Everyone seems to be using engineered hardwood floors these days instead of solid wood floors. Unfortunately, people generally believe that engineered wood is immune to humidity and weather changes. This is far from the truth, as most engineered wood floors do get gaps, though the gaps may be slightly smaller than regular wood floors.
You can fix gaps in engineered hardwood floors and should do so as soon as you notice them. Depending on the kind of installation you’ve used, you can make use of floor gap fixers, wood fillers, and putty. Another option is to maintain the humidity level of your home throughout the year.
This article will look at the main difference between engineered and solid hardwood floors to understand its nature better. We will also look at the different reasons gaps may form between the floorboards and how you can fix them efficiently without replacing them completely.
What is Engineered Hardwood Floor?
Many people assume that engineered hardwood is extremely different from normal hardwood. The truth is that both have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to flooring.
The main difference is that solid hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished more times than an engineered hardwood floor, as it is much thicker than the latter. Engineered hardwood flooring is on the thinner side and is a more economical option that people often opt for.
However, some people opt for engineered hardwood floors with the belief that these floors are immune to humidity and weather changes. This may come as a huge disappointment to those who think so, but engineered hardwood floors are still made out of regular wood and will warp during climate changes.
The only difference is that since it has a plywood core, the gapping that occurs will be slightly reduced compared to solid wood floors. This does not mean that the gapping is completely eliminated.
Hence, fixing the gaps in an engineered hardwood floor isn’t going to be much different than that of solid wood floors. There are many products you can use during this process, depending on how big the gaps are and what kind of installation you’ve used, such as planking, nailing, or gluing.
Why Does Hardwood Floor Gapping Occur?
Engineered wood flooring is often referred to as dimensionally stable as the layers of wood are cut in such a way to make sure the overall expansion or contraction of the wood is minimal when compared to traditional flooring. However, gapping can occur due to other reasons as well. Knowing why your floorboards have gaps will help you fix the gaps more efficiently.
Due to Humidity
This is the most common reason and can cause minimal gapping in your floorboards no matter where you live. Additionally, if you notice excessive gapping, it could be because the wood may not have been acclimated before the initial installing of the flooring, which is a common mistake inexperienced installers make. This, in turn, will cause the wood to warp more than other engineered hardwood floorboards.
Due to Errors in Installation
Sometimes, the gaps in floorboards can result due to improper installation. As mentioned earlier, engineered hardwood floors are either nailed down, glued down, or floated. These floors aren’t nailed down or glued but are arranged so that they fit together perfectly.
No matter what method you’re using to install the floors, if they aren’t installed properly initially, there’s a high chance that you’ll never be able to fix them later on properly.
For example, when installing floorboards that need to be glued down, they need to be properly arranged before the adhesive sets. Attempting to fix any gaps by moving the floorboards after the glue has dried will not work out well, as the glue has a memory, which will make the boards shift back to its initial position sooner or later.
While floating floors are much simpler to install, they can also cause major gaps in the future if they haven’t been cut in the right size. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that all the boards fit perfectly together like a puzzle, which will drastically reduce the size of the gaps in the future.
Additionally, not acclimating the flooring before installation can completely ruin your flooring in a few months, as the boards will react more to humidity that acclimated floorboards. This process must be done by laying out the wooden floorboards for several days in the room.
It is going to be installed to allow it to get adjusted to the humidity and temperature in the room. By doing so, you reduce the amount of wood movement you’ll have to face once it’s been installed.
Should You Fix Gaps in Engineered Hardwood Floors?
People often worry that altering or changing anything in their engineered wood floors can ruin the floor as it isn’t made of solid wood. This is true only in sanding, as the floorboards are comparatively thinner than solid wood floors. But filling gaps is not the same as sanding, so you needn’t worry about anything adversely affecting the floorboards.
You should fix the gaps as soon as you notice them, as that will reduce the chance of greater movement in the future. However, this decision also depends on how big the gaps are.
If the gaps are extremely minimal and have occurred during winter, there’s a high chance that it will be back to normal in a few months. But if the gaps are quite big and are being a nuisance to your daily life, then you can consider filling them up immediately.
How to Fix the Hardwood Floor Gaps
There are 4 different methods and products you can use when filling gaps, depending on the gaps’ size and the reason for their occurrence. Based on your situation, you can choose the right product that will work best for your floor. Here’s a list of ways you can fix gaps in your engineered hardwood floors.
Use a Wood Filler
Wood fillers can come in the form of a paste or a powder. These fillers are used to fill gaps and voids in wooden furniture and floors. However, if the gaps in your floorboards are excessively large, this may not be the best option for you. But if they resemble regular gaps that occur during floorboards’ contraction, you can go ahead and use this to fill it.
Elmer’s Products Carpenter’s Wood Filler is one such filler that is pretty popular among homeowners on Amazon. This filler is quite versatile, as it is strong enough to be sanded after it has dried and can also be painted over or stained to match the color of the wood. Additionally, it is resistant to shrinking or cracking.
This particular filler turns pine yellow once it has dried, though other fillers might vary in color. I also recommend giving the video found in the product description a watch as you’ll understand what the product looks like and how it works better.
How to Use
- The first and foremost step is to thoroughly clean the area before you apply anything to it. Make sure there is no debris or dirt in the gaps you are going to fill.
- Next, using a putty knife or anything that does the job, apply a liberal quantity to the gaps.
- Once you’ve filled the gaps perfectly, you can allow it to set and then sand the area to remove the excess amount of filler, or you can use a wet paper towel and wipe off the excess before it has dried completely.
- Allow the filler to set until it is completely dry, and then you can stain it or paint it accordingly.
