If you've got a dog, chances are your house already bears a few battle scars. From their innate tendency to dig and scratch to those "little accidents" they sometimes leave behind, pooches are especially tough on our cherished hardwood floors. Pat Hunt, owner of Hunt Custom Milled Wood Floors, in Lexington, Massachusetts, has fixed his fair share of the damage inflicted on his clients' houses by man's best friend. "We just did a job where a guy's dog scratched the heck out of his floors," he says. "Too many indoor games of fetch, I guess."
Though a good polyurethane seal on your floors is the best defense against urine stains and surface scuffs, it can't fully protect the wood. Fortunately, any clever, dog-owning DIYer can make minor floor repairs without the help of a pro—just follow our guide on how to get scratches and stains out of hardwood floors.
Conceal surface scratches with a simple stain-filled marker (Minwax Wood Finish Stain Marker, $8.49; acehardware.com). Deeper gouges require wood filler, which can be sanded down and stained to match the surrounding boards. If you're unsure about the stain color of your floors, it's best to start light and gradually go darker. "Start with the lightest stain you can," says Hunt. "Let it dry for a few minutes, then add another coat to deepen the color if needed."
Scratches covering a large surface area are best handled by sanding and, if necessary, restaining all the affected boards and resealing with polyurethane. Keep in mind that matching the finish of your existing polyurethane can be tough, says Hunt. Make sure you choose a product with the right sheen, whether gloss, semigloss, or satin, and for best results, coat the entire length of each board you're repairing. If the damaged area isn't very large—smaller than, say, a standard piece of paper—it might be best to simply forget about resealing unless the blemish is in a high-traffic spot, says Hunt.
Even if your floors are sealed, dog urine can still penetrate the wood and reach the subfloor, resulting in discoloration and an ammonia-like stench. Dark stains—as in black-Labrador-retriever dark—are bad news. "You'll have to replace those boards because the damage is so deep that you'll never get rid of the smell," says wood-floor repair expert Steve Dubuque, who works for Hunt. For lighter-colored stains, though, there's some hope. Try sanding off the finish, scrubbing the boards with wood bleach (a specialty product available at lumberyards), and refinishing the area. You're in the clear if you've banished both the stains and the odor. But if that unpleasant smell rears its ugly head on a hot summer day, you'll have to replace the boards that were affected. And remember: If the damage done is too much for you to handle, pros like Hunt can help you clean up the mess and removed wood floor stains.
The best ways to prevent damage to your floors:
Clip your dog's nails so that they don't click when he walks, keep the fur between his paw pads trimmed to keep him from slipping, and clean and dry floors immediately after he has an accident.