Asked on Oct 10, 2012

How to fix holes in these wood floors?

by Jo
Hi! Love the ideas and resources here and I'm really hoping for some advice.
My husband and I have rented a old farmhouse. It's well over 100yrs. old and feeling it's age. The landlord has had very bad luck with tenants and unfortunately this once beautiful home is now very torn up. My parents were friends with the landlord's parents and I was at this house often when I was a child. It's a shame what it is now.
Anyway we were given the opportunity to rent this place for extremely, extremely low rent. We are losing our house to foreclosure and jumped at the chance to have this since our 3 kids won't have to change schools and we won't have to get rid of our pets. I HATE that we are losing our own home but unfortunately due to lay offs we had no health insurance and my husband suddenly had a tumor come up that was testicular cancer. We lost everything due to it. I am trying to make the best of things and make the best "new" home possible for our children but it's very hard with our limited finances. We barely have money for the paint we need.
So back to the floors. We have skids and skid tops, very good, non chemically treated pine that we can cover the floors with. We had planned to do that and I was either going to stain or paint them...whichever was the least expensive way to go. Now I'm wondering if we just can't patch these holes in the living room and paint the existing floor.

For the hole in the hallway we had planned to patch that all along as it's just one hole and there is already evidence of a hole that has been filled with something in the past. I just don't have any clue what to use to patch the holes! I've done lots of research but I'm still confused about what product to use that will be strong enough. I do not want to have to cut a larger hole unless we have no other choice. We already had to do that in the dining room and jack up/replace the beams and now will have to cover that whole floor with the pine wood we have. Due to time constraints I'm really hoping to just be able to patch and paint these floors.
What do you suggest I use for the easiest, most economical way to fix these?
Thanks! Sorry this got so long. Guess I felt the need to explain.
one of the living room holes..
another hole found under the carpet in the living room
hole in the hallway
  31 answers
  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Oct 10, 2012
    Sorry I don't have any suggestions on how to fix your wooden floors.Sounds like your family has been through a lot and still have a mountain to climb. I want to wish you luck in all your perservence in climbing that mountain.
  • Jo Jo on Oct 10, 2012
    Thanks Mary. It is a mountain we never thought we would have to climb at our ages. We've been in our home for 17 years. It's so hard to think of starting all over now especially with children. My husband is alive and well though and I thank God every day for that! His life is truly more important than anything else!
  • Z Z on Oct 10, 2012
    Oh @Jo I wish there was an easy way to fix these floors, and there might be, but I don't know enough to help. I'm going to alert @Miriam I and ask that she find a professional that will be able to help you. And God bless you and your family for all the trials you've been through. And praise Him that your husband made it through the cancer and you have a roof over your head, such as it is, it's still a home with your family under it. I'll add you and your family to my prayers.
  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Oct 10, 2012
    It is possible to pop out some of the slats and replace? That's probably a lot more work than you'd want to do. Anyway a pretty rug might cover it? lol That's probably what I would do even though it's not the 'correct' way to fix it.
  • Jo Jo on Oct 10, 2012
    Becky thank you so very much for adding us to your prayers! I really appreciate that. My husband was cancer free at his last check but he did have to stop the scans since we are still uninsured. I just feel fortunate that his cancer presented the way it did or it might have been caught too late. Any man who has ANY type of swelling in that area please, please go get checked! There is usually no pain involved and since it is a personal, sensitive subject men tend not to go to the Dr. My husband luckily had pain a few months after noticing the lump. The pain got him to go to the ER where the tumor was found.
  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Oct 10, 2012
    @Jeanine, I was going to suggest a rug too, thats the way I would fix it. If you can't see it it's not there :-) Jo, you could put a piece of 1/4 inch plywood over it before you put a rug down so you don't damage it further by walking on it.
  • Jo Jo on Oct 10, 2012
    Jeanine I think we will probably fill a whole slat with some sort of filler. I noticed there is one slat that was done like that previously in the hall. We didn't know about these holes in the floor until we took out the carpet. Unfortunately the carpet couldn't be saved and this is what we found when we took it up :(
  • Miriam Illions Miriam Illions on Oct 10, 2012
    Thanks @Z Let me see who I can find to help.
  • Z Z on Oct 10, 2012
    Thank you @Miriam I.
