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How to Fix Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors have long been chosen because of their beauty. However, good-quality wooden floors can be extremely costly to install, and no matter how careful you are, they are prone to damage. When you add the cost of hiring a refinisher each time thereโ€™s a scuff to your wood to have it repaired, youโ€™re likely to find a significant dent in your pocket.

Luckily, this doesnโ€™t have to be the situation. Damage to wooden floors can be repaired with a little bit of effort and know-how. In this article, weโ€™ll be discussing a few methods to help you deal with the most common wood floor damage, including:

  • Scratches
  • Gouges
  • Dents
  • Gaps

So without further ado, let’s take a look at how to fix gaps in hardwood floors so you can decide what you need to do to your floors to return them to their former glory.

Factors That Cause Gapping in Hardwood Floors

Like most materials, hardwood floors contract and expand in relation to changes in temperature. Small gaps that appear during the cold seasons are quite common and should not cause any major concern. Large gaps, however, could indicate a greater problem that may warrant intervention.

Some of the common reasons for gaps forming include:

  • Poor installation
  • Milling errors
  • Loss of moisture content from within the hardwood floor
  • Indoor humidity imbalance/ radiant heating
  • Changes in weather

So when do you know if a crack is big enough to need repair? Well, you use the coin test.

This is the test that most flooring experts use whereby they try to insert a coin (generally a nickel) into the gap. If the coin can stand upright on its own, the gap may need to be attended to. As mentioned earlier, wood floors expand with heat, so the best time to conduct this test would be during the warmer months.

Preventing Gaps Caused by Temperature

Ever heard the saying โ€œprevention is better than a cureโ€? Well, it holds true in the case of your hardwood floors as well and may save you a great deal of cash.

Since temperature is one of the main factors influencing gaps becoming noticeable, there are a few things one can do to reduce the prominence of these gaps.

Hands-free maintenance โ€“ Board shrinkage and low humidity levels go hand-in-hand. Running a humidifier in your home can help maintain a stable temperature, reducing shrinkage while keeping your home warm and cozy on cold days.

Wax โ€“ย While waxed floors may not be suitable for all living situations, they provide a significant benefit. Wax fills the tiny pores and cracks in the wood, creating a seal. This seal locks the moisture into the wood, preventing it from drying out, as well as protecting it from spills that may otherwise cause damage.

Waterproofing –ย When installing your hardwood flooring, place an underlayment paper that prevents moisture beneath the wood from seeping upward.

Sealing โ€“ย Similar to the waterproofing layer beneath, a good quality sealer will seal the gaps between boards and keep moisture out.

Delay installation โ€“ A great trick to employ is to allow your wood to stand for around 10 days after purchasing it before you install it. This will allow the newly cut piece of wood to acclimatize and reduce movement after installation.

Wood boards –ย When selecting your hardwood from the hardware store, favor options with high UV and heat resistance.

new hardwood floor

Repairing Gaps in Hardwood Floors

If the temperature isnโ€™t the culprit, you may be faced with a slightly larger problem, which, if left untreated, could lead to permanent cracking and degradation of the floor. Therefore, itโ€™s best to attend to potential issues while they are still relatively small and easy to deal with.

Here are a few of the most popular and effective methods of fixing gaps in your hardwood floors.

Wood Filler Strips

Often the most recommended method, wood filler strips are an excellent and permanent solution to gaps in hardwood floors. When done well, they provide a very neat and attractive result.

The process starts with measuring the gaps and cutting replacement strips of wood as precisely as possible. After that, clean out the gap with a vacuum and a small brush to ensure that there is no loose debris whatsoever left behind.

Next, apply wood glue to the wood strips and gently place them into the gaps before tapping them down to fix them. Wipe away any excess glue with a damp cloth and allow it to dry.

Once the glue has dried, you can level any unevenness by sanding it and proceed to stain the area to achieve a matching finish with the rest of the floor.

Rope Filler

Similar to wood strips, synthetic rope is used broadly in the same way. Start by cleaning out the area and measuring a suitable piece of rope to fill the gap. It is preferable to use rope thatโ€™s either cotton, jute, or another natural material. You also need a utility knife to cut the rope to the correct dimensions.

The next step is slightly different and requires you to dip your rope into a bucket of wood stain that matches the color of your existing floors. Once the ropes are completely saturated, remove them from the wood stain and allow them to dry in a shaded area.

Next, you want to pull the rope along the crack and force it in place using a putty knife. Once it is securely in place, trim any excess and finish the area, so it blends well with the entire floor surface.

Sawdust

The next method is one of the simpler ones and requires some sawdust and clear resin filler. Once again, the process starts by cleaning the gaps thoroughly. Then, combine the sawdust and resin in a bowl to create a thick, putty-like consistency. Scoop the mixture and introduce them to the gaps with a putty knife, covering them completely.

Wipe away any excess and allow it to dry. The mixture will harden and fill the gaps in a few minutes. However, it is recommended to allow the area to dry for a few hours. Once dry, finish the area and apply wood stain to match if necessary.

Wood Putty

Wood putty is another common hardware-recommended fix for gaps in your floor. It works the same way as the sawdust and resin solution, and you apply it in the same way. Wood putty generally costs a little more since the solution is pre-mixed for added convenience.

Floor Replacement

The final and most undesirable option is replacing the entire floor. This is usually the inevitable path if the state of the floor is very poor or deteriorating noticeably. Some of the most common signs of floors that need to be completely replaced include:

  • The presence of large gaps or multiple gaps appearing in different areas.
  • Warping, bulges, and unevenness are signs of wood that has lost its integrity.
  • Missing slivers and patches of excessive moisture build-up may be a sign of decaying wood which will become unsafe over time.

While fixing a badly damaged hardwood floor may seem doable, it may be far more costly in the long run.

Conclusion

Hardwood floors are an excellent aesthetic improvement to give your home a touch of class and elegance. Taking preventative measures to maintain them is always a great idea. However, even the best quality and most expensive hardwood floors are still susceptible to damage and the need for repair.

Repairing hardwood floors can be extremely expensive, but that cost can be avoided by understanding how to repair minor damages caused by general wear and tear without hiring a professional. Most repair methods are very easy to do, and even a DIY beginner should easily be able to complete the repairs without much practice or any special equipment.

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