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11 Common Wood Floor Damage Types and Causes


The floors are the first thing anyone will notice the moment they walk into your house and is the first point of contact anyone makes with your home. It is also the part of the house that takes the most abuse and wear and tear from daily activities. Its design and condition can ultimately dictate not only the aesthetics of the home but also its functionality.

A mainstay in design trends, wood is one of the most popular choices for flooring — and for good reason. They are timeless, elegant, and visually pleasing. Wood, however, is a natural material and is susceptible to the elements. They have their own quirks and maintenance requirements. It’s important to understand what they need so you can protect them from damage.

Whether you are planning on refinishing the old wood floor or installing new ones, you must know the common issues so you can avoid them.

1.Sun Fading

Moisture and temperature are known for causing floor damage, but there is one other that can cause the same amount of damage over time — sunlight. Photosensitivity is the reaction of a material to light, and hardwood floors have a particular sensitivity to ultraviolet exposure. Abnormal and uneven discolouration is the primary effect of sunlight exposure. Wood can change to a darker or lighter colour depending on the type of light they are exposed to. Also, some wood species can be more photosensitive than others.

To avoid this, you must consult with design experts about the wood species and ask how their colour will change in the future. You can also base your choice of hardwood depending on the amount of light in the room. A room that receives large amounts of sunlight must use less photosensitive wood.

2.Wear and Tear

All materials wane over time. Wear and tear is one of the most common issues that wood floors face. Upon installation, wood floors have a protective finish to withstand the constant battering of feet, pet scratches, the weight of furniture, and other activities. However, the finish will eventually wear off and your wood floor will show signs of abuse caused by either high traffic or subpar finishing techniques, such as scratches, bumps, and dents.

Wear and tear are an inevitable part of the cycle. You can use protective pads under furniture or leave your shoes at the door to lengthen your floor’s lifespan. Wood also requires regular maintenance and recoating to maintain its signature sheen and colour.


Accidental spills can lead to discouloration

While the coat and finish can provide wood floors with a fair amount of stain resistance, it is not at all invincible. Spills and accidents that are left unmanaged for too long will leave a mark.

Surface stains or stains on a floor finish can easily be removed with a floor cleaner, but stains in the actual finish need to be sanded out. The most difficult hardwood floor stains to fix are those that soak through the finish and into the wood fibres. Pet urine and water have this tendency. In this case, it is usually recommended to replace the deeply stained floorboards.

4.Finish Peeling

Any dirt or chemical on top of the floor or in its finish can cause the wood floor finishes to peel off. Floors need to be properly prepped and cleaned before a finish can be applied. Excessive sanding will make the surface extremely smooth for the finish to adhere. Insufficient cleaning between coats, applying a coat over a wet floor, or using incompatible finishes can all contribute to peeling.

To fix a peeling floor, it is best to sand it down to bare wood and restart the finishing process.

5.Abnormal Gaps

Gaps are natural between boards, but abnormally wide gaps should be a concern. Uneven gaps do take away from the overall look of the floor. However, gaps are not only an aesthetic issue, it can also be a sign of an installation problem.

Wood floors are sensitive to movement and when gaps are big and irregular, it may mean that they have not been properly placed. Wood also reacts to humidity. It expands when there are high levels of moisture in the air and contracts when it is dry. As a result, gaps may appear larger during some seasons than others. If the boards were excessively wet during installation, gaps will be larger once they dry.


When the wood flooring becomes too moist, it expands. A floor that hasn’t been acclimated properly or has been exposed to huge amounts of moisture will eventually crash into each other and lift off the subfloor, hence, the buckling. In most cases, moisture is the culprit for buckling, such as a damp basement or flooding, but the problem can also be a result of improper fastening and installation. For example, if the boards were installed too close together, they won’t have any room for expansion during humid weather.


Moisture is the most common cause of wood floor cupping

Cupping is a common sign of water damage. The centre of the board sinks lower than its edges. It commonly occurs when the flooring is installed over a wet subfloor, but it can also be caused by high levels of humidity.

Some cupped floors may once again flatten out once moisture issues are resolved. However, some floors might be deformed permanently. If this happens, the floor has to be sanded.

8.Debris in the Finish

The wood finish can enhance the good features of the wood, but it can also highlight the bad. Debris on the floor surface or in the finish, like dust or hair, can be magnified once the floor finish dries. To prevent the debris from ever ruining the finish, you must clean all room surfaces thoroughly before application. If the debris is in the finish, it has to be sanded before applying a new coat of finish.

While this problem is more of a cosmetic issue, no homeowner wants even the slightest distraction from an otherwise stunning and substantial investment.

9.Sanding Blemishes

The process of floor sanding can also create unsightly effects if done incorrectly. Worn sanding pads or abrasive screens can all introduce blemishes into the floorboards, which can then be magnified after subsequent coats of finish. Similar to the finish debris, this may only be a cosmetic issue but one that has to be corrected as soon as possible. Imperfections like this can be removed by sanding past the blemished layer then refinishing it.


Cracks and fractures are the last things you want to see from your board. Most of the time, it can happen during installation when heavy pressure was put into nailing the board. In some cases, it can also be the manufacturer’s fault. Some wood species are more at risk of cracking. If the wood were dried too quickly in the kiln, it can crack. Fortunately, cracks can often be fixed with a wood filler, coloured marker, and a bottle of finish.


Distorted or warped floors are usually the result of sloppy sanding or heavy wear in the springwood. Springwoods are the part of the tree that grew quickly in the season, giving it the least dense cell structure of all the parts of the tree. Because of it, this wood tends to be softer and less durable than the “late woods.” When subjected to heavy foot traffic, furniture, or pets, it can, thus, easily misshapen.

Other than that, low-quality abrasives and poor sanding techniques can also result in irregular floorboards. Damaged sanding belts, for instance, can leave chatter marks on the floor that can look wavy across each board. Fortunately, these can be fixed with a quality drum sander and a floor refinishing.

Most wood flooring issues are avoidable with proper acclimation, installation, finishing, and maintenance, except in extreme cases where the original boards have to be replaced. When it comes to wood floor repair and maintaining a good-looking wood floor, properly sanding the floorboards is a must.

If you are looking for ways on how to fix hardwood floor damage or to get a quality supply of hardwood floors, contact Capital Hardwood Flooring. With over 20 years of experience, we have provided full-service solutions and expert advice to clients throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Get in touch with us now via our hotline: (416) 536-2200 or email: [email protected].

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