Replacing Damaged Floorboards

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.



A. This procedure includes guidance on removing damaged floorboards and installing new replacement boards.

B. Replacing a floorboard should only be undertaken as a last resort, e.g., when a board is inadequate or dangerous such as severely warped or buckled boards, deeply nicked or splintered boards, boards with noticeable or irreversible urine stains, boards with holes that cannot be filled, or missing sections of border or inlay.

C. See GSA 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).


A. A wood floor surface can be either a series of connected planks or parquet (small wood pieces arranged in decorative patterns). The wood used is either plain sawn or quarter sawn. Plank flooring, the more common type, is assembled by joining: butt joint, tongue and groove, shiplap, doweled or spline. Wood floors are usually secured to the under structure by countersinking nails, blind-nailing, or screwing and plugging.

B. A wood floor surface in proper condition does not sag, is not inadvertently stained, is free from protruding nails, and is not warped.


A. Storage and Protection:

  1. Every effort must be made to use and reuse materials that are original to the structure. When removed from their rightful place, these materials must be stored under cover inside the building where they cannot be damaged. 
  2.  If many pieces are to be removed, they must be marked inconspicuously in a consistent manner as to their location originally. 
  3.  If salvage material is to be used, treat it as the original material with regards to its storage. 
  4.  If new material must be used, keep it dry during delivery, storage and handling. 
  5. Do not allow materials to be stored in contact with damp surfaces. 


2.01 MANUFACTURERS (The following, or approved equal)

A. Craftsman Lumber Co.


A. Replacement board (to match existing wood type, grain, etc.) from a salvage yard, new lumber yard, or inconspicuous place in building.

NOTE: In buildings where tenant areas were originally finished with wood plank or parquet, the wood is often retained as a sub-floor for carpet. Such concealed areas may be a source of replacement flooring for areas of exposed wood.

B. Wood for shims (no shingles)

C. Wood putty to fill holes

D. Colors-in-oils or residue from stain container to stain putty to match

E. Flooring nails


A. Keyhole saw, circular saw, or mallet and chisel to remove damaged board

B. Drill to make a pilot hole for the keyhole saw

C. Nailset

D. Tools for accurate measurement

E. Carpet scrap or newspaper and pounding block for knocking new piece into place



A. Inspect for wear in the surface such as chips or gouges. If the wear is minimal, holes can be filled and the surface restored.

B. Inspect for the signs of insect infestation such as mold, fungus, bore holes, and sawdust piles. Probe the wood with an ice pick or thin knife blade to determine the existence of rot.


A. Removing a damaged board:


1. If the gap between boards is wide enough, remove the tongue of the damaged board with a chisel and lift board out.


2. Remove board with a saw:

  1. Drill a hole, next to the joist edge, large enough for a keyhole saw to be inserted. DO NOT DRILL THROUGH THE SUBFLOOR.  b. With the saw, make a cut along the width of the board and along the length of the section to be removed.  c. Carefully pry the board out, protecting adjacent wood.  d. If a circular saw is used, set the blade depth to the thickness of the finished floor. Use a carbide flooring blade that will also cut through nails.
    CAUTION: Do not cut all the way across to the edge of adjacent floor boards. A loss of control can do irreparable damage to adjacent boards.
  2. Use a chisel to finish the cut.


3. Remove board with a mallet and chisel:

  1. Cut along the width of the board to the nearest joist on either side of damage with the beveled edge of the chisel facing the damage. Make sure that the joints in floorboards remain staggered.
  2. To free the board from nails, channel cut a wedge from each end holding the chisel at a 30 degree angle with the bevel side down, or drive nails through board with nailset.
  3. Remove the center section down the face of the board. The other pieces should then come out easily.

B. Installing a new board:

  1. Square up the edges of the hole before inserting replacement board.
  2. Measure the new board to fit exactly. If it is tongue and groove, remove the bottom shoulder of the groove. Shim if necessary.
  3.  If no subfloor exists, add blocking to joist below to support new floorboard.
  4. Knock the new board into place protecting the surface with a carpet scrap or newspaper and a pounding block.
  5. Face nail the board to the subfloor or nail board ends into joists or attached nailing blocks.
  6.  Fill the nail holes with wood filler stained to match floor.
    1. Add filler in layers and allow to dry between each layer.
    2. To stain wood filler use either colors-in-oils or the settled pigment from the bottom of a stain container. When staining to match, go darker than the original color rather than lighter.