  • Hamtil Construction LLC Hamtil Construction LLC on Oct 10, 2012
    Hi Jo, So sorry to hear of your situation. I wish you all the best for good heath and happiness in your new home. As for the floor, if patching in new wood is out of the question, you can try a couple types of filler. Can you get underneath the floor pictured? If so, the first step is to remove all the loose wood from the holes, then screw a piece of wood on to the underside of the floor boards at the holes. You could do this from above, but for now I will assume you can access from underneath. The point here is to have something to hold the filler in place and prevent you from stepping on it later and dislodging it. Once you have that in place, you can add a little wood inside the hole to fill up some of the void, or just go for it and fill with filler. Normal wood filler will not work too well here, so I would suggest a two part epoxy type filler such as Abatron WoodEpox, or really, even just Bondo. Try to do it in a couple layers of filling, and make the top one as smooth as possible. You can file or sand it later but it's kind of tough. Wear gloves, tape off the rest of the area, and clean up tools quick! That's my 2c. Hope that helps!
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 10, 2012
    These holes seem to be bottomless pits... Is there a sub floor below this strip flooring? is the space below these hole accessible via a crawlspace / basement? Since you are planning to paint the repair can be done easily and cheap. If the sub floor is below and the holes are only as deep as the strip flooring the easiest is to fill the hole with a glue and sawdust mixture. I have been doing that with some railroad car flooring I working on for a client. I use tightbond III ( in the green bottle) mix with fine sawdust and pack it into the hole, doing it in a few sessions ...about a 1/4" deep at a time. Allow the glue to fully harden before doing the next level. this may take a day or two per step. If the holes go through the subflloor or there is no subfloor you will need to get below these areas and install some wood as a backer. a simple small scrap of ply could work. the under patches can be set with small screws. Ideally the "proper" repair would be to remove the damaged plank (s) and weave in new T&G strips...but those type of repairs can cost 10 times the band-aid repair I Mentioned above. A quart of the tightbond glue runs about $8 and sawdust can be found lots of places. Sorry the hear about the challenges your life has dealt you...keep on plugging away and you'll come through it all.
  • Z Z on Oct 10, 2012
    Thank you guys! I knew Miriam could find some help.
  • Miriam Illions Miriam Illions on Oct 10, 2012
    @Hamtil Construction LLC and @KMS Woodworks you guys are awesome.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 10, 2012
    I have used the "bondo" type filler on some projects, it is very smelly and a pain to glue mix is also tough to sand when fulled cure but not smelly at all. I have seen some cases where the bondo type repairs crack at the edges as it does not flex with wood movement like the glue does. PVA based glues are not as brittle.
  • Jo Jo on Oct 11, 2012
    Thanks so much for the replies! Unfortunately those holes are bottomless pits. There is no sub floor but I'm thinking if we maybe cut the hole big enough to get a larger piece of wood in and attached from underneath then we can have something to get the filler bonded to. The house is so old it is basically a crawl space underneath and the beams holding up the floors are hand notched logs. One of the other living rooms, which we will be using as a bedroom, has had the floor removed and a good plywood sub floor put in by a previous tenant. Wish they had done them all! Anyway thanks again. Now I know what products to look for and try. I really do appreciate all the advice :) You guys rock!
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 11, 2012
    just a thought...if there is nothing down there but "air" that mean there is no insulation...below the heated living area...something to think about if and when money allows.
  • Jo Jo on Oct 11, 2012
    KMS Woodworks there is definitely no insulation. The only place we've found insulation was up in the attic between ceiling and roof. None of the downstairs living areas have insulation under the floors. We'll be weatherproofing as much as we can but it's going to be a cold winter.
  • Sherri B Sherri B on Oct 11, 2012
    Jo, did you guys stir up a ton of dust while taking these pictures? Lots of things flying around in the air, but the floor looks pretty clean. I know it sounds crazy, but if you didn't, there may be a whole 'nuther reason other tenants didn't work out or things got tore up. :-D It will be interesting to hear about your journey as you go through fixing up and living in this house -- please continue to blog (if you haven't been already) about your life and the challenges you are going through. You sound like one of those people who have put on their big girl panties and are facing life head on.
