Because people will naturally take the quickest route from one room to another, wood floors remain pristine in corners while taking abuse in the heavily traveled areas.
Sometimes you will have to replace floorboards, but as most hardwood flooring is interlocked with tongue-and-groove joints, you can’t pry up just one or two boards without damaging others. When you do install a piece of new flooring, lightly sand it along the grain, and then match the surrounding finish by applying stain in light coats. Obviously, it also helps if you use a replacement board with a grain pattern that blends in—not a clear board in a grainy section or a boldly streaked board in a nearly clear section of the floor.
Dents & Cracks
If the damage is in one spot, such as a deep dent that can’t be erased with surface sanding, a plug offers the easiest solution. Select a drill bit with a diameter slightly larger than the damaged spot; then, drill until you hit undamaged wood. Insert a plug as described at right.
You can fill deep cracks and splits in hardwood floors with wood fillers. Some fillers may be stronger than the wood itself—dense mixtures that resist scratches but also don’t take wood stain. A few may leave a yellowish streak even more noticeable than the original crack, however. To prevent this, test the filler to see how it accepts stain, or opt for a softer, more porous, powdered filler that can be sanded, stained, and sealed like natural wood.
If you have an area that has been stained by a pet, you can remove both the stain and odor with wood bleach or household bleach after sanding the area down to bare wood. Soak the sanded area with full-strength bleach, let the wood dry, sand again, and soak the wood a second time. Because bleach kills odors but also lightens the wood, stain the patch before resealing the surface. Apply several coats of polyurethane to seal any odors in the wood, and blend the surface with coats of wax.