Hardwood Flooring Repair: How to Fix Scratches on Wood Floors

Hardwood flooring experiences wear and tear from daily use. Excess moisture, moving furniture, and foot traffic cause scratches and dents on hardwood floors.

Scratched hardwood floors diminish the room’s aesthetics. They draw attention away from the flooring’s natural beauty. Repairing hardwood floors restores their appearance and durability.

How to Fix Scratches on Wood Floors

Common Causes of Scratches and Dents

  • Grit and debris: Small particles of dirt, grit, sand, and outdoor debris are abrasive. They grind against the wood surface as people walk on the floor, causing scratches over time.
  • Improper cleaning: Harsh cleaning tools like rough brooms or steel wool scratch the floor’s finish. Harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaners strip away the floor’s protective coating, making it vulnerable to scratching.
  • Pet claws: Pet claws from large animals leave scratches on hardwood floors. When in contact with the wood, their nails can penetrate past the protective coating, leaving the floor with visible marks.
  • Furniture movement: Dragging or sliding heavy furniture and objects across hardwood floors without protective pads damages the surface. The friction between the furniture and the floor results in abrasions.
  • High foot traffic: Areas with consistent foot traffic, such as entryways and hallways, experience more friction and pressure. Grit and debris particles are more concentrated in these areas. The high footfall wears down the hardwood floor’s protective finish.
  • Accidental dropping of heavy items: Dropping heavy objects causes wood fibers on the hardwood flooring to compress. For example, dropping a couch’s legs, wheeled toys, or food cans falling from the shelves. Sharp objects like knives gouge the floor.
  • Wearing high-heel shoes indoors: The pointed, hard high-heel shoes exert concentrated force on the floor. The damage is evident if the heels lack protective tips or have worn down.

How to Repair Scratched Hardwood Floors

The repair method depends on the severity of the damage and the type of hardwood flooring.

Tools and Materials:

  • Tack cloth
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Putty knife
  • Protective gear (gloves and eye protection)
  • Wood filler
  • Finish
  • Floor cleaner and cleaning tools

Assess the Damage

Before starting the repair process, determine the nature and extent of the damage. Then, decide on the best repair method.

Clean the Area

Begin by cleaning the wood floor on and around the scratches. Remove any dirt, debris, or dust with a soft-bristled broom. Next, use a gentle cleaner suitable for your hardwood floor type.

Mist the area with a hardwood floor cleaner spray, then wipe it with a microfiber cloth. For polyurethane-finished floors, avoid applying liquids or waxes. Use fine steel wool to remove old wax and grime on waxed floors.

Avoid solutions like bleach, ammonia, and vinegar, as they contain harsh chemicals that can damage your floor.

Examine the Scratch

Inspect the scratch to determine its width, length, and depth. Determine if the scratch has only affected the finish or penetrated the wood.

Check for Gouges or Dents

If there are visible dents or gouges, assess their size and depth.

Determine the Existing Floor Finish

Take note of the type of finish on your hardwood floor. Different finishes, like oil, wax, or polyurethane, have varying resistance to scratches and require different repair methods.


Repair Guide for Minor Surface Scratches

Minor hardwood floor scratches are thin and narrow, 1 to 2 inches long and 1/16 inch deep. Since they are shallow, using a touch-up marker or sanding followed by refinishing repairs the surface.

1. Clean the Areas

Clean the area and remove any dust, dirt, and particles. Apply wood cleaner appropriate for your flooring type and buff with a soft, dry microfiber cloth.

2. Sand the Scratch Lightly

Sand the scratch using fine-grain sandpaper in the direction of the grain. The sanding process removes the stain, so you need to reapply it.

Before applying, test the wood stain on an inconspicuous area, like under the bed, to ensure it blends in with your floor color. Apply the right stain on the sanded area.

3. Apply Matching Finish

Apply a new coat of finish to match the original.

Repair Guide for Deep Scratches and Dents

Deep scratches and gouges penetrate the finish into the wood. To repair deep scratches:

1. Fill the Scratch With Wood Filler

Apply wood filler to the scratch using a putty knife. Use a plastic putty knife to avoid more damage on your wood floor. Ensure you apply the filler on the scratch only and wipe off the excess when the filler is still wet.

2. Sand and Level the Filler

Sand and level the filler by hand after it has dried. Be careful not to sand the areas around the scratch you’re repairing.

3. Apply Steam to the Dent

For dents, apply steam to minimize the appearance of the dent. Hold a clean cloth soaked in hot water over the dent. Apply steam using a hand-held steam cleaner or a steam iron on a low setting. Move the cloth around the dent to avoid concentrating the heat on one area.

4. Restore the Wood Fibers

The steam moisture penetrates the wood fibers, making them expand and regain their original shape. Once the wood has absorbed the moisture, leave it to dry completely.

5. Apply Matching Stain and Finish

Finish by applying matching stain and finish to integrate the repaired area.