Hardwood Flooring Repair: Fixing a Big Gap

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Have you ever read the children’s book, The Little Engine That Could?

The Little Engine that Could book and how it inspired me to do hardwood flooring repair

It is about a broken down train that tries to get help so it can get its passenger’s to their destination on time. No other train going by can help them because they all have some excuse or reason why they can’t help, until a happy little blue engine comes by and says…

…”We’ll I am little, but… I think I can”. As the little engine powers up to see if he can pull the train, he keeps repeating to himself… “I think I Can…I think I Can… I Think I Can….”

I guess you may be wondering why I am mentioning a children’s book in a post about how I fixed a big gap in the hardwood flooring in my house? Right?

How to remove a wall and repair the gap left in hardwood flooring

My answer:  The story reminds me of what I finished DIY’ing last week that was still left for me to do after we removed the wall in our home between the kitchen and living room.

hardwood flooring repair

After the wall was removed, it left a long open gap of exposed subfloor. Many people… our realtor, neighbors, friends, and family asked how we were going to deal with it. Most figured we would have to get new flooring or would not be able to find a match in flooring…

…but in the back of my mind I kept saying to myself…“I think I can… I think I can…” patch the floor in a way that would look nice so we would not have the expense of having to install new flooring in the living room and kitchen. We do plan to refinish the floor someday in a darker color, but not get all new flooring.

I know many of you may not have a flooring gap to patch, but what I hope for is that this post inspires you to do… is BELIEVE that you can improve your home, decorate in a manner that makes you happy, or accomplish just about anything that needs doing, even when the naysayers say it can’t be done. That along with a little determination, persistence and resourcefulness will get you the results you are after.

How to Fix a Gap In Hardwood Flooring

wood used to fix a hardwood floor

It took a few months for me to find just the right wood that would fit into the gap in the floor that was left after the removal of the wall, match the color and then seal it with the same sheen as the existing flooring.

I started my search for the right wood at flooring stores, but nothing matched in color or in thickness. What I found was either too thin or thick. After more searching, I finally found the wood that would work at The Home Depot, not in the flooring section, but in the lumber aisle. It was unfinished precut lengths of oak that were the right thickness and had a similar grain as the existing floor.

wood used to repair a hardwood floor

It was sold in 3 foot sections that I thought I would use vertically on the floor, but when I got it home, I realized placing it into the floor in smaller horizontal pieces would be easier and still follow the design of the existing flooring.

How to create an open concept living and dining area in a house

I measured and cut each piece to fit into the gap and then used Liquid Nails under each piece to secure it into place. I then sanded the areas with an electric sander and 60 grit sandpaper that were not flush with the floor.

Once that was done it sat like this (above photo) for a few weeks waiting until I found just the right combination of stain, paint, and poly that would match up with the existing floor finish.

repairing a wood floor

I knew matching the stain color and polyurethane finish was going to be a challenge. I tried just using poly, but it was too light in color. Next I tried a few different colors of stain, all were too dark or red.  Pecan stain was the closest match and I applied it over the new pieces of wood, but it was still too light.

supplies need to fix a damaged hardwood floor

It wasn’t until I started to think out-of-the-box to get the color just right. I went to my crafts cabinet and grabbed yellow ochre craft paint along with some magic markers and worked on the floor until I got the right color combination.

How to fix a hardwood floor

What worked was a watered down coat of yellow ochre artist pigment crafts paint. As I applied it, I knew I had found the match. I added it along with a wipe down of Pecan stain.

How to repair hardwood floors

There were still a few small gaps along a few edges. I used wood filler in these areas.

How to repair a hardwood floor

and wiped away the excess.  When it was dry, I used a gold and brown magic marker to color the wood filler.

After it was dried, I applied 3 coats of polyurethane and let it dry.

Patching damaged hardwood floors

Here is the AFTER

It may not be perfect, but it is pretty close.

How to repair hardwood flooring

“I thought I could…I thought I could… I thought I could…” :-)

If you have a project that seems challenging and you are hesitating to start it. Try a little positive thinking….it may just get you exactly what you are after.

If you have a hardwood floor that is in need of repair or has a big gap after the removal of a wall, check out what I DIY'ed to repair the floor. Hardwood floor repair.

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45 Comments

  1. It looks ok… But you should have matched the direction of the wood grain. It would have been easier and look twice as good

  2. That is literally the worst wood floor repair job I’ve seen in 18 years as a builder. Congrats on trying this yourself(I know that was part of the point) but I would be fired at best if I did that in someone’s house and rightly so. It looks like the adjoining rooms have a very nice herringbone design.

