Gouges? There's something timeless about wood. In a world where designers have no limit to the materials they can use to build a dining room floor or piece of furniture, there still is nothing comparable to the elegance of oak, birch, or cedar. Of course, with enough time no matter how careful you are, gouges in the wood will appear from heavy impacts, scrapes, and more.
Whether you've just acquired a new antique table with a few minor scratches that you want to fix up, or there's that one floorboard in the dining room with a chip at the edge, understanding how to repair gouges means you can tackle the problem and restore the pristine condition of the wood in your home without having to refinish it.
We're going to talk about two methods to fix gouges, first in hardwood floors and then in wood furniture. Before you begin, carefully inspect the wood you're working with. What variety of wood is it? Is it a mocha color or more of a piano-gloss black? Don't worry about finding the right color epoxy. You'll be painting over it with wood stainer so that the color matches.
The Tools You'll Need
If you want to fill a gouge in a hardwood floor, you'll need an epoxy to plug the open space, and we recommend Elmer's Damaged Wood Epoxy. Since you'll need to make sure the wood stain matches as closely as possible, take a picture of your floor. Ideally, the picture should be taken around midday with the windows open so that you'll get the most accurate lighting possible. You can bring this picture to the supply store to help you match colors.
The shades of wood stain may not be exact enough to be completely indistinguishable from the color of your wood. So, unless you're alright with some slight discoloration, you will probably need to buy more than one color of wood stain so that you can mix similar colors together and synthesize the exact shade you're looking for.
You'll also need painter's tape to prevent damage to the wood around the chip or gouge you want to fill. The sandpaper that you'll need should be 80 to 120 grit. Check to make sure that the grit isn't too fine or coarse for the job. You'll also want a putty knife, a small paint brush, spare rags, latex gloves and wipe-on polyurethane for the finish. Just a quart will do.
To mix the wood stains, you'll need a paint stirrer and a mixing cup. You can use any plastic cup you have on-hand or buy one from a home improvement supply store. Ask a store employee if you're unsure about the materials you need.
Once you have all your materials, you'll need to put painter's tape around the gouge. This prevents any excess putty from sticking to the wood and causing damage. Cover it as precisely as possible, using as many pieces of tape as needed to encircle the gauge.
Next, you'll need to prepare your epoxy. If you're using Elmer's Damaged Wood Epoxy, you'll open the box to find two smaller containers. The first contains hardener, and the second contains the epoxy resin. Open the containers, and you'll find the materials inside are ready to go, and just need to be kneaded together.
Use the putty knife to scoop out equal parts hardener and resin epoxy and then mix them together with your gloved hands. You'll need to knead the resin epoxy and hardener together in your hands until the materials have mixed together into a single color. You have about 20 to 30 minutes before the epoxy begins to harden once it is mixed.
Take the putty knife and use it spread the epoxy you've created into the gouge. Be careful to distribute the putty evenly, using the knife to smooth the surface of the epoxy. Your wood filler epoxy should be as flush with the wood surface as you can get it. If you can't get it completely flush don't worry, as that can be fixed using sandpaper after the filler has hardened.
Sanding Down The Wood Filler
You'll need to let the putty sit for 24 hours so that it has time to harden thoroughly. When you come back to the job, grab your sandpaper and rags. You'll probably want your latex gloves for this next part too. Take your 80-grit sandpaper and use it to smooth out any imperfections and bumps in the hardened epoxy. Don't scratch the wood finish, but you can sand up to the edges of the painter's tape.
As you sand, you'll notice a fine epoxy dust forming, but you can easily clean this up with a damp rag later. You want to feather the edges of the gouge so that it's completely smooth and flush with the wood. You can take off your gloves and run your fingers along the gouge to check for rough patches that you can smooth. Carefully remove any pieces of tape that prevent you from feathering the edges of the gauge.
You probably won't be able to smooth the surface completely with your 80-grit paper, which means the next step is to complete the same sanding process with the finer 120-grit paper. When the wood filler is completely smooth, carefully remove any remaining tape. Make sure to apply gentle pressure so as not to damage the wood finish by ripping the tape off. This is also why painter's tape is recommended, as it is specifically designed to be removed without damaging paint or stain beneath it.
Applying Wood Stain
There may be some lingering sharp edges underneath the tape, so you can smooth these out with the sandpaper, but make sure that you don't rub the wood itself. Use a rag to clean up any lingering dust. With a flathead screwdriver or other tool, open the wood stain cans. They can be pried open by gently applying leverage, just like a paint can.
Pour a small amount from two or three wood stains into the cup and stir with the paint stick until the stains in the cup are the same color as the wood finish of your floor. If you have any spare wood around, it is advisable to do a test spot before applying the stain to the floor, to make sure that the color matches accurately once dry.
Take the cup of stain and spread a small amount around the tip of the brush. As gently as you can, spread the wood stain over the epoxy. In order to create the multi-tonal look of real wood, you'll want to repeat this process with another lighter color of the wood stain. Wait for the first stain to dry completely before adding a second coating.
Using the brush, or sponge if you have one, spread the stain in the same direction as the wood grain so that it matches the same texture. When the stain has completely dried, it's time to apply a polyurethane finish so that it has the same glossy look as the rest of the hardwood. Apply just a little of the polyurethane finish and then rub the area vigorously with a rag.
Now the gouge has completely blended into the floor. It should be totally indistinguishable, and the cost to repair was minimal compared to the cost of ripping out the floorboards and putting down new ones. Of course, this process doesn't only apply to hardwood floors.
If you've got a tabletop that has gouges in its surface, the process is nearly the same but with a key difference. You'll want to avoid using wood stain. If the gouges are large, they're likely not to match perfectly with the rest of the wood surface. Instead, consider using a lacquer stick gun with fill-in paint the color of your tabletop. You can also use the acrylic paints artists use to match the color.
If the damage is on the edge of the table, you can try to fill in the gouge with regular epoxy, but it will most likely chip off again if there's another impact. Using a two-part polyester filler might help to alleviate recurring chipping.
The Personal Gains Made By DIYers
Repairing gouges restore wood so that it looks as good as new without requiring you to refinish the entire piece. A family heirloom or antique is restored to its former glory with minimal restoration and cost. It's a small, conservative fix that lets you be proud of your furniture again.
In the case of flooring, you're raising the resale value of your home using only a small investment of time and money. Even better, you're raising the value that your home holds for you and your loved ones. You get to show off your "new" floors to friends and family and explain how you took the initiative to learn the process of filling in gouges for yourself.
Remember that all home improvement projects take some trial and error to get right, so don't panic if you ever find yourself stuck. You can always repaint over wood stains to get the color you're looking for. Gouges don't need to take out a big chunk of your time or budget. Just follow these step-by-step instructions to make your wood floors and furniture like new again.