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How to fix floors

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Key Points:

  1. WikiHow is a pretty good source for small DIY project. Those small fixes are not complex and can be reliably used whenever there are issues.

  2. WikiHow has many similar articles about fixing floors, but we have picked the best article available for your convenience.

Many people use wood floors at home. It's common to have some issues with the floors. Most of the issues are easy to deal with and can be fixed by DIY.

Here we quote the best way to fix floors provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Fix a Squeaky Floor, How to Fix Scratches on Hardwood Floors. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Part 1: How to Fix a Squeaky Floor

Squeaky floors are more than irritating–a serious squeak can even devalue your home, if and when you decide to sell it. Fortunately, it's an easy fix that'll only take a few minutes and the right tools to repair. Squeaky floors are caused by either the floorboards or the subfloor sheets rubbing against one another. The intermittent friction causes vibrations and noise. By learning to identify the offending boards and secure them, you can end the noise.

Method 1: Repairing from Below

1. Identify the source of the squeak. The best way to identify squeaks is to stand in your basement, looking up at the subfloor while someone else walks around looking for the squeak. Listen and watch for the squeaky area, so you can identify the problem area and the best way of remedying it.

  • Most squeaks are the result of the plywood subfloor rubbing against the floor joists. The subfloor, the structural support below the top floor that you walk on, will sometimes shrink over time as the wood dries out, changing the shape slightly and resulting in high-pitched, irritating squeaks.

  • It’s also common on hardwood floors that the top floor itself will squeak. To address squeaks in the top floorboards, skip to the next method. All squeaky boards under tile, linoleum, and other flooring surfaces will need to be fixed from under, either in the crawl space or the basement.

2. Weight the squeak from above. It’s good to weight down the floor from above to compress the boards and make your repair more effective. Using some furniture, barbell weights, bags of salt, heavy books, or other hefty objects would be perfectly fine. In a pinch, you could also have a helper stand on the spot to keep it compressed for you to work.

3. Attach a brace between the joist and the subfloor. If the floor seems to be squeaking because the subfloor and the joists are loose, the best way to remedy the issue is to install a brace to secure things and eliminate the irritating sound. The Squeak-Ender is a brand of joist-support available at most home repair stores for a couple of bucks, a metal brace that connects between the joist and the squeaky subfloor.

  • To install one of these joist-subfloor braces, screw the mounting plate to the underside of the subfloor, directly under the squeaking spot. Use the provided screws, or use wood screws small enough to fit in the bracket holes.

  • Hook the bracket onto the rod provided and attach it to the joist, tightening the mechanism with a wrench until the subfloor is pulled down flush.

4. Install wood shims in between the subfloor and the joist. Shims are small, thin pieces of wood used for filling gaps, squaring up carpentry projects and keeping things from swelling and squeaking. For squeaks that are the result of small gaps that might be more easily and cheaply fixed than by installing a brace, use wooden shims to fill the space of the gap.

  • If you've found the source of the squeak, but don't see the considerable play between the subfloor boards and the joists, buy a package of small shims and insert them into the gaps that create the sound. Coat shims in carpentry glue, then slide them directly into the gap.

  • Be careful to avoid forcing shims into small spaces and forcing the board back up, making the squeak worse, or translating the squeak to another area. It’s important to always weight the floor from above if you try to do this.

5. Screw the subfloor into the floor. In a pinch, you can also use wood screws to tighten things up yourself. It's a more primitive way of solving the issue, but it can work in a pinch to connect the floor and the subfloor more securely with wood screws. Drill a pilot hole with your power drill roughly the length of the screw that you've selected (any carpentry screw will do) to make sure you don't go too far and come up the other side.

  • It's hard to know how thick the individual layers of the floor are, but you want to be very careful not to drill too far and have a sharp edge sticking out the side of the floor you walk on. To make sure you don't do this, drill a pilot hole the length of the screws you've purchased and make sure you're safe. Then install the screws normally.

Method 2: Repairing from Above

1. Remove the carpet over the squeaky area, if necessary. If you've got a hardwood floor, you can obviously skip this step and go straight to finding the joists. If you've got a squeaky and carpeted floor, however, you've got to make the decision to either cut a small strip of it up to install under or use screws that can be used through carpeting.

  • Some kits (Squeak-No-More) are available to use over and through carpeting, without having to remove it and risk damage. The process will be essentially the same, whether you pull up the carpet or not.