Remember that sometimes you may need to apply a second coat of the filler if the first coat isn’t perfect. This is completely normal and won’t make any big difference, as long as you get a smooth finish that resembles the floor.
Use a Powdered Wood Filler
Powdered wood fillers are a little different than regular fillers, as these are composite materials made entirely of wood fiber and flour. These are a little stronger than normal fillers and can be used for bigger gaps as well.
Woodwise Powdered Wood Filler is one such product that is composed of wood from pine, maple, and ash. It can be used to fill gaps, holes, and broken edges of furniture. Additionally, they can be sanded and stained to blend in with the wooden floorboards seamlessly.
I highly recommend going through the customer reviews on Amazon as most buyers have used the product on their wooden floors and have found it satisfactory.
How to Use
- Mix the powder with water until you get a smooth consistency in the form of a paste.
- Clean the floorboards and remove any dust or debris from between the floorboards.
- Using a knife or spatula, apply the mixture to the gaps in generous quantities.
- Leave the mixture to set and dry for as long as the instructions suggest.
- Once it is hardened and dry, you can begin sanding it to remove any of the excess mixtures. Make sure you do not remove too much as you will have to re-do it with another layer.
- Once you’ve sanded it and obtained a smooth finish, you can stain it using a pigment that is similar to the color of your wooden floor.
Use Wood Putty
Wood putty is also referred to as plastic wood and works just like the wood filling paste. It’s slightly thicker than a paste and can be used to fill holes, scratches, and gaps in wooden floors and furniture.
One such product is KwikWood Wood Repair Epoxy Putty, which comes in the form of a single stick. Due to its small size and quantity, it is advisable to use this only if the gaps between your floorboards are relatively small and don’t require a large amount of putty to cover it.
Additionally, this putty is meant for heavy-duty fixes, so you needn’t worry about its relatively small size as it will stay put for a long period no matter where it’s applied.
How to Use
- Clean the hardwood floorboards thoroughly as the presence of dust or debris can prevent the putty from effectively sticking to the wood.
- Once you open the product, you’ll find two parts of an epoxy mixture present in different quantities.
- Mix this by kneading it with your hands until both the parts are completely mixed.
- After you have mixed it, you have about 15 to 20 minutes before it begins to harden, so you need to immediately apply it to the gaps.
- Let it sit for at least 20 minutes without any disturbance. After it has hardened, it takes about one hour to cure.
- After the required time, you can proceed to sand the excess mixture and smoothen it out.
- Once it is sanded, you can stain it to suit the color of your floorboards.
Use an Air Conditioner
Some people prefer to prevent their wooden floorboards from naturally expanding and contracting during seasonal changes. The only way to do so is by maintaining the same humidity level in your home all through the year.
The general idea is to run an air conditioner and maintain the same temperature inside the house during the cold and hot seasons, thereby stopping the wooden floorboards from moving.
You may want to keep this as your last and final option, as it is uneconomical and environmentally irresponsible. Instead of running an air conditioner through the year to prevent the floorboards from developing gaps, you can use the simple, DIY solutions discussed in this article.
Use Wood Stainers To Blend the Filled Hardwood Fix
After filling up the gaps in your hardwood floors, you’ll have to stain or paint the fillers to match the wooden flooring. This will not only give the floor a clean finish but will also make the floor look as good as when you first installed it. Here are some options you can use when staining or painting the floor.
Coconix Floor and Furniture Repair Kit is a complete floor repairing kit that comes with both the filler and many different colors that can be used to blend the filled area in with its surroundings. The best part is that it contains 10 different compound shades that can help you get any color you desire, no matter which shade of wood your floor is. Additionally, you can even replicate the whorls and knots found on the wood to achieve a perfect blend. I highly recommend going through the customer reviews that contain pictures of this product once applied to the floor.
Or, if you are very sure about what color you need to match the filler with your floor’s color, you can buy that shade and stain the area once it’s dry and ready.
Remember that unless you paint the filling or stain it with a very dark color, it will always show quite prominently, even if you apply wax or varnish. So if that bothers you, then it’s best to get it painted with a shade that closely resembles your actual floorboard.
Things to Remember
- Use strong or normal fillers depending on the size of the gap you’re filling. If the gap is large, make sure you use a very strong filler.
- Clean the area before applying any filler to ensure it sticks to the floor effectively. Also, remember to make sure the area is moisture free if you have mopped it recently.
- Sometimes, sanding the excess mixture can end up damaging the actual flooring too. Instead, you can consider using a sharp knife to remove the excess mixture and make it smooth. Or, you can use a wet cloth to remove the excess mixture before it dries completely.
- Use a stain or paint similar to your floorboards. That will prevent the filling from looking too prominent and out of place.
- Keep in mind that these fillers only work if the gaps are not too large. If the floorboards’ gaps are too large and impossible to fill, you may have to consider re-installing new floorboards.
This article explains the reasons behind gaps forming in engineered hardwood floors and how you can fix them. Here’s a short recap of the entire article below:
- Gapping between the floorboards can occur on all floors made of wood, even if it’s an engineered hardwood floor.
- These gaps can occur due to humidity changes or because of improper installation. If the gaps have occurred due to humidity, there’s a high chance they will expand again when the season changes.
- Wood fillers are a pastes that can be used to fill these gaps.
- Powdered wood fillers are stronger and can be used for big gaps as well.
- Wood putty is an epoxy mixture that is also strong and can fill big gaps. The only problem is that it dries pretty quickly, so you’ll need to work fast.
- Wood paint can be used to blend the filling in with the floor.