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Here's my problem: About two years ago I dropped a hot iron on the hardwood floor in my apartment. Although I grabbed it as fast as I could (within seconds), it managed to leave an obvious brown scorch mark on the floor. I'll be moving out of the apartment in a few weeks, so I really need to do something about this mark. Although it's an old building (and the floors aren't exactly in "pristine" condition to start with), I'm afraid if I leave it "as is" the landlord will use it to try to justify keeping my security deposit..........

...and I certainly can't afford to hire a professional! I'm just hoping I can do something to make the mark less noticeable, if nothing else.

.............I know very little about hardwood floors, but I assume that means it must have a laquer or varnish finish(??) Also, I'd describe the color as a medium honey blonde.



Dear Carolyn

I must say you've left this to the last minute, but I'm sure you can do a pretty adequate finish repair.

First thing to get is a proper wood scraper, and a sanding block (so the hand sanding is flat) and two grits of (Aluminum Oxide or Silicon Carbide) sandpaper 80 and 120 grit. You could go to a floor sanding machine rental shop to get all this and some finish to complete the job.

The scraper is the most important tool, because hand sanding will take too long to remove all the burned layers of wood. I suggest you use the Richard Brand scrapers, as described in this link. Try to get the W-14 model or something similar with a long handle.


You will need to sharpen this scraper right out of the box, as it is not sharpened by the factory properly for floor use. You need to buy a 10" wood handled "mill bastard" file. Hold the scraper up to a strong light, sight down the blade and sharpen the blade so that the edges are slightly rounded. This prevents edges of the scraper from digging in on the sides, making marks in the wood. Follow the same original factory bevel but just a little off on the ends to round it a bit. I'll include a picture here.

You must get the scraper sharp enough to pull ribbons of wood off the floor, not just powder. The scraper alone should be enough to remove enough wood to eliminate the burn mark. Just keep sharpening it and press harder to remove more wood. Remove some wood from around the area also, so as not to make too much of a dip. Then using 80 grit floor sanding paper on your sanding block, hand sand the area to remove any scraper marks, and feather in this repair to the rest of the floor. Press hard with this paper so it does it's job. Then switch to 120 grit (or 100 if only that was available) and sand again to remove those 80 grit marks. If you really want to be sure of the type of floor finish you have read and do the tests as suggested in the second half of my cleaning article. Here's the link :


But I'm going to make an educated guess for you right now to save you that trouble.

Vacuum up and now for the finish touch-up: There is almost no possibility that the floor finish is the original from 1930. An apartment floor would have been sanded and refinished may times since then. And in the last 20 years or more most apartment floor finishes were done with a cheap lacquer sealer and one or two coats of polyurethane. It would be nice of you could find some lacquer finish, and use this as a base coat. You can tell if it's a lacquer finish when you read the can's "clean up of brushes instructions" suggest you use lacquer thinner. Paint on a thick coat of sealer only on the bare wood, don't get much of this lacquer on the original finish, it will strip it off. Use a rag to wipe a small amount of lacquer on the edges.

Don't worry if you cannot find a lacquer sealer, you can just apply and oil based poly in stead. It may not blend very well in this case, and may darken the wood a bit more. But I guess this doesn't have to be a perfect repair.

With the oil based polyurethane (you will know it's oil based when the can's directions suggest clean up with mineral spirits or varsol) you should first wipe down the area of the repair and surrounding area with varsol to remove any wax. Apply the first coat of poly with a rag very thinly and keep within the sanded area only. But color it all in. Leave a fan running on this repair all night. The next morning sand the repair area and a 2-3 inch area surrounding it, gently with your used 120 grit sandpaper. This is not to remove any finish, just to scuff sand it so the next coat will stick. Make sure the area is really smooth after sanding.

Clean up with a vacuum and wipe with the varsol again. Let this solvent dry. Paint on the next layer of poly with a brush, but don't go past the two inch area where you scuff sanded around the original repair. Put a fan on this about 4 hours later, and let dry again OVERNIGHT. Don't believe the directions when they say some of these finishes will dry in 4 hours. The finish has to be crispy hard.

Now for the really hard part. Scuff sand and even larger area, and consider applying the last coat to the end of some individual boards. The trouble with the polyurethane is that the edge will always be visible unless painted to the end of a seam. But do the best you can. Don't apply the last coat on any spots that haven't been scuff sanded. I do hope the floor has not been waxed in the past, else the poly will not stick to the wood. Be sure that you have cleaned before an area fairly large around the repair with varsol.

Feather this last coat and you will have "not very visible" paint line, I hope. If the surrounding original floor finish is very dull by now you really should be using a satin finish polyurethane. If you did manage to find a lacquer sealer, just scuff sand after the sealer and apply two more coats of poly over it, as suggested before. Don't expect a perfect job, as you don't have the skills to master all this in one week. But this is the way we pros handle these types of jobs.

And speaking of pros, consider hiring one for just the sanding and sealing of the wood, expect to pay about 75-100 bucks. Then do the final coats and blending in yourself. On deeply burned floor we will use a floor edger machine to remove the burn, then do the rest of the job about the same. Sometime a pro will suggest you recoat the whole room, for a better blend of the final coat of finish.

Good Luck.

You may also find these articles helpful:

1. How To Repair A Hardwood Floor For D.I.Y

2. Floor Types And Finishes

3. How To Apply Oil Based Polyurethane WITHOUT The Pits And Bubbles

4. Should I sand the wood floors myself or hire a pro

5. How To Take Care Of Your Health And Safety when Installing, Finishing, Repairing or Cleaning your wood floors