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How to Patch a Wood Floor

A previous owner removed three old floor-mount heating ducts in our house, leaving patched areas that are obvious and unstable. How can I redo them, so they blend in with the surrounding floor?—Mike Scarmon, Evansville, WI

Tom Silva Patches Wood Floor at West Roxbury, Season 43 Alex Gagne

To make the patches in strip flooring blend in, you’ll need to pull them up and weave in new strips between the old ones. The goal is to cut out some of the old strips so that the joints in adjacent courses are staggered, matching the existing joint pattern. But first, you’ll need to obtain new tongue-and-groove strips of the same width and thickness as the rest of the floor and some subflooring of the same thickness to support the unstable areas.

You can complete this repair with some basic hand tools and a sharp chisel, but the process will go much faster and more smoothly with power tools like the ones I’m using here. An oscillating multitool, a circular saw, a table saw, and a brad nailer will all prove useful. A compressor-powered flooring nailer ensures that the joints will be tight. Many of these tools are available at tool-rental centers if you don’t already own them.

Steps for Patching a Wood Floor

Patching a Wood Floor Alex Gagne

The steps covered here may vary, depending on your repair, but once you’re finished, plan to have the entire floor sanded down and given a fresh new finish. Then any differences between the old flooring and the new should be unnoticeable.

Step 1: Cut along the floor perimeter

  • In the area that you want to patch, use an oscillating multitool with a metal-cutting blade to make thin, vertical cuts through the flooring right next to walls.

Step 2: Pry up loose boards

  • A hammer with a straight claw, in combination with pry bars, will lift the loose flooring from the patched area. If you can’t loosen and pull the angled nails from the tongue side of the floorboards, cut through them with the multitool.
Patching a Wood Floor Alex Gagne

Step 3: Install subflooring

  • Cover holes, like this one left by a floor register, with plywood or oriented strand board of the same thickness as the existing subflooring.
  • Square up the opening with a circular saw, then cut the subfloor pieces to fit.
  • Screw the new panels to floor joists, or to cleats fastened to the joists.

Step 4: Create the staggered pattern

  • Select the strips in the existing floor that need to be removed in order to stagger the joints.
  • First, make a cut down the center of the strip with a circular saw set to the same depth as the strip’s thickness.
  • Next, make straight, square end cuts with the multitool (as shown). Then you can pry up the cut sections and vacuum up the debris.
Patching a Wood Floor Alex Gagne

Step 5: Install the new strips

  • Cover the exposed floor with a moisture barrier or builder’s felt.
  • Line up the tongues of the new flooring with the grooves of the old flooring, and tap the new strips between the existing ones.

Step 6: Nail in place

  • Using a pneumatic flooring nailer, drive angled flooring nails through the tongues and into the subfloor, about 16 inches apart.
  • Where there isn’t enough room to strike the nailer, turn it around and use splines to support the tongues (see Tip).
  • And where there isn’t room to use splines, face-nail the strips to the subfloor using a brad nailer and 1½-inch nails.
  • Once the floor is refinished, fill the nail holes with wood putty that matches the wood’s color.