  • Jo Jo on Oct 11, 2012
    Sherri B...actually there really isn't a lot of dust there believe it or not. I have more dust in my home. I think most of the dust you're seeing in the photo is probably what we kicked up from my husband cutting wood. There is a ton of sawdust covering everything. The floors are not nearly as clean as I need them to be! lol I do have a shop vac so I sweep then vac but from our work it gets dirty again pretty quick not to mention there was a TON and I mean a ton of nasty stuff under the carpet and padding that was in there. Good thing you can't smell through the computer either! Someone let cats urinate in one of the upstairs bedrooms and I've been through literally tons of vinegar washes trying to get rid of cat pee smell. Hope painting the floor helps get rid of the last of that! I'm so glad to read that you think it would be interesting for me to blog about all of this because that's exactly what I've been planning to do! I actually got a year of free web hosting in a contest and am working on designing a site as we speak! You've given me the confidence to do it. I think people might like to read about a real family struggling with these kind of problems and the ways that we have dealt with them be they right or wrong. Through everything that has happened I feel as though I should pull those big girl panties right over my head!! I haven't even told most of my family that we are moving and had to give up our home. I'm ashamed. That's been the biggest hurdle to face besides dealing with my husband's cancer.
  • Di S Di S on Oct 11, 2012
    wood putty or you can use saw dust and wood glue
  • Z Z on Oct 11, 2012
    Oh Jo, please don't feel ashamed of losing your home. It's quite common of late. The fact that you are working hard to make a "new" home for your family is courageous, not something to be ashamed of. God Speed.
  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Oct 11, 2012
    I was at Walmart and saw Minwax wood putty (I think it was putty). It can be varnished and sanded and also you can use screws in it when it's dried. I don't know if that would be able to fill the holes or not...
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 12, 2012
    @Jo I have found the Blog interface at Wordpress to be pretty user friendly ...and free. That is where I have mine...some of the other one are full of ads and other crap. ;
  • Angela S Angela S on Oct 12, 2012
    I've "made over" many old homes and one of my favorite economical fixes for holes in the floor like these is something called Durhams Water Putty - it's a powder that you mix as you need it (no more dried out containers of putty) - it can be stained before or after it is dry, though it tends to stay lighter than stained wood would. However, if you can't get underneath to block the hole off somehow, filler is no good - in the old days they used to cut pieces of tin (flashing, storage tins, soup cans, whatever), sand or file the rough edges, flatten them with a hammer and tack them over holes with tiny nails. I have used this method myself for a temporary fix if I plan on putting a rug or carpet down or just want to cover the hole for awhile so I stop losing small items down it!
  • Jo Jo on Oct 12, 2012
    Thanks Angela S.. Actually there is tin around the edge of the wall in this room and several other tin patches in other rooms that have been painted over. Guess over the years the tin did the trick to keep the floor up. I went over all these options with my husband and he is really just wanting to cover the floor with the wood we have instead of patch/painting the existing floor. We will still patch the hole in the hall but for the living room he thinks covering, even though it will take longer, would be the better option and also give us a little more "insulation". We'll see how it goes. Tomorrow we'll be there all day working. Will try and post more pictures for everyone. You all have been soo helpful and friendly. I really appreciate it!
  • Z Z on Oct 12, 2012
    Good luck Jo!
  • Becky H Becky H on Oct 13, 2012
    @KMS Woodworks if they're going to lay new wood over this damaged wood, is there any opportunity for insulating between the two?
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 13, 2012
    @Becky H Insulation requires a lot of space as you are trapping air...It might be possible to add some rigid foam board but even that would eat up an 1 1/2 " to add any real value. That type of floor height change to the rest of the house would just be too weird
  • Becky H Becky H on Oct 13, 2012
    @KMS Woodworks thanks for the timely answer. I was just wondering, since they'd mentioned there was no insulation and the holes went completely through the floor. It just made me wonder about insulation and maybe a barrier of some kind.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 13, 2012
    I've used rigid blue foam in some basement flooring projects over slab. 2 x 4 sleepers are laid on flat and then the foam installed, this whole thing is covered with plywood and then hardwood laid. That combo adds 3" to the overall height but if you a build a whole new room from scratch in an empty space you can account for it. That type of floor makse a warm comfy and quite room
  • Debbie Maner Debbie Maner on Oct 16, 2012
    I just read a post on here about using Bondo for repairing wood furniture. It should work on wood floors also. Search for Bondo and best of luck, I know what it means to have a hubby with health problems.