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Repairing Wood Floors

Terry Guilford on repairing wood floors

A subject that I am getting asked about on an increasingly regular basis is how to carry out wood floor repairs. Like most things concerned with all flooring disciplines, an article like this can mainly tell you what is possible rather than how it is possible due to the very nature of what you are trying to achieve.
So let’s start by defining the scope of this article:
Firstly, I am mainly concerned about damage that either requires the removal or repair of an individual or group of boards, panels or staves due to damage that cannot be repaired or disguised using any other method.
To begin with, two things need to be assessed. Firstly, you have to consider the type of floor you are dealing with.
Is it on battens or joists? Is it an engineered or solid wood? Is it a floating floor? Is it a bonded down floor? Is it made up of individual staves unconnected to its ‘neighbours’ or is it staves glued together to form panels (like a Junckers’ floor)?
Some of these types of floors and installation methods are obvious, but in others cases you may have difficulty with the identification.
Suffice it to say that again it is outside the scope of this article to explain how you go about determining the nature of the less obvious products or ways they have been installed…. but a phone call to the right person may tell you what you need to know!
The second thing that needs to be assessed is the extent and nature of the damage to the wood. As with all types of repair work, the less destructive you can make the repairs, the less there is to go wrong and the higher the likelihood of a successful outcome.
However, damaged wood flooring, by the nature of interlocking structure of the product’s construction, may be difficult to contain. Hence the repairs you have to carry out may need to be more extensive!
n Victorian pine: Let’s start with your basic Victorian pine floor; the main problems encountered here are damage to boards caused by other tradesmen and gaps between boards caused by shrinkage. In the case of the former the damage is normally very rough saw cuts across the boards to create small access points for plumbers and electricians.
In truth, the best form of repair in this case is for you to remove the full length of board (not just the little panel) and replace it with another old board of a similar nature from either a salvage yard or maybe another room that has carpet.
Gap filling in these floors should be carried out using pine strips cut from reclaimed boards that are glued and hammered into the gaps and trimmed off once the glue is set.
Small repairs to the sides of boards are best made using wooden plugs cut and shaped to fit the missing area (which itself may need cleaning and shaping). These are best fixed in place using industrial hot melt glue guns which give strong, coloured and instantaneous fixture.
n Engineered floors: Moving on, let’s talk about engineered floors. These are normally of the ‘floating’ variety, meaning they just sit on top of the subfloor.
The individual panels on these CAN be removed and replaced, but you need three things.
First, an EXACT match panel, second, a decent tool kit (a Fein type saw is essential) and third, balls… and I don’t mean the type that are used in games.
The key to this type of repair is the clean removal of the old panel. And that is harder than it sounds, because once you have removed the old panel, you must clean off the remaining glue from the boards around it. This is so that you can get the new panel in place. And this is tricky.
You will need to remove the bottoms of the grooves on the new panels before they are dropped in. Then all the new panels will need to be weighted down until the adhesive is properly set.
The bonded down engineered floor will require an even bigger set of ‘sphericals’ because getting the damaged panel out is even more difficult, as is the clean-up operation before the new panel goes in.
Both of these types of repairs are really tricky and have to be weighed against the value of the floor, which is often quite low. Clients should also be advised that the new unused panel is not going to sit at exactly the same height or look exactly the same as the floor around it.
n Hardwood floors: A lot of repair work these days will come from sports halls, school halls, community halls, hotel ballrooms etc. Floors in these locations are often hardwoods laid on battens. And the problems you find usually involve broken individual staves or broken or loose battens.
We have done many repairs of this type and these jobs can really GROW especially in the case of batten repair or replacement.
Whilst I normally don’t like talking about pricing (in particular day rates), I would advise that you approach this subject with a degree of caution in these instances. That is simply bcause you cannot evaluate the real extent of the repair until you have opened up the floor.
However, once the subfloor repairs have been done and the floor is re-laid the results should be excellent and so the clients will be happy.
So finally, let’s mention Junckers. The traditional two strip Junckers has the appearance of individual staves but is actually made up of panels that are two-staves wide and of various lengths. These floors may be clipped together floating, nailed down or bonded down, and of course the method you use needs to be determined first.
If a stave is badly damaged on a Junckers floor you will need to replace the whole panel. The method for doing this will depend on the nature of the fixing as I have outlined above.
However Junckers does have ‘veneers’ that can be used to cover superficially damaged staves with only the use of a router and some glue, which is a lot less hassle than having to replace complete panels.
Wood floor repair won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It does require some woodworking knowledge and a decent tool kit.
However, there is a demand for tradesmen with these skills… so, with the right training, it could be an excellent addition to your existing business.
That, I would say, is definitely something you could think about.
Terry Guilford is technical director of The Ultimate Floor Sanding Co, a corporate member of the National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA).
www.ncca.co.uk

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.