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Replacing Hardwood Boards

When a hardwood board is so damaged that wood patch won't create a suitable repair, it may be time to replace the board entirely. The most difficult element of this project might be finding a perfect match for your floor. If you don't have spare planks stored somewhere and can't order replacements from the manufacturer or dealer, you may have to create one, which won't be a picnic.

You'll have to check with your local hardwood seller or shop online to find the same width and depth board made of the same wood. Take the damaged board with you to a lumber, home improvement or flooring store and ask for their advice on stains, colors and finishes to get the closest match. Then treat the board before you install it, just in case it doesn't come close. At least you can buy a new unfinished board and try again with other stains and finishes until you get something closer to perfect.

For this project you'll need:

  • An electric drill with a large spade bit
  • A large sharp wood chisel
  • A hammer
  • A nail sink
  • A prybar
  • A rubber mallet
  • A wood block or board
  • Flooring nails
  • Wood flooring adhesive
  • Small wood, plastic or cardboard shims

The following method covers how to remove and replace staggered boards and will produce the most harmonious results. If your boards have been face-nailed (you'll see tiny nail head patches on your board ends), then you'll have to remove the damaged board by using a nail sink and hammer to drive the nails through the wood to the subfloor and lifting the board out with a prybar. Most floors, however, are secured by nails that have been "blind nailed," which means each board is secured to the subfloor with nails that have been driven through the tongue-side, which is then covered by the adjacent board. Removing them will require some drilling and an electric drill is essential to this project. Remember to wear protective goggles.






1. When possible, remove the entire board hosting the damage. If needed, you can opt instead to mark cutting end lines and remove only the damaged section of the board. At either of the board's natural ends or your new cutting end lines, use your drill and a spade bit to gore a series of holes across the entire width of the damaged board. Then do the same at the other end. Use caution as you drill and don't extend into the subfloor. If you made new end markings, carefully cut along your lines by tapping a hammer against a sharp wood chisel.
2. Use a wood chisel and hammer to split the board in half (it may be helpful to start at the area of damage). Be careful not to damage the good adjacent planks as you work your way to the ends.
3. Use a prybar to splinter out the damaged pieces. The spade-hole end pieces can be carefully pulled up using a wood chisel and hammer. Again, take your time and be careful not to make contact with good board ends.
4. Measure the empty space where your old board rested, being as exact as possible. A tight fit is essential for a superior replacement. When cutting the board ends, make sure your saw blade is very sharp of you'll fray the ends. If needed, sand lightly until the end is straight and smooth. Slip into place fitting the groove over the adjacent board's tongue. Ensure the length is just right: buttressed against the ends of the other boards without needing to be forced. Once you know it fits, remove it and apply wood flooring adhesive to the entire underside and to the groove, then reinstall. Secure the groove over the adjacent tongue by tapping a wood block or scrap against the new board with a rubber mallet. Once in place, blind-nail flooring nails through the tongue into the subfloor.

Tip: If this is your only replacement, you'll need to shave off the bottom edge of the new board's groove using a sharp chisel and hammer before setting it in place. Since you can't blind nail the groove of this board, make sure you put floor adhesive across the entire backside and along both the tongue and groove edges. Wipe any excess adhesive from board faces immediately. Face-nail each end and cover holes with matching wood putty.

5. Keep placing boards and blind-nail them securely. If needed, use shims to keep new boards aligned with the adjacent ones.
6. Once you get to your final replacement board, you'll need to remove the bottom groove edge to make it fit. Use a sharp chisel and hammer to carefully shave it off. Install it to make sure it fits perfectly, then remove it. Apply a thin even coat of floor adhesive to the entire backside of the board and along both the tongue and groove edges. Insert the tongue into the adjacent board first, then press the board into place. Immediately wipe off any oozing adhesive from board faces. Finally, face nail each end using 2 or 3 flooring nails or screws, countersinking the heads. Cover heads with matching wood putty.
Hammer Visit our Floors Forum for more help with replacing hardwood boards.