Matching Bare Wood to a Finished Floor

I’m remodeling my 1950’s home. When I removed the 1970s vintage gold carpet, I discovered beautiful oak hardwood floors. But when I removed an interior wall to turn two rooms into one, I found that the wall had been built on the unfinished hardwood floor. Now the floor has this unfinished streak where the wall once stood. What is the best way to blend the unfinished flooring with the finished? Would using a handheld belt sander be a satisfactory way to attack the problem?

Michael Dresdner: First, bite the bullet, and understand that it is nearly impossible to invisibly match a bare section of wood to one that has been both finished and aging in light for years (prior to the carpet being installed.) The best you can hope for is to blend it so it is not as obvious, and no matter how good a job you do, even if it fools your guests, you will always see it.

If the rest of the floor had been stained — say, a dark brown — then try to match this stain as closely as possible before sealing the unfinished section. You will find that stains will bite into the raw wood, but will wipe right off the finished section of flooring, making it a bit easier to stain just the area you need to color.

If the rest of the floor was finished in clear coatings, and not stained (as was common in 1950), start by sanding and sealing the unfinished section to see what color it is. That will show you how far apart the two are in color once you seal it. I’d suggest Zinsser SealCoat for this step.

Once you have a color differential, and you have chosen the floor finish of your choice, creep up to the color of the surrounding floor by adding small amounts of compatible dye or pigment directly to the finish, and apply it carefully with a brush to those areas that were bare. Once you get the color as close as you can in that area, consider going over the entire floor with one coat of a lightly tinted floor coating, just to blend everything together. For that, you will have to clean and lightly sand the rest of the floor to guarantee adhesion of the new coat. Varathane makes a very handy “Renewal” kit designed to recoat a finished floor without removing the old finish.

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