  • If you must remove carpeting, pull it up near the squeak and keep it as clean and secure as possible so you can reattach it later with carpet adhesive. If you can pull up a particular segment of carpet along a seam, keeping it secure, that would be the best way of pulling it up, rather than just cutting a segment out from the middle. There's no easy way to cover up your work, and it might always show, unless you work along a natural seam.

2. Locate the joist nearest the squeak. Walk in the squeaky area until you can find your squeaky spot for certain. Then, try to find the closest joist to the squeak using a stud-finder.

  • If you don't have a stud finder, you can use a hammer or another heavy object to tap on the floor and listen. The joists will sound flatter and thinner when you tap on it, while the other side will sound deeper.

  • To be extra-sure, you can drill a pilot hole using a depth-control bit in your variable speed drill to make sure that you're hitting the joist before you use a screw and come up short.

3. Fix the loose board to the joist. Drill through the squeaky boards, the subfloor, and attach both to the joist to securely fix the squeaky board. To do this, you'll need heavy-duty wood screws of the appropriate length. You can get some sense of that length when you drill your pilot hole.

  • Some kits will come with break-away screws that you can use to make the repair almost undetectable, especially through carpet. This is a very effective way of securing your boards cleanly and efficiently.

4. Fill the hole with wood putty. If you're working on a hardwood floor, it's important to keep the spot looking as clean and smooth as possible. Wood putty, also known as plastic wood in some places, is a type of putty made of sawdust and some type of binder, and is very effective at filling the holes left around the nails. It's available at most home repair stores for a few dollars. Apply a small amount and sand the area smooth.

5. Sand the spot. In some cases, it might be a good idea to smooth back over the top of the screw that you installed to smooth things out. If your floor is carefully stained, this would be a bad idea, but you might need to smooth out the wood shards from the screwing job or smooth out the rough edges of the wood putty you installed. Use extremely fine grain sandpaper, and don't overdo it.

Part 2: How to Fix Scratches on Hardwood Floors

If you have hardwood floors, accumulating scratches is inevitable, even if you’re careful. The majority of scratches are caused by moving furniture, pets, and tracking in small rocks from outside. Restoring the hardwood floor can be relatively easy, depending on the severity of the scratch. With a few simple steps, you can repair and conceal nicks and scratches in your hardwood, to get the longest life out of your flooring.

Method 1: Concealing Shallow Scratches With a Wood Staining Marker

1. Wipe the scratched area. Use a soft rag dampened with water to gently clean the surface of the hardwood floor from any excess dirt and debris. Make sure there is no dirt or debris in the scratch as well.

2. Do a spot test. Before applying the wood stain to the scratch, test the marker on an inconspicuous area of the wood to see how well it matches. If it is a good match, then you can use it on your scratch. Stain markers come in many colors, and can be found in home department stores, hardware stores, and paint stores.

3. Apply the marker to the stain. If you are confident that the marker is a good match, then run the tip of the marker over the scratch a few times to stain it. Don’t worry if the stained area looks a little light. You can go over the area again after your rub off the excess.

4. Rub the stain into the scratch. Lightly press a clean rag soaked in a bit of mineral spirits onto the wood, focusing on the scratched area. Rub the area where you applied the stain to remove any residual, following the grain of the wood.

  • This application method works best (rather than directly drawing the stain marker over the scratch), because it allows for a gradual addition of stain.

  • If you use the marker to draw and fill in the stain directly, you can saturate the scratch with stain, and end up making the scratch darker than the surrounding wood.[3] Drawing straight onto the scratch like that can make the scratch mark even more obvious.

Method 2: Fixing Superficial Scratches

1. Clean the scratched area. If the protective coating of the hardwood floor is scratched, use a soft rag (such as a microfiber cloth) and a small amount of hardwood floor cleaner to remove any contaminants from the scratched area. Any and all small dust particles must be removed from the scratched area so they don’t get preserved in the floor when you add sealant.

2. Rinse off the cleaner. After cleaning the scratched area of the floor, dampen another rag with water, and wipe down the scratched area to remove the cleanser. Let the scratched area dry before moving on.

3. Apply a top coating. When the scratched area is completely dry, use a small tipped brush to apply a thin layer of protective finish to the scratched area of the floor. This protective finish could be a sealant, shellac, or some other kind of polyurethane varnish. Ideally, you would use the same kind of finish that is already on the hardwood floor.

