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How To Replace Hardwood Floor Planks – All You Need To Know!

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Does your hardwood floor need to have some, or several, of the planks replaced? Are you remodeling an old home and have areas of damaged or missing hardwood? These are just a few scenarios of why hardwood floor planks need to be replaced. In this post, you will find the best answers and step-by-step instructions on how to do plank replacements on your hardwood floor.

To replace hardwood floor planks or sections:

  1. Always use proper safety equipment.
  2. Locate the replacement wood.
  3. Calculate the amount needed.
  4. Gather your tools, acclimate the wood.
  5. Tape the area.
  6. Cut and remove the damaged planks.
  7. Clean the area.
  8. Measure and cut the replacement pieces.
  9. Glue and nail the replacement pieces.
  10. Sand and varnish (not needed for engineered wood).

If you are replacing or repairing any kind of hardwood floor, all you need is careful planning and the right replacement wood. With a few tools and a little care, you can actually accomplish this yourself, or be well-informed if you decide to use a professional. Essentially, replacing hardwood floor planks is as simple as removing the damaged pieces, then refitting the section with new pieces of wood. Read on to get started!

A man installing wood flooring in home, How To Replace Hardwood Floor Planks - All You Need To Know!

Replacing hardwood floor planks

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a million! Watch the experts in this video, then follow the detailed steps below!

1. Safety First!

Wood splinters, nail pieces, and sawdust can easily fly up and hit you in the face, so be absolutely sure to protect yourself!

Safety Gear List

  • Safety glasses or mask
  • Work gloves
  • Long sleeves, long pants, close-toed shoes
  • Foam earplugs/hearing protection
  • Knee pads, or knee cushion

2. Locate Replacement wood

If your floor is engineered hardwood or new hardwood, you can purchase it from the manufacturer or the hardware store.

If your floor is historic, 100+ years old, there are three options for replacement wood. Purchase either of these two types from an architectural salvage company: 

  • Reclaimed hardwood flooring - This kind of wood flooring is reclaimed from historic buildings. Best for historic floors because the wood will age seamlessly with the surrounding floor.
  • Salvaged, re-milled wood - This kind of wood is milled into flooring from the larger beams of old buildings. 

The third option is to use new hardwood flooring, then try to stain it to match the old floor. Be aware that even with careful color matching, the wood can age to look completely different in a few years.

How much does it cost to replace planks on a wood floor?

  • Reclaimed hardwood flooring -  $7 to $11 per foot.
  • Salvage wood flooring, (old beams) - $18 to $25 per foot.
  • New, milled hardwood - $3 to $5 per foot.
  • Engineered hardwood - $6 to $16 per foot. Due to differences in the veneer and the composition of the plank.

3. Calculate the amount needed

Calculate the square footage you are replacing, then include an additional 10% of material to account for mistakes. You should include enough wood to create a seamless visual replacement. 

Visibility and Value

Repairs in a high-visibility area need to be done correctly. This means you can’t just cut a big square out of your floor and replace it with strips of flooring. Strips should be staggered to match. In the following picture, this is what happened when the section was not carefully planned.

No staggering was used. Additionally, the wood used on this historic floor was new, and the resulting aging created a stark and ugly contrast.

In the photo below, the repair is much neater. The wood has been staggered to create a natural look, allowing the floor to age more gracefully despite new wood being used.

4. Gather your tools

  • Safety equipment
  • Blue painters tape
  • Hammer and chisel
  • Magnet for picking up nail scraps
  • Drill and spade-style bits
  • Plunge saw with adjustable depth setting (rent from a hardware store)
  • Replacement wood
  • Wood glue
  • Pliers
  • Nail gun and 16 or 18 gauge nails - (rent nail gun from a hardware store)

Acclimate your wood

It may sound poncy, but you do need to allow your replacement wood to sit for a couple of weeks in the house where it will be installed. The minimum is three days, unwrapped, in the room where the wood will be installed. This step will protect your wood from warping, splitting, or otherwise deforming after installation.

5. Tape the area

Using blue painter's tape, tape all around the edges of the damaged wood which will be replaced. This is important, because not only do you want to protect the wood that will not be removed, it will help you avoid cutting something you are not supposed to cut. 

Can you replace one plank of hardwood floors?

Absolutely you can replace one single plank, especially if it’s only one plank that is damaged. But remember, to create a seamless look, you might want to remove and replace the entire plank. A large plank can also be replaced with two or three smaller pieces if it will blend in well. Refer to the above photos of poorly repaired hardwood to understand what to avoid.

