How to Troubleshoot Splits in a Wood Floor

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Splits throughout a wood floor surface can indicate a number of floor problems, from old homes setting to bad floorboard installation. Before repairing the splits it's important for you to determine and correct the causes. Once you've dealt with the cause, you can repair the damage with confidence that it won't return, leaving your floors trouble-free for years to come.

Things You'll Need

  • Prybar
  • Circular saw
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Concrete grinder or floor sander
  • Self-leveling compound
  • Wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • Inspect the floor closely, examining each split to determine if they have a common pattern to them. As you examine the floor, walk over the total surface and listen for any creaking of the floorboards. Check the level of the floor as well, noting any peaks or depressions.

  • Remove any peaks in the floorboards. A peak is a rise in the floor's surface where two floorboards meet and is often caused by there not being enough room for the floorboards installed. To remove a peaked area find the wall nearest the peak and remove the floorboards that are laid against the wall. Use the prybar to carefully remove the trim or baseboards on the wall, then pry up the line of boards against the wall. Cut the boards lengthwise using a circular saw so that there is a ¼ inch gap between the boards and the wall. Replace the boards, nailing them securely into place, and then replace the trim and baseboards. Put a weighted object on the peak to aid it in returning to a level placement.

  • Level the subfloor below creaking boards. The boards often creak when the subfloor they've been placed on is uneven and can split at these areas. To level the subfloor, remove the boards and then grind down high areas of the subfloor or fill in depressions using a self-leveling compound. Allow the compound to dry and then replace the floor boards.

  • Check the floor finish. If the finish has been allowed to wear down completely then the floor is no longer protected against the elements and can split in multiple areas due to moisture or expansion and contraction during weather cycles. Refinishing the floor after repairing the splits can keep this from recurring.

  • Replace the subfloor so that it sits on a diagonal angle to the floorboards. If the boards were laid on top of the subfloor crossing the joints in the subfloor panels, either horizontally or vertically, the floorboards can split and crack along those subfloor joint lines. To repair the problem, remove the wood floor planks and replace the subfloor panels, so that the floorboards will lie diagonally over the subfloor. When the subfloor panels have been replaced, place the wood floor planks back into place.

  • Once the origin of the splits has been corrected, you can repair the splits in the wood using angled nails to bind the wood back together, followed by a light layer of wood putty the same color of the wood applied with a putty knife to conceal the split. Refinish the floor for the best visual look and to protect the floor's surface from damage.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear a face mask when grinding or leveling the subfloor as breathing in the dust can be hazardous to your health.

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