Board Replacement: Good as New

One of the advantages of wood as a flooring option is that it can be renewed to look new again. There are times, however, when this can be a challenge. One example is when there is a single board, or several, that cannot be touched up or repaired. In these cases, the damaged boards must be replaced. This article will focus on nail down or glue down board replacements. Floating floor board replacements will be covered in a future issue.

Board replacement is a valuable service you can provide for your customers. It
is a specialized skill that will increase your marketability.

The most important consideration for board replacements is locating a replacement piece of flooring. It must be the same species, width, length, thickness, profile, color, finish and cut as the original flooring material. For factory finished or engineered flooring, make sure to identify and locate replacement material prior to cutting into the floor.

Once the material is secured, you must ensure the replacement product has been properly acclimated to the environment. The acclimation process will vary depending on the product and the job site.

As part of the acclimation process, take moisture readings of the existing flooring and the new flooring. These two readings should be no more than 2 percent different from each other.

Before you make any cuts, make sure that you are aware of radiant heat systems that may be installed below the flooring. For easy identification, you can tape off the board that is to be replaced. To protect the unaffected flooring, apply 3-6 runs of tape along the edges of the base plate of the circular saw and set the depth to the thickness of the flooring.

The first cut you make should be parallel with the length of the board about 1/2” from the edge, end to end.

Your second cut should be about 1/2” from the edge on the opposite side of the board.
The third cut you make should be across the center of the board at an angle. To make extraction of the material easier, make a fourth angled cut that is parallel to the third cut. You should have split the ends of the two parallel cuts where the circular blade left uncut material.

You should be able to remove the center piece of the cut board easily. Use a sharp wood chisel to remove any remaining pieces of board, being careful not to damage any adjoining boards.

Remove any remaining fasteners and adhesive from the subfloor. When possible, try to leave the original underlayment material intact. If removal is necessary, replace it with a similar material to maintain the vapor retarding membrane. Clean all debris from the replacement area.

Measure the replacement area and cut the replacement flooring to length, removing the tongue on the butt-end of the board. Cut off the bottom groove side of the replacement board on the butt-end, as well as along the run of the board.

You may need to chamfer, or back-bevel, the underside of the board where the groove was removed to allow the piece to fit into the opening without damaging adjoining boards or adjust the thickness of the board with factory finished or previously sanded floors. Dry-fit the piece and make adjustments as necessary.

Apply a quick-setting adhesive, such as epoxy or carpenter’s wood glue, to the tongues of the adjoining boards. For glue down floors, replace the glue on the subfloor as was previously existing, same trowel notch and spread rate. Carefully insert the new board into place, using a wood block and mallet if necessary. Clean the entire area surrounding the repaired board and ensure the repair is complete.

Board replacement is a valuable service that is especially desirable when working on historical floors. Whether the board replacement is happening on a nailed floor, a glued floor, or a floated floor, the process may be similar and will be a specialized skill that will enhance your business.

You can learn more about board replacement techniques from the NWFA’s
Installation Guidelines, by attending NWFA training events, and by engaging with NWFA University. For more information, contact the NWFA at 800-422-4556 or visit NWFA.org.

Jason Elquest is owner of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Blackhawk Floors Inc. and is an NWFA Regional Instructor. He can be reached at jason@blackhawkfloors.com.

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