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Replacing Damaged Floorboards

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 186 Projects

When solid hardwood floorboards are beyond repair, they need to be carefully cut out and replaced with boards of the same width and thickness. Replace whole boards whenever possible. If a board is long, or if part of its length is inaccessible, draw a cutting line across the face of the board, and tape behind the line to protect the section that will remain.

How to Replace Damaged Floorboards

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    Determine the minimal number of boards to be removed. To avoid nails, be sure to draw the line 3⁄4" inside the outermost edge of any joints.

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    With a drill and 3⁄4"-wide spade bit, slowly drill through a damaged board. Drill until you see the top of the subfloor. Measure the depth. A common depth is 5⁄8" or 3⁄4". Set your circular saw to this depth.

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    To prevent boards from chipping, place masking tape or painter’s tape along the outside of the pencil lines. To create a wood cutting guide, tack a straight wood strip inside the damaged area (for easy removal, allow nails to slightly stick up). Set back the guide the distance between the saw blade and the guide edge of the circular saw.

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    Turn on the saw. Lower the blade into the cutline. Do not cut the last 1⁄4" of the corners. Remove cutting guide. Repeat with other sides.

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    Use a hammer and sharp chisel to completely loosen the boards from the subfloor. Make sure the chisel’s beveled side is facing the damaged area for a clean edge.

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    Use a scrap 2 × 4 block for leverage and to protect the floor. With a hammer, tap a pry bar into and under the split board. Most boards pop out easily, but some may require a little pressure. Remove exposed nails with the hammer claw.

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    Again, make sure the bevel side of the chisel is facing the interior of the damaged area. Set any exposed nails with your nail set.

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    Measure the length and width of the area to be replaced. Place the new board on a sawhorse, with the section to be used hanging off the edge. Draw a pencil cutline. With saw blade on waste side of mark, firmly press the saw guide against the edge of a framing square. Measure each board separately.

  9. Install Last Board

    Remove the tongue on the end of the board, if necessary. Apply adhesive to the board, and set it in place, tongue first.

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    Pick a drill bit with a slightly smaller diameter than an 8-penny finish nail, and drill holes at a 45° angle through the corner of the replacement piece’s tongue every 3" to 4" along the new board. Hammer a 1 1⁄2"-long, 8-penny finish nail through the hole into the subfloor. Use a nail set to countersink nails. Repeat until the last board.

  11. Board Face Down

    Lay the last board face down onto a protective 2 × 4 and use a sharp chisel to split off the lower lip. This allows it to fit into place.

  12. Install Board

    To install the last board, hook the tongue into the groove of the old floor and then use a soft mallet to tap the groove side down into the previous board installed.

  13. Drill Pilot Holes

    Once the putty is dry, sand the patch smooth with fine-grit sandpaper. Feather-sand neighboring boards. Vacuum and wipe the area with a clean cloth. Apply matching wood stain or restorer, then apply 2 coats of matching finish.

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    Drill pilot holes angled outward: two side-by-side holes about 1⁄2" from the edges of each board, and one hole every 12" along the groove side of each board. Drive 11⁄2"-long, 8-penny finish nails through the holes. Set nails with a nail set. Fill holes with wood putty.