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Easy Steps to Replace a Bad Floorboard Ensure Sure Footing

June 15, 1996|From Associated Press

If a floorboard has a large split or an irreparable flaw, your only option is to take out the damaged board and replace it. It's an easy process, but it does call for some care and precision.

Removing Old Floorboard

Whenever possible, remove an entire board, or at least the part of the board from the damaged area to the closest joint. If you have to make a crosscut, use a carpenter's square as a guide to mark the cut line. Then drill several large overlapping holes across the board, just inside the cut line. Be careful not to go deeply into the subfloor.

To remove the damaged board, split it with a mallet and wood chisel. Use a pry bar to pry out the pieces carefully, centerpiece first. If you drilled holes, use a sharp wide wood-chisel to square off the ragged edge of the opening left by the holes; use the cut line as a guide.

If there is no subfloor, cut the damaged board along the edges of adjoining joists. Drill a hole and use a keyhole saw to do the cutting. Nail a cleat, a small wood piece, to the joists as needed to support the replacement board.

Replacement Board

Always replace a damaged board with new flooring of the same type. Make sure it has a grain pattern and color that blends closely with the surrounding boards. If the new board is not pre-finished, finish it to match the rest of the floor after you cut it to fit, but before you nail it in place.

If you bring the new board from a damp area, such as a basement, let it dry for a week or two before installing it. Otherwise, it may shrink and leave an unsightly gap. At a minimum, keep it in the room overnight before installing it.

Board Length, Fit

Carefully measure the opening and cut the replacement board just slightly (one-32nd-of-an-inch) longer.

Test the new piece against the opening before installing it. Use a plane or rasp to shave off the board's ends for a snug fit.

The trick to fitting a replacement board is to chisel off the lower lip along the grooved edge. With the lip gone, the board will fall easily into place over the tongue of the adjoining board.

Glue and Nail

Before inserting the replacement board, coat both sides of the new joint with yellow carpenter's glue.

Insert the new board and carefully pound it flush with adjoining boards, using a mallet and a wood block to avoid marring.

Secure the board with a few finishing nails, angling them for greater holding power. To avoid splitting the wood, drill pilot holes for the nails. Countersink the nailheads with a nail set and fill the holes with wood putty in matching wood tone.

Preemptive Strikes

Save yourself the work of replacing a split floorboard in the first place by repairing damage as soon as it becomes visible.

To fix a small split in a floorboard, drill angled pilot holes every inch or two along both sides of the split. Drive in nails and countersink the heads. Fill the nail holes and any remaining gap in the split with matching wood putty.

Also, try this before replacing a warped floorboard: Strip the finish from the board and cover it with a damp cloth for a couple of days.

If the moisture temporarily solves the problem, secure the board with countersunk wood screws before it dries and springs back.

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