Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Filler or No Filler?

Home improvement stores and supposed home material experts are full of quick-fix ideas. There is putty to cover up badly aligned trim and baseboards, glues that can reattach peeling wallpaper or vinyl, and plaster that can cover up mold damage. Unfortunately, none of this stuff works! Another one of these supposed fixes is wood filler, a wood-colored, putty-like substance that is supposed to be able to cover up flaws, gaps, and unattractive grain in a wood floor. Many wood flooring specialists who call themselves professionals may suggest using filler on your floor. They say that it works.

Unfortunately, it does not. Using wood filler is actually a very bad idea. Refinishing hardwood floors requires sanding down or replacing damaged planks, adding a new stain or finish, resetting crooked wood, and performing other, more intensive jobs in order to improve the overall appearance of a wood floor. If someone suggests using filler to improve the appearance of your wood flooring, reply with the knowledge that it has the opposite effect. Here is why:

·         Wood filler is not a glue, stain, or another substance that naturally adheres to wood. This means that filler may harden without securely attaching to the floor.

·         Wood filler can be grainy or dry. This means that even if it successfully fills a gap or covers a flaw, it may break, crumble away, or crack, leaving permanent sand-like messes throughout your floor.

·         Wood filler cannot permanently fill gaps, cracks, scratches, or holes. This is because wood naturally "breathes," or moves as temperatures rise and fall. Because wood filler is not elastic, it will break when the wood expands or shift upward when the wood contracts.

·         Wood has natural, beautiful character in its grain, color variety, and natural patterns. Wood filler, meanwhile, has a flat color. There is simply no way to replicate the character of wood without more wood. If you use filler in a large gap, it will look oddly blank and monotone.

·         Wood filler takes a long time to apply for such a simple product with a simple purpose. It must be mixed, applied in stages, cleaned, leveled off, and sanded. All of this just to fill a tiny crack.

·         Wood filler can actually make flaws look even worse. Scratches, depressions, gaps, and other flaws can be attributed to the natural qualities of wood, but chipped, sandy, or broken wood filler looks completely unnatural.

As a rule, if you are not happy with flaws that currently exist in your wood floor, you should take better steps to improve the hardwood. Have pieces replaced if they have serious gashes or other flaws; allow experts to sand and refinish stained or scratched pieces. There are better treatments for gaps and nail holes as well. The solutions depend on the severity of the problems and how obvious they are from standing eye level. However, using filler is never a good decision. This product is supposed to improve the flaws that come naturally to wood; unfortunately, it just adds to them because it is not suited to the character and natural qualities of wood. Refinishing and repairing wood is the only way to improve its overall look and feel.