Whether you’re rescuing well-worn hardwood floors or trying to fix an installation that went awry, repairing many issues is relatively straightforward. The specific process can vary depending on the degree and type of damage, variety of hardwood used, and your own preferences. Some common hardwood flooring issues are:
- Cupping and crowning
- Peeling and bubbles
- Removing carpet
Before You Begin Restoring Hardwood Floors
With quality hardwood flooring, problems generally stem from one of three causes:
- Improper installation
- Changes in the environment (e.g. moisture, humidity)
- Improper maintenance (e.g. cleaning spills)
Do what you can to prevent the same problem from happening again by taking time to:
- Find and eliminate the source of any moisture – which could be due to flooding or even seasonal humidity.
- Research the proper maintenance for your particular flooring and varnish
- Use a moisture meter to ensure that your floor is thoroughly dry.
If you’re repairing a large area, you’ll also want to remove any furniture from the room and be sure to seal any air vents to keep sanding dust from spreading to the rest of the house.
Cupping and Crowning
Cupping and crowning, which cause hardwood floors to have a wavy or rippled appearance, are caused by moisture in the wood. Cupping is one of the more common issues. It occurs when the top of the plank is dry but the bottom is damp; the moisture causes the base to expand and push the edges up, creating a “cupped” effect. Causes include:
- Not allowing the wood to acclimatize before installation (e.g. between the warehouse and home environments),
- Using the wrong variety of wood for the environment (e.g. seasonal humidity),
- Spills or other improper maintenance, or
- An ineffective (or absent) moisture barrier underneath the wood.
Crowning is basically a repair job gone wrong: Because the top of the plank is dry, the cupped floors are sanded down to even out the floor. If the base of the wood is still damp when the floors are sanded, however, it’s the expanded wood that will be sanded down. When the plank fully dries, the expanded edges shrink back; the sanded plank will be thinner on the edges, leaving a thicker middle (the crown). If your floors have a wavy look to them:
- Leave the floors alone for a while; give them time to dry out, and avoid heavy traffic to reduce wear on the raised wood. It’s possible that any warping may be reduced or go away once the wood is dried.
- Find and eliminate the cause of the cupping: If a source of moisture isn’t obvious, you’ll need to do some investigating.
- Once the wood is dry, assess the damage. You may need to replace just a few planks, or if the warping is extensive, you may need to refinish the entire floor.
When it comes to repairing stains, a lot of factors need to be considered:
- The finish you have on your floor (i.e. wax or a surface finish like polyurethane),
- The source of the stain,
- The amount of damage.
Minor marks can often be buffed out of wax floors, either with a cloth alone or by buffing after a light scuffing with steel wool. For other surface finishes, purchase a repair kit and cleaner specifically for urethane-finished floors; for tough stains, you may also need to use a special scrub brush that’s safe for urethane finishes. Pet stains can be a big problem, not only seeping into the wood but staining it a very dark colour. Large and older pet stains are much more difficult to cover up. However, if an accident happens:
- Clean the mess as soon as possible with a dry rag and a solution that’s equal parts water and white vinegar.
- Use hydrogen peroxide to lighten the stain. Test an area first, to check for a reaction.
- If one treatment isn’t enough to remove the stain, repeat the process with and let the hydrogen peroxide soak into the wood. Give it a few hours to react.
For surface stains, this may be enough to remove the stain or at least make it less visible. If the wood is discolored, however, you may need to refinish that section of flooring.
Peeling and Bubbles
If your hardwood floor is peeling or bubbling, the most likely cause is using two incompatible materials. For example:
- Applying a polyurethane finish to a floor that was previously finished with wax. Before refinishing a previously-waxed floor, be sure to remove any residue; wax in the wood can prevent the new finish from drying properly.
- Applying a water-based finish over an oil-based stain. Use products with the same base whenever possible. If you need to combine these two products, leave enough time (at least 72 hours, maybe longer) for the stain to thoroughly dry.
To completely fix this problem, you may need to start over.
Refinishing an Old Floor
Sometimes all a well-worn floor needs is a bit of a facelift: Remove the dull, scuffed varnish and cover it with a new finish. Remember that the process will vary depending on the type of hardwood you have and the type of finish you have on the floor. If you have a polyurethane finish:
- Carefully examine the floor: Sink protruding nails and fill any holes with putty.
- Using a floor sander (available for rent at home supply stores), sand until you are positive that any traces of the old finish have been removed.
- Vacuum carefully and make sure you remove all traces of dust from the room.
- Prime and seal the wood as needed. Optionally, you can also apply a stain.
- Apply the finish. Apply enough coats and allow adequate time for the varnish to dry.
- Polish your refinished floor with a dry mop.
People renovating older homes often discover beautiful hardwood underneath old and stained carpet. While sometimes this flooring is badly damaged, it may be possible to restore its warmth and luster. First, remove the carpet and any other layers. Then strip the flooring so you’re left with wood that’s ready to be refinished.
When To Start From Scratch
Repairing hardwood floors makes the best of an often frustrating situation. However, with some problems you may choose to start over:
- The wood is too warped to repair well,
- A large section of wood has a deep stain or discoloration,
- There are large gaps in the joints, or
- The wood used isn’t the right fit for the environment.
If you want new hardwood flooring that looks great and is easy to maintain, drop by our showroom or give us a call. We will recommend the best hardwood flooring for your needs, protected by the most durable on the market and covered by our 40-year wear-through warranty.
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