How to Touch Up Wood-Floor Finishes

Modern wood-floor finishes can take quite a bit of abuse, but accidents do happen. You can try to camouflage scratches and other minor damage on an otherwise beautiful floor. If the results don't satisfy you or if you can't make certain areas blend in, a screening and overcoat may help. Some situations require complete refinishing.

Fixing a surface-coated floor

  1. For a small, relatively inconspicuous area on a surface-coated or film-forming floor, try cleaning with very fine steel wool followed by paste wax.

  2. If that fails, apply a little of the same finish directly on the scratch with an artist's brush. If possible, contact the manufacturer of a factory-finished floor or the installer of a site-finished floor to determine the finish. Or use polyurethane with a comparable sheen.

  3. Put a cloth lightly dampened with mineral spirits over your fingertip, and immediately wipe off the excess finish before it dries.

  4. When the finish is dry, buff well with a soft cloth.

  5. If the scratch has penetrated a stained floor and removed an area of stain, touch up the stain before you apply finish. Wipe or brush on stain, allow it to penetrate for a few minutes and wipe it off. Or use a furniture stick or floor touch-up marker that approximates the floor stain's color. Allow overnight drying before finishing.

  6. If the repair is too obvious, the next step is to refinish the entire affected strip. Use steel wool or fine sandpaper on a sanding block that's narrower than the floorboard to remove layers of the finish. Brush on polyurethane, being careful not to get any on surrounding strips.

Fixing a waxed floor

  1. Depending on the depth of the scratch or other damage, use steel wool, a cabinet scraper, or even fine sandpaper on a sanding block to remove the finish, along with the scratch.

  2. Wipe on a matching stain (or a clear sealer on an unstained floor). You can stain more to darken the area, but it's very hard to lighten stained wood, so start on the light side.

  3. Waxed floors are forgiving, so you can try many times and extend the repair to the entire strip, as for a polyurethane floor, until you get the results you want. When the color is right, wax the repair area, and then wax a wider area for a uniform sheen.


  • Read and heed safety warnings on finishing products; some are flammable or toxic.
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