By Andy Meredith
For me, hardwood floors are one of the most beautiful things about old houses. No matter what kind of wood they’re made of or what kind of finish they have, they always look classic and give any home a more valuable and authentic appearance. I know they’ve gotten really good at making laminates that look and feel like hardwood, but nothing really compares, and I don’t think we’ll ever replace the look and feel of real hardwood.
While they’re really durable, hardwood floors need some maintenance and upkeep if you want to keep them looking great over the years. In the houses that Candis and I restore, we rarely get the luxury of working with well-preserved hardwood. As a result, I’ve learned a lot of tricks and techniques for bringing our floors back to life, even when they’ve been neglected for years.
Getting Rid of Minor Scratches
If you’re dealing with a floor that only has a few minor scratches, a little bit of elbow grease can go a long way. All you need to do is buff those babies out. Start with some steel wool and then progress to coarse and then fine sandpaper. When you’re done, you can coat or wax the whole floor and go over it with an electric buffer. Nobody’ll ever be able to tell that you had any scratches at all.
If you have a lot of scratches like this, you might want to rent an industrial sander to make your job easier. I know I don’t want to be on my hands and knees all day if I don’t have to, and you probably don’t, either.
Deeper Gouges in the Wood
If you have deeper gouges, I recommend trying to buff them out as well as you can, but don’t go too deep. Use some wood filler to fill in the grooves, holes, and/or gouges, and then sand it down until it’s even with the rest of the floor. You might have to stain your floor again, so make sure that you get a good match for the color you want the wood to be when you’re finished.
If you have water damage, you’re going to have to sand the floor down because the stain will have seeped under your floor’s coating. I definitely recommend a vibrating sander for this job because you aren’t going to want to sand all that coating down by hand.
Once you’ve sanded it down, you’re going to get an idea of how deep the water stain goes. Some light stains will come right off when you sand and vacuum the area. Others are going to need to more treatment.
If your stain hasn’t come out after sanding, wipe the whole area down with mineral spirits. If that doesn’t work, you’re probably going to have to restain it. If the water stain is darker than the rest of the floor, the easiest way to get the job done is to sand down and stain the whole floor a slightly darker color.
Give It a Durable Coating
When you’re done repairing your hardwood floor, you might want to consider a more durable coating that will let you use your floors without going back to maintain them every couple of months. Polyurethane is a good way to go for most hardwood floors, but do your homework and make sure that you get the right coating for your wood and that it’s the right color, too. Once you’re done, you’ll have a beautiful floor that requires less maintenance than it did before.