How to Treat Scratched Prefinished Hardwood Floors

It’s a fact: No matter how tough the finish on your new prefinished floor, in time it will be scratched. Scratches on hardwood floors are an inevitability, and can result in major damage if left untreated. While the finished floor is resistant to moisture and decay, when a scratch gets deep enough to expose unfinished wood it more easily allows moisture and dirt to reach the wood. In time, this can lead to permanent damage..

Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to treat scratched prefinished floors. These steps are often used by novices to spot-treat floors, but if you are uncomfortable or unsure of your ability, don’t hesitate to call a professional.

Disclaimer: It is always a good idea to test the repair procedure on an extra piece of flooring or an inconspicuous area of the floor before attempting a large project.

Scratches vs. Gouges

There is a difference between scratches and a gouge. Scratches are light, surface-deep blemishes that can usually be repaired or refinished fairly easily. Gouges are the flesh-wounds of hardwood flooring blemishes. A serious gouge is one that has reached deep into the unfinished wood and can’t be filled with a basic finish. Boards with gouges need to be replaced entirely. If you believe your flooring has gouges, contact a hardwood flooring professional.

Repairing Scratched Floors

Gently remove finish on scratch.

The first step in repairing a scratched prefinished floor is to gently remove the finish on and immediately around the scratch. Both steel wool and fine sandpaper work well. Be careful not to add new scratches during this process – sanding along the grain of the wood helps prevent this. Sand only until the scratch has disappeared or is barely visible.

Clean the affected area.

All dust produced from the sanding should be completely removed and the affected area cleaned with rubbing alcohol or a light soap/water mixture. Don’t get the area too wet, though, as it will take longer to dry and could seep into the wood and cause a stain.

If necessary, fill the scratch.

If it was a deep scratch, you may need to use wood filler to hide it completely. Remember to choose filler that matches the color of your floor. Using a plastic putty knife, smooth the filler into the scratch and wipe off any excess before it dries. Wait for the filler to harden. If there is excess filler still present, carefully sand it away.

Apply a new coat of finish.

At this point, the scratch should be gone and the affected area should be clean. Next, carefully apply a new coat of finish to only the affected area. A small paint brush is a great tool for this part of the process.

Let it dry.

Now, you wait. It’s a good idea to cover the affected area with a plastic tarp or garbage bag. This prevents any dust or debris from getting into the newly applied finish and being trapped there forever.

If done correctly, the repaired area should blend in nicely with the rest of the floor. If the scratch was too large, or was actually a gouge, you may need to replace the board. Luckily, prefinished flooring is designed in such a way that single boards are easy to replace. You can even do it yourself if you have extra flooring materials left over from installation.

Of course, the best way to fix a scratched floor is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Place area rugs in high-traffic rooms, clip pets’ toenails, and place felt pads under the legs of large furnishings.