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Remove & Replace Solid Floor Boards

You may note several methods in which to repair or replace one or two boards on a nail down hardwood floor. The Video on this pageprinciple is the same as I've seen This Old House regular Tom Silva use a method to drill holes into the affected areas first then hammer and pry the damaged sections apart. This works fine for those that want to keep sawdust to a minimum.

View the video - remove and replace two boards


Two Boards Replaced

The repair shown here deals with removing and replacing two boards that were discovered during a refinishing job. There was no real damage actually, except for a cable wire that was snaked through a hole in the floor. The purpose of the removal was more for documenting a written story and video on it.Mark boards

Mark The Cut Out Area

The first step is marking the areas that need to be cut out. Reasons being we don’t want to cut into other areas that do not need repair. Considering this job was performed by a professional contractor his eyes were keen enough to remember where to cut, but I did insist he scribble some lines so the camera could see the areas. For less skilled individuals I would suggest marking the areas with tape.

Set Saw Blade To Proper Depth

Unfortunately I didn’t get this step. I think it had something to do with a cop insisting I move my vehicle from a street that didn’t have any parking so I had to hike a quarter of a mile. Enough, I’m sure you don’t want to hear the unnecessary drivel.

Anyway, the object is setting the circular saw used to cut a depth of just over 3/4 of an inch (the thickness of the flooring). This way your cuts will be entirely through the hardwood. By going less, it’s just going to create an extra step.

Making The Cuts

There are two objectives in the next step. First is cutting the entire length of the board to be removed. Considering these boards are perpendicular or against a wall area we’re not going to get cuts on both ends. The first photo example shows two circular saw cuts the length of the board. The second, a close-up of the second board being cut.

Cut to end joints

Removing The Boards

Getting the boards out is going to take some scissor cuts (45 degree angle cuts) in the middle of the repair area. Once the cuts are completed, removal is far easier as in this case a screwdriver was used, but I would suggest a sharp chisel. Old habits die hard as this contractor learned the trade forty years ago when fewer tools were dragged to the jobsite.

Scissor cut across boards
Lift out pieces

Cleanup Ready For Replacement Boards

Getting the remaining pieces of boards left behind that are still fastened with nails takes a few sharp blows with the hammer and screwdriver. The first photo shows the screwdriver was simply pounded into the piece then driven to the center with the hammer. Finally the area is cleaned with removal of the felt paper, vacuumed and ready for the next step of retrofitting the new boards.

Push boards to the center
Vacuum saw dust

Using/Finding The Right Replacement Boards

I should mention at this point so nobody makes the mistake; find the right boards. There’s nothing worse than looking at a pristine hardwood floor only to find an obvious repaired spot. You will want to know the grade of hardwood that was originally installed if it’s a sand and finish floor like this one. Over the years the most widely used type of hardwood has been 2 1/4 inch #1 common red oak.

Areas that were established fifty and seventy years ago (up north) will have local flooring supply houses who stock several grades and species of unfinished hardwood that can be obtained by the bundle. Bundles are anywhere in the 20 to 25 square foot range. Keep in mind not all will sell to the public. Finding unfinished flooring in the sun belt or areas where concrete slabs are more prevalent will be a bit harder.

Ready For Replacement Boards - The Retro Fitting

Shown below are some tricks to getting new boards to fit back into the floor. In the first step we need to remove the bottom portion of the groove on the end joint side. This is accomplished by laying the board face down on the miter saw and removing the bottom part. In the second step the bottom of the groove on the long (side joint) side of the board needs to be removed. Finally, for the replacement piece to fall into the floor a slight bevel needs to be made on the underside of the top portion of the groove.

Cut end joint groove on bottom
Side joint groove removed

First Piece Is Installed

In the next step the contractor applies some urethane adhesive where the first replacement piece will lay. Best methods call for a serpentine type application, but the emphasis is getting enough but not too much in the area. Next the first replacement piece is laid into the adhesive and a screwdriver is used to gently pry back the board for a gap free fit. Finally the board is blind nailed (every six inches or so) at a 45 degree angle with a 15 gauge nail gun.

Apply adhesive
Nail into place on 45 degree angle

Last Piece

For the last board replacement, or the one we retrofitted (arrows) on the table and miter saw, glue is also applied to the groove area and sub floor. One step we failed to include was chamfering the top of the groove edge so the board will fit more easily into place.

Once the last board is in place the nailer is brought in to complete the job. Nails are driven into the face of the plank every six inches while placing downward pressure on the plank.

Apply adhesive to bottom of groove
Top nail boards

Before & After

Repair before finishing
Repair after finishing

View The Video

Transcript of the video

One rarely knows what they’re getting into when carpet isVideo transcript removed from an older hardwood floor. In our case it was a hole where some wires were buried at one time. This segment could also double for the many floors that at one time had baseboard radiant heating removed where holes were left behind in the floor.

The first objective shows the installer cutting back the two boards that get taken out. Here we’re cutting with a circular saw to the end joints so it creates a seamless repair. Next a quick diagonal cut in the two boards releases the tension making it easier to remove the boards. The underlayment asphalt felt paper is also removed as the replacement boards will be glued and nailed to the sub floor. Finally a good going over with the vacuum prior to the actual replacement steps.

In the next few segments replacement boards are measured then cut. A few alterations to the final board that gets inserted shows cutting off the bottom of the groove on the end joint and also the long side of the board. This allows for an easier fit shown in the last steps.

Finally, or once all the preparation of cutting is complete, adhesive is applied to the sub floor. Seen here, the first board that didn’t get the groove treatment fits into place. The installer tightens the board against the existing part of the repaired area then nails it into place.

Here’s where the groove trimming we handled earlier makes sense. The arrow shows the end joint groove removed followed by the length of the board. This final board is also glued on the top of the groove, dropped into place and pin nailed. This job was then completely sanded, stained with a dark walnut from DuraSeal then finished with satin sheen water based system.