  • Consult an employee at your local hardware store for advice on what kind of finish you should use on the floor.

  • If you are an inexperienced wood worker, or if your hardwood floor has a specialty finish (such as a high gloss polyurethane finish), consider hiring a professional to repair and finish the floor.

  • Since hiring a professional will cost more money, it might be most cost-effective to let scratches accumulate, rather than hiring a company to fix one small scratch.

Method 3: Using Filler on Shallow Scratches

1. Clean the scratched area. Use a soft rag and a small amount of hardwood floor cleaner to clean the scratched area of the floor. This will remove any small dirt and dust particles, and ensure that you are working with a clean surface.

2. Rinse the scratched area. Wipe down the scratched area with a damp rag moistened with water. This will remove the cleanser, further sanitizing the workspace. Allow the damped area to totally dry before moving on.

3. Fill in the scratch with wood wax. Choose either clear wood wax, or a wax that matches the color of your wood flooring. Rub the wax stick back and forth over the scratched area to fill in the scratch. If needed, use a plastic tipped putty knife to force the wax down into the scratch. Wood wax sticks can be found at home department store, paint stores, or local hardware stores.

4. Let the wax settle and dry. Leave the wax alone for a day or two before you buff it or add any finishes or sealer to the area.

5. Buff the scratch. Use a clean, soft cloth to rub back and forth over the scratched area, and buff the wax. Buffing the wax will smooth the scratched area, remove excess wax, and restore shine to the floor.

Method 4: Fixing Deep Scratches and Gouges

1. Clean the scratched area. Use a soft rag dampened with a small amount of hardwood floor cleaner to clean the scratched area of the wood.

2. Rinse away the hardwood cleaner. Dampen a new rag with water, and wipe down the scratched area of the floor. With will ensure that your workspace is completely clean and free of excess dirt, dust, and debris. Allow the scratched area to completely dry before proceeding.

3. Rub mineral spirits over the scratch. If your hardwood floors are coated with a layer of polyurethane, the layer must be removed before you can fix the scratch. If your floors don't have that coating, you don’t need to worry about removing the top finish of the floor. Dampen a scouring pad with mineral spirits, and gently rub the scratched area of the floor. Wipe over the area with a clean cloth, and let the area dry completely.

  • If you are inexperienced with woodworking and sealing, it’s advisable to hire a professional to repair the flooring.

4. Fill in the scratch. Apply a small amount of wood filler that is similar to the color of your hardwood floor, to your pointer finger. Use your finger to work the wood filler into the scratch or gouge, spreading the filler in all directions to remove air bubbles. You can be generous with the wood filler, because excess filler will be removed later.

  • Be sure to apply wood filler rather than wood putty. The two substances are different, and using wood putty to fill the scratch can alter the effectiveness of matching the filling to the color of the floor, and affect the filling from properly taking the color of staining, if applied.

  • Give the filler a day to dry after you apply it.

5. Wipe off excess filling. After the filler has been allowed to dry for a day, drag a putty knife over the wood filler to smooth out the surface, and help push the wood filler into the scratch. Drag the putty knife over the scratch, moving in many directions, to ensure the edges of the scratch and filler are flat and even.

6. Sand excess filling and around the scratch. Use a small pad of fine grit sandpaper, perhaps 220 to 300 grit, and gently sand the area surrounding the scratch where excess wood filler has been spread. You can sand following the direction of the grain of the wood, or sand in small little circles. Whichever way you sand, be sure to sand very lightly.

7. Wipe away excess filling. Dampen a cloth with water and wring it out. The cloth should be moisten but relatively dry to the touch. Use you finger to precisely wipe away the excess filler surrounding the scratch. Be sure to wipe the areas where filler has been spread, and avoid wiping over the actual filled scratch.

8. Seal the patched area. Apply a thin layer of the same sealer used on the rest of the hardwood floor to the patched area. Use either a small, natural bristle brush or a lamb’s wool roller to apply the layer of polyurethane, varnish, or sealer. Allow the sealer a complete 24 hours to dry before any traffic is allowed on the surface.

  • If you use a foam roller, you run the risk of leaving air bubbles in the sealer.

  • You will need to apply at least two coats of finish for best results.

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