Wood Floor Repair: Removing a Wet Footprint from a Floor at a Jobsite

Someone walks into the jobsite and leaves a wet footprint on a floor that’s already been stained because the footprint has been water-popped? The key is to not rush the repair. You ideally want it to look like the footprint/blemish never even happened.

Here’s what to do––take it from NWFA Regional Instructor and owner of Endurance Floor, Inc., Lenny Hall, who instructed the three-day NWFA Sand & Finish Course we recently held at our King of Prussia headquarters.

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Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • A wooden scraper 
  • A wet rag
  • A screen equal to the grit last used on the floor, as well as the buffer backing pad that was last used on the floor
  • A dry, clean rag

Step-by-step instructions to removing a blemish from a wood floor at a jobsite

Scraping a footprint with a wooden scraping tool1. Work a small part of the footprint/blemish with the scraper until it begins to disappear. Make sure not to rush and not to remove anything other than the stain––if you see tan dust coming out, it means that you’ve gone past the stain and you’ve begun digging into the wood.

The key is to use the scraper to “chase the grain,” which means making sure that the repaired area mimics the pattern of the surrounding grains and planks so the repair is less noticeable and looks more natural.

2. Wipe off the accumulated dust as you go with a wet rag. This process also helps you see how much of the footprint/blemish has been removed from the floor because the water imitates the effect you’ll see once the finish is applied. 

Drying off a wood floor

3. Dry off the spot you’ve been working on. Lenny recommends using a hair dryer or another drying tool to speed up the drying process so you can proceed to the next step. In a pinch, you can use your hand to generate heat and dry off the spot.

Buffing a footprint out of a wood floor

4. Take the same grit and type of sandpaper that was last used on the floor, backed with a piece of the same type of pad, and buff out the area you’ve just scraped. Use light pressure. Alternately, you use a higher grit to buff out the area. Lenny advises that you can always go darker with the stain, but you cannot go lighter, so be aware of how much color you’re removing from the floor with this step.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 as necessary until the blemish is gone and the area is ready to be re-coated with stain.

Applying stain to a hardwood floor using a clean rag

6. Re-apply the stain using a rag, q-tip, artist brush, or another tool that will enable you to get just the right amount of the stain on the spot––not too much. Wipe off the excess the stain with a clean rag.

What not to do

Lenny says he sees mishandled blemishes on a lot of jobsites. Contractors sometimes use a piece of sandpaper to buff out the blemish and then simply apply the stain directly on top of the spot using a rag. He says that this results in a “halo” effect that actually makes the blemish more obvious. The eyes easily pick up on this because they are trained to see patterns in everything. You have to instead chase the grain to make the repair blend into the rest of the floor.

Follow the steps outlined above to make it look like the footprint never happened!

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