How to Replace Wood Floor Planks
Hardwood flooring planks fit together with a tongue-and-groove locking mechanism, and when you install them, you usually blind-nail them through the tongues to hold them securely. This installation system produces a secure surface free of visible nails, but it makes replacing a damaged plank somewhat tricky. Nevertheless, there is a standard technique for performing this procedure, and if you use this technique with care, the job shouldn't take too long. If you aren't careful, though, you may end up having to replace more planks than just the one that was originally damaged.
Removing a Damaged Plank
Draw two straight lines down the center of the damaged plank with a straightedge. The lines should be about 1 inch away from each other and should extend the entire length of the plank.
Set the depth of a circular saw blade to the thickness of the flooring. Cut along both lines from one end of the plank to the other. Stop before the saw blade makes contact with the adjacent plank. The easiest way to make these cuts is to plunge the saw into the center of the plank, cut to one end and then return to the center and cut the other direction to the other end.
Finish the cuts at the ends of the plank with a sharp chisel, and then chisel a line through the center of the plank between the cut lines. Pry out the two center cutouts with the chisel.
Work the chisel under the grooved half of the plank and lift it gently until it separates from the one next to it. Pry one end away with the chisel, and remove this half of the plank when the end clears.
Work the end of the metal-cutting blade of a reciprocating saw under the other half of the plank and cut through the nails holding it to the floor. Pry this half out when all the nails are cut.
Vacuum up all the dust and wood chips in the space left by the plank you removed.
Installing a Replacement Plank
Measure the length of the space and cut a replacement plank to the same length by cutting off the tongue end with a circular saw. Set the depth of a table saw blade to half the width of the flooring, and cut the bottoms of the grooves from the grooved side and end of the plank.
Spread construction adhesive carefully on the tongues on the side and end of the planks adjacent to the space where the replacement plank will go. Hook the tongue of the replacement plank into the groove of the plank next to it, and then lower the replacement plank onto the glue and press down. Place a weight on the replacement plank to hold it flat while the glue sets.
Sand the surface of the replacement, if it is unfinished, with 120-grit sandpaper. Feather the sanding into the surfaces of the adjacent boards so that the stain and finish on the replacement will blend into the rest of the floor.
Spread stain on the replacement plank with a rag. Once the stain is dry, spread a coat of clear floor finish with a foam brush. Feather the edges of the finish into the surrounding floor, rather than leaving a discrete border around the repair.
Let the finish dry, and then sand it lightly with 120-grit sandpaper and spread another coat. Sand and repeat if necessary.
- You can use basically the same technique to replace a section of laminate flooring.
- If the flooring is glued to the sub-floor, there aren't many options other than chipping out the damaged plank with a chisel after making the cuts down the center.
- It's a good idea to lay blue masking tape around the edges of the damaged board before cutting. It will provide a clear border to help you avoid cutting into the surrounding planks. If the saw blade cuts into an adjacent plank, you'll probably have to replace it.
Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.
- Floor image by Einar Bog from Fotolia.com