoroughly with a paper towel.

3. Fading

Fading hardwood floor
Lucamato / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Like many home furnishings, hardwood floors can also fade over time from UV light exposure. The simplest way to prevent this is to have curtains, drapes, and blinds drawn, especially during the midday sun. Placing plants and flowers in front of windows can also help offset some of the sunlight from shining directly onto the floors.

4. Pet Stains

Sure, hardwood is easier to clean than carpet if your pet has an accident, but pet stains can still be problematic. The moisture created by pet stains can cause warping, especially if it’s not cleaned up immediately.

To clean pet urine from hardwood floors, blot it up as soon as possible. Absorbing the moisture ASAP is important not just for preventing warping, but to remove odor, too. Plus, urine contains ammonia, which can cause dark stains on the wood.

You can use a store-bought hardwood cleaner or make a homemade odor-absorbing cleaning solution. Here are two you can DIY:

  • White vinegar and grapefruit oil: White vinegar is a multipurpose home cleaner and odor remover, and grapefruit oil adds a fresh citrus scent. Mix one cup of white vinegar and a few drops of grapefruit oil to a bucket full of warm water and clean away the pet stains.

  • DIY cleaning paste: Mix baking soda and vinegar together until it forms a thick paste. Apply the paste directly to the affected area and allow it to dry out. Once dried you can wipe it away and the stain should be lifted. Use a wet paper towel to wipe after so no residual ingredients remain and then pat dry with a paper towel.

5. Crowning

Crowning is when flooring turns down at the edges and raises in an arc in the center. When you see crowning in your floors, it means that there is more moisture on the surface of the floor than there is on the bottom in the subfloor. This can occur because there is humidity and moisture in the air, or water has come into contact with the floor directly. 

To prevent crowning, don’t mop your hardwood floors, as this provides too much moisture for your floor to handle. You’ll also want to avoid walking across the floor with wet and muddy shoes. If the floor does get wet, wipe it up immediately with a paper towel.

You’ll also need to keep an eye on your home’s humidity and temperature. If some water damage does occur, a dehumidifier can be used to pull the excess moisture out from the air and wood.

6. Cupping

Cupping, while similar to crowning, occurs when the border of the wooden plank gets raised. It has an opposite look to crowning, appearing to concave. Cupping is caused by water or water vapor that is below the flooring planks. More water below the floor causes the bottom to sink inward and curl. Typically, cupping is a warning sign of a bigger water problem. 

In order to fix this problem, you need to determine the source of the water. Common causes are humidity and moisture from areas of the home that are not sufficiently insulated, such as crawlspaces, garages, or basements. It could also be due to a leaky pipe. You may need to have experts find the source if you cannot determine it on your own, as this is a serious and urgent issue.   

If the damage is too substantial and cleaning alone is not doing the trick, your wood flooring may need to be replaced by you or by a local hardwood professional. Installing a new hardwood floor costs between $2,500 and $6,800 on average.