House and Home

Caring for Hardwood Floors


Hardwood flooring looks lovely and can increase the resale value of your home — depending on the shape it's in. We asked Josh Temple, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network's "House Crashers," for some expert advice on how to maintain a glossy, finished look.

What are some tips for cleaning and maintaining hardwood floors?

The best tip I can give is to clean hardwood floors with one cup of vinegar to one gallon of water. It's cheap, effective, and we've been doing it for hundreds of years! How can you avoid scratches? The best way to avoid scratches on your hardwood floor would be to install it on your ceiling. Otherwise, scratches are going to happen. Good tips to help avoid scratches are to lose the shoes, keep the pets off and put felt pads on all the legs of the furniture. Any quick-fix tips for minor scratches? You can try a couple of things depending on the depth of the scratch. You can try to rub some matching finish on it. If there's a gouge, you can try to add wood filler but that might not work; it might depend on where you live. Wood will expand and contract more with bigger swings in temperature. That might cause the wood filler to crack or break apart and come out with foot traffic. How do you mask or repair a major scratch? You can try to replace a board or two, but matching the wood is tricky. If you're lucky enough to get the right replacement, you won't exactly match the finish. Another factor is that the new board won't exactly match the depth of the rest of the floor. You can sand it down, but if you hit the other boards, you'll have to refinish those boards too. It's possible, but appropriate for only the advanced do-it-yourself homeowner with plenty of time and patience. If you're confident, here are some tips:

  • Cut two lines — with the grain — through the middle of the damaged board, without cutting any of the adjacent boards.  
  • Set a circular saw to the depth of the floor, which is usually 3/4 inches, and use a chisel to cut the ends.  
  • Pull out the middle third, and then remove both the tongue and groove sides without disrupting other boards.  
  • Sand the replacement board thoroughly. 
  • Cut the bottom of the groove off so you can install the new piece in the tongue and groove system.  
  • Use floor glue to help keep the board in place. 

If a hardwood floor needs to be replaced altogether, what can you expect to pay for a single room? An approximate estimate for a 10-foot by 10-foot bedroom is $750. That does not include any labor for removing existing flooring.   What's the difference between using hardwood versus laminate? Wood is wood. It's solid, it's durable and it lasts. It can be refinished several times in its lifetime, which could be well over 100 years. And hardwood floors are great for resale. But there are some benefits to laminates: the cost is much cheaper, laminates work well on concrete, and there are countless styles and designs in laminate flooring.