    1. Hi Mike –

      I realize my work isn’t on par with that of the professionals, but seeing what I’ve done makes me feel good every time I walk into the space. (I focus on the accomplishment rather than the small imperfections and saving money.) I am not selling flooring patch/fix services as you must do, just sharing what works for me.

  3. Hello,

    I am in need of fixing some large gaps of flooring where walls once were. I am confident we can do this on our own vs. paying someone an absurd amount of money! We have the matching hardwood floor pieces that we need, however the subfloor isn’t quite high enough to get it even with the current hardwood. Any suggestions on what we can use to raise it up before placing the boards in?

    Thank you,
    Jessica

    1. Hi Jessica – I was just answering comments and yours popped up. I would try using very thin wood, like Balsa wood that you can buy at the craft store. It is used to make model planes and more. It is very thin, but strong and can be cut with a sharp craft knife. Cut a few pieces to size and then layer on top of each other until you achieve the right height. You could also try a firm piece of cardboard. Some are very dense and would work. I would even mix the layers using both balsa wood sheets and stiff cardboard to get the exact height you need.

  4. Well done. really you have shared very interesting points in this blog. I am glad to say that the above posts are really fantastic. Good job. Keep up. Thank you so much. Jenny

  5. Diane! I don’t know how I missed this post the first time around but it is saving me!

    We are tearing out the peninsula in our kitchen and the cabinets were installed on top of the floor but the little strip of drywall/half-wall obviously was not, and my husband and I have been brainstorming how to fix that problem without tearing out a perfectly lovely hardwood floor.

    You are always such an inspiration and I LOVE your “can do” attitude. You are truly the little decorator who could!

    1. Hi Danielle – Thanks for the nice compliment. I do enjoy a challenge. Having to rip out the existing flooring that spans two rooms just seemed ridiculous and so unnecessary. I had to search for just the right wood, but once I had it, it all came together. It has been over a year now and you can hardly notice the gap at all. Thanks for reading my blog.

  6. Flawless! I seriously would have never noticed it If you hadn’t pointed it out in a photo . Thanks for the great tips.

  7. You did a great job! If you hadn’t pointed it out in a photo I seriously would have never noticed it. Thanks for sharing the tips!

  8. Great job, Diane! Plus you’ve inspired me on how to fix the gouge in our hardwood floor that was discovered when tearing up the carpet. I ended up covering it with a rug, but now I feel confident in patching it;

  9. Awesomeee… Just speechless… It look so beautiful.. Really everyone’s dream house… Floor look so shiny..

  10. You are so very talented! I’m sure you feel so satisfied with this great accomplishment!

  11. It looks great. I had a similar issue when I was refinishing my dresser last week. The natural wood was too red, so I stained it grey. Then that was too much so I lightly sanded that down to bring out some of the original color and then washed it down with watered down white craft paint. It looks great now :). Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Congratulations! I know for me, money is a big motivator to think outside the box. You accomplished this in such an amazing way. Love the results!

  13. You are so talented. You have the courage to try almost anything. You are truly an inspiration.

  14. Creative lateral thinking at its best. Very professional, finished work with a great eye for detail. Love your style and sensibility.

  15. you two really are miracle workers and a great inspiration to us mere DIYers :) Congratualtions of a great job looks like part of the original design

  16. Speaking of my not-so-great projects, do you think I could start a blog about all my gone-way-wrong projects? Hmm. I’ll have to think about this.

  17. Thanks for sharing, it turned out great! You always do a great job with your projects… I have a basement full of not so great projects, but isn’t it super when it does come together!! Keep up the good work!

  18. I guess they didn’t run the hardwood into the closets , where you could’ve stolen a replacement piece from. You sure match the color well. Removing that wall really is a game changer too. Another A+ for you.

  19. Yay you! Great job on filling that space in! Just goes to show you, “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Don’t you just LOVE it when you take on a challenge and WIN! It looks perfect and it will also serve as a testament to how much you already love your new home. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

  20. That is just amazing! Finding the matching stain and finish coats can be extremely challenging, and you hit this one out of the park!

  21. I think you did, I think you did….. a great job! Lol. great work! I have a daughter who thinks along the same lines as you. I think she gets it from her dad and her mom!

  22. So impressed! I love Sharpies so much that I think they’d make my top 10 list of things to take to a deserted island! I would have a hard time thinking of using them on flooring though so thanks for the great example of thinking outside the box.

  23. Awesome job!! Love how you blended with sharpies too—a real keen sense of shades you have. And your back in my inbox too!! Thanks Diane!!

  24. Wowza!!!!!! I think this is the most impressive project I’ve seen!!! It looks awesome!

  25. Wow, that is a spectacular DIY solution to your problem! Way to go! You’re right in believe “I think I can”… positive thinking does so much to move us forward in life, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing. :-)