6. Cut and remove damaged planks

Once you have taped off the area, gathered your tools, and put on your safety equipment, grab your acclimated wood and you are ready to begin!

How do you remove damaged wood planks?

First, cut the center portion out.

  1. Use a circular plunge cutter, or other tool, and set it to the depth of your wood floor. Use the replacement pieces to set the correct depth.
  2. Leave about 1/2-inch of the edges of the damaged wood to be removed by hand.
  3. Cut two lines parallel in the center of the plank, again, 1/2-inch from each edge. Do not cut through the taped-off portions and do not cut through the short edge. Avoid the tape!
  4. Don’t cut into or through the subfloor. This is the underlay beneath the hardwood.

This type of plunge-cutting, circular saw, can be adjusted to avoid cutting through the subfloor. See it on Amazon.

Then, cut the short edges.

  1. Carefully using the spade bit, drill two or three small holes next to one another at the short ends of the plank. This could be near the natural edge, or near an edge, you have purposely cut if you decided to cut the plank shorter. 
  2. Do not cut right at the edge, this must be chiseled out by hand.
  3. Try not to damage the subfloor when using this spade bit. A few scrapes or scratches are okay, big holes are not.

This bit cuts a wide hole that makes removing the short ends of the damaged plank easy. See it on Amazon.

This type of saw can cut a clean end through a long plank for piece-meal removal. See it on Amazon.

Removing the cut planks

Now that your damaged plank is cut, it’s time to carefully remove it.

Carefully using a chisel and hammer, chisel the center portion of the wood away from the edges where the long cuts meet the drilled holes, then pry up and lift away the center section.

Using the chisel and hammer again, remove the short ends. Carefully chisel them apart from the long edges, which will be removed last.

Once the center and ends are gone, it’s time to remove the long edges. Insert the pry bar under one end of the wood to be removed, and in small sections, lift a little at a time.

As you lift, the nails/staples, should come up with the wood. If the wood breaks, remove any nails/staples in the subfloor with the claw end of the hammer or the pliers, then continue to remove the wood. Try not to remove the tongue portion of the tongue and groove flooring.

Working With Tongue and groove

So named because it interlocks to keep the floor solid. When you remove the damaged wood, try not to chisel off the tongue of the section that is not being removed. If you do, you will need to add additional nails. See a close-up image of tongue and groove hardwood flooring below.

 

7. Clean the area

  • Remove all loose nails with the magnet.
  • Vacuum all sawdust and debris.
  • Remove the tape.

Man sweeping hardwood floor

8. Measure and cut

”Measure twice, cut once” is the motto of every carpenter. Make a little pencil diagram and mark it with your measurements, double-check to be sure you don’t make a mistake before cutting. In a single plank replacement, the tongue will need to be cut off your replacement piece. In a larger section, only cut the tongue off the piece that will abut the existing floor.

9. Glue and Nail

Once you are confident that your replacement piece fits well, you are ready for the next step!

Scribble a line of wood glue on the subfloor. Put a straight line of glue along both edges of the replacement - along the tongue and groove sides.

Set the groove edge in first, then, place an extra piece of wood on your replacement piece as a buffer, move it as you hammer gently on top of the replacement wood. The wood buffer keeps the wood from splintering at the edges by distributing the force of the hammer, it also protects the wood from hammer marks.

Use gentle taps, and allow the wood to settle only a few millimeters at a time. Pay special attention to the short edges of the wood, they can easily splinter, use the buffer wood.

Once the piece is solidly in place, use a nail gun, and the correct gauge of nails, usually 16 to 18 gauge nails, and nail the edges of your repair every 6 to 8 inches.

10. Sand and Varnish

By now, your floor is almost done! In fact, if you have an engineered floor, you don’t even need this last step. For hardwood, simply sand the wood to level it - if needed - with some 180 grit sanding paper. Then stain and/or varnish to match. Test finishes on extra pieces of wood first!

How do you replace a single plank of Engineered Hardwood?

Luckily, replacing engineered hardwood is almost the same as replacing normal hardwood. The same process is used, only you don’t have to sand or varnish.

In Closing

Now you know exactly how to replace both regular and engineered floor planks. Always use safety equipment, and remember you can rent many tools! Find your replacement wood and always remember the carpenters' motto, “Measure twice, cut once.”

With the right tips and knowledge, replacing a plank in a hardwood floor is a snap, and you’ll find satisfaction every time you look at your floor, as well as your wallet!

See this article on How To Blend Stain On A Hardwood Floor to help you with step 10.

If you want a new look for your old floors, read How To Change Hardwood Floor Color [3 Quick Steps To Follow].