How to Repair Damaged Hardwood Floor Planks without Replacing the Entire Floor

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated October 7, 2021
A house entrance with hardwood floor
Mint Images/Mint Images RF via Getty Images

Replacing a wood plank is a mid-level DIY job, but highly doable with the right tools and materials

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Your beloved hardwood floors’ aesthetic can be easily upended by a rogue board with water damage, cracks, or grooves. But try not to fret—you can replace individual wood planks on your own without having to replace the entire floor. Pulling off the project with care comes down to understanding your current hardwood flooring system, gathering the right tools, and protecting the rest of your undamaged boards. Let's jump in.

Difficulty: 3/5

Time: About one day (including glue-drying time)

Tools and Materials:

  • New wood plank(s)

  • Track, plunge, or circular saw

  • Rubber mallet

  • Crowbar

  • Chisel

  • Nail gun

  • Floor glue

  • Pencil

  • Ruler

  • Floor protection

1. Identify the Problem

The whole process begins with a diagnosis of what's going on with your floors. Without identifying the issue behind the wonky floorboard, the problem could keep coming back even after the fix.

Some common problems with hardwood flooring include bowing and buckling, scratches, fading, and warping. Cosmetic issues caused by furniture or traffic scratches are clear candidates for replacement. 

Warping and bowing, on the other hand, could be a sign of underlying issues like loose floor joists, a damaged subfloor, or even foundation issues. In these cases, it's best to contact a professional to take a look at the bigger picture.

2. Get to Know Your Floor Boards

If you're ready to take on the replacement yourself, the most important step is properly measuring and identifying your floorboards. The majority of boards, both old and new, have some sort of interlocking system—either a tongue-and-groove or a click-wood floor. Depending on its age, it may be held down using glue, fasteners, or nails.

Whenever in doubt about the exact measurements or type of flooring, we recommend calling in a pro to help with this step of the process.

Floor Board Features

To choose the right board for your floor, you'll need to know:

  • The type of wood or laminate

  • The interlocking system used in other boards

  • The color or finish of your current boards

  • The depth of the board

  • What lies beneath the board (concrete, subflooring, etc.)

3. Cover Your Space

A man measuring a wood board in house
Tom Merton/Caia Image - stock.adobe.com

Before turning on any power tools, cover the rest of your floor with a protective layer of painter's plastic or paper. Dust will be an issue when sawing into the wood, so be sure to have proper ventilation or a ventilation feature on the saw itself.

4. Prepare Your Saw and Cutting Area

A person measuring a wooden board
THINK b - stock.adobe.com

Once you have the new floorboard and know a bit more about what lies beneath your floors, you can adjust your blade accordingly. Set your blade one-eighth of an inch lower than the depth of your floorboards. You can use the new board to double-check. In the case of concrete subfloors, the circle saw’s blade setting should be slightly less than the depth of the floorboard, which prevents the blade from nicking the concrete and getting damaged. 

Break out the ruler and pencil to make two parallel lines on the long sides of your board, about 0.75 of an inch away from the edge. Mark the corners and connect with two final lines to complete the rectangle. The extra space along the edges protects against the edges of the wood breaking the surrounding boards' tongue or click connections.

Next, make a diagonal cut line from one of the bottom corners to the opposite side into a triangular shape.

5. Remove the Old Board

Begin by cutting along one of the long sides, using a track with your saw if you're concerned about moving off course. Cut the second long line before completing the shape. Finally, cut up the diagonal line within the triangle.

Tap your chisel into the central triangle line, using a rubber mallet if necessary. With a crowbar, remove the center triangle. This should make removing the other parts of the larger rectangle much easier while reducing the chances of splintering.

Finally, delicately pull out the board’s remaining edges, careful not to damage the surrounding pieces. Remove any glue, felt, or debris from underneath the board.

6. Dry-Fit the New Board

Tap the fresh board into the empty space with your rubber mallet before adding glue or nails. If it's not the right fit, now's your time to adjust the edges by sanding or reshaping.

7. Glue and Secure

Remove the board and add one line of glue along each edge and through the center in a criss-cross pattern. Place the new board into the slot and secure it lightly with the wooden mallet. If your board includes nails, add these now with a nail gun. You can cover these spots with wood putty later on to match the finish.

8. Let it Dry

Avoid walking on your new boards for at least 12 to 20 hours after gluing to ensure they do not shift. Once the glue dries and nail holes are nicely covered, your like-new flooring will be good to go. 

While the cost of tools will range based on what you already have in your toolkit, you could save between $400 and $1,400 by repairing the floor yourself. On the other hand, if you're new to using a power saw or have a historic home, call in your local floor repair team for an expert eye.

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