We knew we had a severe termite problem when they made their way through the middle of our living room floor. To address the problem we had the house tented and filled with a recitation of my lesser ideas. Believe me, those termites quickly left and ran down Sunset Boulevard! When it came to fixing the floor the pest control person suggested wood putty. Ugh.
Thankfully, when I installed our floor fifteen years ago I saved some scraps for such a contingency. So here’s how to fix a hole in a wood floor without resorting to wood putty:
1. First, carefully remove the damaged piece. You could do this with a circular saw but I used a chisel and mallet to avoid the risk of damaging the adjoining, undamaged flooring. Living in the hipster capital of the West Coast I, naturally, used a bespoke mallet I made myself. Be careful to avoid banging your chisel into a nail (this is why I used a cheap chisel rather than, say, a bespoke hand hammered one). I chiseled down the center of the damaged piece of wood and then carefully explored the edge of the wood where you’ll find nails. Once I removed most of the wood I used a small crowbar to remove the rest.
2. Next, use your chisel remove the tongue on the adjoining strip of flooring. This will make it easier to put in the replacement piece. You’ll be left with a hole in the floor that looks like this:
3. Now place your new strip of wood next to where the damaged piece used to be. Carefully mark where you need to cut the piece. For the sake of accuracy, I’m fond of a striking knife rather than a pencil. You could also use a razor blade. You’ve probably heard the adage, “measure twice, cut once.” But this repair is a perfect example of why it’s actually best not to measure things with a ruler but instead to hold the piece to be cut up to what it needs to fit into. And for this repair, since we need a precise fit, I cut the new piece a little bit long and filed it down.
4. You also need to remove the tongue on the replacement piece. I did this with a chisel.
5. Once you have a good fit you can nail the new piece down with finishing nails. You will need to use a small amount of putty to hide the nails.
If I had a larger section of floor to repair I’d rent a floor nailer which places the nails at an angle through the tongue and groove. This tools hides the nail holes and keeps the flooring snug.
If I were installing a new floor I would highly recommend renting a pneumatic flooring nailer. Our small living room and hallway required 1,000 nails and my arm hurt for a week after using a manual nailer.
And, at the risk of ascending the saddle of my very high horse, let me use this moment to express my disdain for laminate flooring. The interwebs are full of propaganda about how laminate flooring is, “better than it used to be.” The facts are still the same: laminate flooring doesn’t look like real wood and it can’t be sanded. It’s yet another disposable item to clog our landfills along with its laminate brethren, i.e. crap from Ikea. Go ahead and eat the meatballs but please pass on the laminates.