Repairing Scratches, Gouges And Dents In Wood Wall Ornament

Technical Procedures Disclaimer

Prior to inclusion in GSA’s library of procedures, documents are reviewed by one or more qualified preservation specialists for general consistency with the Secretary of Interior Standards for rehabilitating historic buildings as understood at the time the procedure is added to the library. All specifications require project-specific editing and professional judgement regarding the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers are to serve as a general guideline and do not constitute a federal endorsement or determination that a product or method is the best or most current alternative, remains available, or is compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards. The library of procedures is intended to serve as a resource, not a substitute, for specification development by a qualified preservation professional.


We’ve reviewed these procedures for general consistency with federal standards for rehabilitating historic buildings and provide them only as a reference. Specifications should only be applied under the guidance of a qualified preservation professional who can assess the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers serve as general guidelines and do not constitute a federal endorsement nor a determination that a product or method is the best alternative or compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards.



  1. This procedure includes guidance on repairing scratches, gouges and dents in wood by sanding and filling with putty as required.
  2. Scratches, gouges and dents in wood wall ornament are usually the result of an abrasive object coming into contact with the surface of the wood member in question. This type of damage is usually avoidable if care is taken around wood surfaces.
  3. See 01100-07-S for general project guidelines to be reviewed along with this procedure. These guidelines cover the following sections:
    1. Safety Precautions
    2. Historic Structures Precautions
    3. Submittals
    4. Quality Assurance
    5. Delivery, Storage and Handling
    6. Project/Site Conditions
    7. Sequencing and Scheduling
    8. General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)

These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing this procedure and should be followed, when applicable, along with recommendations from the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO).


  1. Interior wood wall ornament may include crown moulding, picture rail, chair rail, wainscotting, base, and casing.
  2. For the purpose of this procedure, repair of interior wall ornament may also pertain to interior wood wall covering and trim; ceiling covering, trim, and ornament; door trim; window trim; ornamental columns and posts; and built-in cabinets and bookcases.
  3. Scratches are slight marks produced by rubbing, scraping or tearing with something sharp or rough. Gouges are blunt grooves or holes and are generally deeper than scratches. Dents are depressions or hollows made by a blow or by pressure.



  1. Sandpaper
  2. Wood stain
  3. Linseed oil putty
  4. Wood filler (there are four basic types):
    1. Water-mix Wood Putty: Easy to tint and fairly resilient, but has poor moisture resistance.
    2. Solvent-based Wood Filler: Not tintable, but has many color choices. A solvent is needed to clean any excess or spills. It is difficult to sand, but has good adhesion and moisture resistance. It also has a problem with shrinkage.
    3. Acrylic Latex Wood Filler: Better than water-based in adhesion, moisture resistance, and flexibility. Apply the filler in layers to avoid shrinkage.
    4. Two-part Polyester Filler: Similar to auto body filler. It has excellent adherence and moisture resistance with minimal shrinkage. It stains easily, but is time consuming to prepare.


  1. Putty knife to apply filler
  2. Any mixing tools required for filler.
  3. Steam iron and moist cloth



  1. Inspect for paint that is worn, chipped, peeling, blistered, or flaking. If any of these conditions exist there may be moisture entering the feature. Check for possible sources of this moisture and correct as necessary.
  2. Inspect for the signs of decay and/or insect infestation and make repairs as necessary.


  1. Carefully hand rub scratches and minor surface imperfections with a fine grit sandpaper. Match patina of unscratched wood by selective staining. Do not remove more than 1/16" thickness of the material. Maintain levelness of surface over entire width or length of wood piece.
  2. Small gouges and nail holes can be filled using linseed oil putty. Stain the putty to match using the sediment from the bottom of the stain can, or use universal tints.
  3. For large holes, use a sandable filler. Stain to match as above (if needed).
  4. Lift dents with steam iron and moistened cloth. Moisture will raise the grain of the wood surface and it will have to be sanded smooth and refinished.
  5. Touch-up resurfaced area during finishing so that color and other appearance characteristics match the finish of adjacent woodwork.