Homefix: Repairing a hardwood floor by adding support underneath

Dwight Barnett

Q: My 91-year-young mother is still in the house she's lived in her entire married life. Though termite prevention has been used, I am noticing soft spots in some sections of the floor that normally are covered by furniture. Is there a way to perhaps install new flooring here and there as opposed to tearing up everything? Change does not make her happy. Her rationale is that she sees no reason to start a project that may not be finished before she is no longer in her home.

A: I'm assuming you are talking about hardwood floors, because replacing carpet or vinyl would not require "tearing up everything." Yes, the floors can be repaired without major renovation. Besides, replacing just a few boards here or there would show up as an unsightly patch. Matching the existing hardwood floor's color and texture would be almost impossible. In extreme cases, hardwood flooring is removed from a closet or pantry and used to make repairs in the living areas, and then the closet floors are covered with any type of flooring available.

If the surface of the hardwood is in good condition, the floors can be stabilized and supported by adding bracing under the hardwood. From the crawlspace or basement, find the areas in need of repair. Measure the areas to be repaired in between the floor joists and cut a piece or pieces of half-inch plywood to support the flooring above. Next, cut two 2-by-4 boards the same length as each piece of plywood. Place the plywood tightly against the bottom of the hardwood, then place the 2-by-4s tightly against the plywood patch and against the side of the floor joist. Secure the 2-by-4s to the floor joists using wood screws.

In older homes the floor joists may be so hard that you will have to drill a pilot hole for each screw. The pilot hole should be one size smaller than the diameter of the screw's threads. If you are working alone, the plywood can be temporarily held in place with a brace wedged between the plywood patch and the crawlspace ground or basement floor.

Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN 47702 or at