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Credit: Restoration Hardwood

Repairing a hardwood floor means matching the species, grain, width, patina and more

Repairing or adding to existing flooring means getting the best match

The old floor is partly damaged or has to be expanded and you don’t want to spend the money on a brand new one.

What do you do?

We consulted three experts and this is what they told us.

If Your Floor is Solid Hardwood

  • Match the species. Fir and hemlock are popular floor coverings but red oak is Vancouver’s favourite. It’s also the easiest to match because it’s the easiest to find. “I can match floors 95% of the time,” says Murray MacIntyre, owner and president of Restoration Hardwood in Vancouver. “We rarely say pull out an oak floor unless it’s stained.” That’s good news for renovators.
  • Match the grain. How the board was cut at the mill determines the grain pattern. Flat sawn emphasizes swirls while quarter or rift sawn yields straighter grain.
  • Match the width. New boards are two and three quarter inches wide. Old boards are often one and a half inches wide. Custom cutting anyone?
  • Match the length. If the rest of the boards are four feet long you don’t want to interrupt the pattern with overly short or lengthy pieces.
  • Match the patina. Old floors, especially oak, turn darker with age. Professional refinishers can stain the new boards to match the old.
  • Mind the gap. "Floors expand and contract with the seasons," says Hans Schaefer at BC Hardwood. "It’s normal to leave gaps about the thickness of a credit card at the top and bottom of a board. Use wood filler to fill in anything bigger than that."
  • Sand it...or not. Sanding a patched oak floor for consistency is a good idea if the floor is relatively new but it won’t work if it’s five years older or more because of the patina. Best to stain the new boards to match the old.

If Your Floor is Engineered Wood

Engineered floors are like a laminated sandwich consisting of a bottom plate, a plywood middle and a top layer of hardwood one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch thick.

Engineered wood products were introduced in the 1970s and can be found in newer homes and apartments. The current trend is to go with floorboards eight to ten inches wide. Still, use the same checklist as you would for a hardwood floor.

If Your Floor is Laminate

Matching laminate floors is tough, says Kevin Hardiman of Vancouver’s Exclusive Floors because "it’s plastic and the manufacturers often change colour making it difficult to get a perfect match."

Laminate is cheap and easy to install but not very durable. Once it goes, chances are the whole floor will need replacing.

When to DIY

You can probably do it yourself if it’s a small job. A 16-square-foot entryway is doable says Hardiman, but anything larger than that could cause problems.

Best to call in the professionals if you’re re-flooring an entire room. Let the pros bring in the materials, the workers and those heavy floor sanders. Word has it pushing around a drum sander is a major workout.