Photo 1: Draw a series of lines to serve as guides for making necessary cuts on the board to be replaced.

Photo 2: Set the depth of the circular saw to equal the thickness of the plank that will be removed.
I recently had some work done on my wood floors, including resanding and refinishing. A few boards needed to be replaced, and the installer who put in the original flooring was going to replace them.

As I watched him prepare to replace a board, I noticed that he was going to put several nails through its face. When I asked him why, he replied, "Because I've been doing it this way for 45 years."

I asked if I could show him an easier way, and he reluctantly agreed. Afterwards, he commented, "I wish I had known that years ago."

The moral to the story is you can teach an old installer new tricks.

One of the great things about wood flooring -- with factory-finished wood flooring, in particular -- is that, in the event a board gets damaged, it usually can be replaced by using a few simple techniques. The methods employed to remove and replace a piece of wood flooring are similar whether you're replacing a 1/2-inch solid board, an engineered board, or a floating plank.

Tools required

In most cases, all that's needed to perform the board replacement are a circular saw (set to the proper depth), blue tape to separate the board from surrounding boards and avoid further damage, a sharp chisel, a block plane or table saw to create a back bevel on the board, a miter saw to cut the board to the proper length, safety glasses, and a fast-set wood epoxy or manufacturer-approved flooring adhesive. For floating longstrip floors, a router equipped with a special grooving bit and splines is usually needed to complete the repair.

Photo 3: Making cuts in the damaged board.

Removal of an existing board

Step 1.Select a plank for size and color that blends with the installed floor. If possible, allow the customer to choose the new board.

Step 2. Confirm with the customer the areas to be replaced and prepare the area to minimize the amount of dust generated. Review the replacement procedures with the homeowner and prepare the site by draping plastic over doorways and covering furniture. Have a vacuum handy to minimize the amount of wood dust dispersed into the air. The last thing you want is to pay a cleaning service to clean the entire house.

Step 3. To protect the edges of the surrounding boards and to avoid further damage, place blue tape on the outer edges of the planks surrounding the board to be replaced. I've found that 3M Scotch Safe Release 2080 Blue Mask Tape works quite well for this purpose.

Photo 4: Once the damaged board has been removed from the floor, clean all debris from space it formerly occupied.
Step 4. On the plank to be replaced, draw two parallel lines running the length of the plank, approximately 1 inch from the edge. Then draw a diagonal line that intersects the parallel lines. Set the depth of the circular saw to the depth of the plank and cut along the parallel lines. After cutting the two parallel lines, cut the diagonal line. (Note: a second diagonal line can be drawn and cut to help ease removal of the plank.)

Note: To protect the edges of the surrounding planks, do not cut any closer than 1/4 inch from the perimeter of the plank. Inspect the bottom plate of the saw for sharp burs or edges that may scratch or damage surrounding planks. As an added precaution, apply tape on the base plate of the circular saw to prevent scratching the finish of adjacent boards.

Photo 5: Dry fit the replacement board before permanently securing into place.
Step 5. Using a hammer and chisel, begin removing the cut pieces from the center, working out towards the edges, being careful not to damage surrounding boards' tongues and grooves. Working toward the edge of the board, use the hammer and chisel to finish cutting the parallel saw cuts to the edge of the plank. This will help you to remove the pieces without damaging the adjacent board's edges.

Step 6. Once the board is completely removed, clean out the area. Make sure the tongues and grooves of surrounding planks are free of debris. If the board was stapled or nailed, remove any remaining nails/staples from the subfloor. If adhesive was used in the original installation, remove all remaining adhesive.

Step 7. Prepare the new, replacement board. If necessary, cut the board's length from the tongue end. Once you have the proper length, remove the bottom portion of the groove on both the length and end. For the best and safest results, perform this task with a table saw. To help ensure a proper fit and avoid risk of damage to existing planks, use a table saw or small wood block plane to create a back bevel angled at 22.5 to 30 degrees on the underside of the groove (lengthwise).

If you need to adjust the length of a beveled-edge board, you can recreate the bevel using a sanding block with 80-grit sandpaper. Sand the edge at a 45-degree angle and touch up with a stain and finish that blends with the floor.

Photo 6: If the plank was previously nailed/stapled down, apply a wood epoxy to glue the plank to the surrounding planks.

Installing the replacement board

Step 8. Once you have properly prepared the plank and the subfloor, the replacement board is ready to be dry fitted into place. Confirm that the plank is the right length and lightly tap into place. If the plank fits tightly, carefully adjust the size with a sanding block or block plane. Once you have achieved a proper fit, remove the blue tape from the surrounding planks.

Step 9. If the plank was previously glued down, "butter" the back of the replacement board with the proper adhesive and set it into place. It may be necessary to place a weight on top of the plank so that it fits flush with adjacent boards. The weight also prevents the replacement plank from popping up before the adhesive has set and dried.

If the plank was previously nailed/stapled down, use a wood epoxy to glue the plank to the surrounding planks. Apply a continuous bead of epoxy inside the groove and along the top edge of the perimeter planks' tongues, then apply epoxy to the bottom side of the groove and tongue of the replacement plank. Place a small amount of epoxy on the subfloor at each end. Lay the board into place and lightly tap, allowing the plank to fit flush with the surrounding floor.

Step 10. Clean any adhesive residue from the surface of the floor with the proper adhesive remover.