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I’m looking for someone to fix holes in my floor from radiators. They’re going to cut out the boards with holes in them and replace those. One says they can’t sand them unless they sand the whole floor and it’ll be a little higher and different color. Others say they’ll sand it and it’ll look more or less like new. Who’s right?

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"Sand the whole floor" is your default old-school flooring guy approach to anything with a hardwood floor. Because they'll be starting with an incredibly coarse grade of sandpaper to grind wood quickly, it's hard to blend, and they don't want to bother to take the time to just sand a couple of boards and slow down/stop when they become level with the rest of the floor, so they just grind the whole floor to a new lower level.

It provides a very consistent "look" but it also spends the remaining life (board thickness) of the rest of the floor if it's not otherwise in need of a sanding.

Spot-sanding a few boards, slower, with finer grit, and blending take more care, and despite that might also result in less cost to the homeowner, so you can see where the "less fuss, make more money" math favors the wholesale approach for those guys.

New boards will start out thicker as they haven't been partly sanded down over the years as your existing floorboards most likely have. Your folks taking only those down to the point of blending have several options, including doing some bulk reduction by measuring the surrounding boards and thinning the new ones before they even install them. That might imply a different toolset as well as a different mindset. On the floor, they might work with a smaller and more easily controlled sander and finer grits to get the new boards to blend, and then spot finish the area.

Spot-finishing will always show up to a casual glance when it's first done, (because the new spot is shiny and the rest of the floor has been lived-with) but soon settles back to something you would only be able to notice if you were looking for it, specifically, if it's well done. The new spot gets lived with too, and becomes less obvious. Ask to see examples (pictures, at least) of their previous work. At some point when the whole floor needs it, you can always do the complete sand and refinish routine, later.

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  • Thanks very much for this thorough response. Since I certainly don’t want to sand the whole floor, it sounds like my best bet is one of the guys who said they’d just sand the new boards and try to match/blend?
    – user176121
    Nov 7, 2023 at 21:54
  • Ask to see examples of their work. Really.
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 7, 2023 at 21:54
  • Thanks. Just did. To be clear, the guy who says you’d have to sand the whole floor is proposing to do it without sanding at all, even just the new parts, because it would make it look too different from the rest. I don’t know if that changes your perspective. I’m asking to see work for sure.
    – user176121
    Nov 7, 2023 at 22:05
  • It will then not only still look different, it will stick out of the surface and be a toe-stubbing hazard.
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 7, 2023 at 22:08
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By refinishing the whole floor they are confident that they can do an acceptable job.

Only refinishing the new boards, or patching holes will give a less predictable result, and the thing they want most is for you to pay them happily.

Oxalic acid will probably take out those black iron stains after which the square hole can probably be patched in a way that's not too obtrusive. about the same as, or possibly better than, those two smaller round patches)

You could perhaps contact a carpenter instead of a flooring contractor.

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  • My read on the intended fix is to cut out the sections of the boards with the stains and holes and replace them with unstained, un-holed boards.
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 7, 2023 at 22:51
  • Correct, Ecnerwal — one contractor says if we aren’t going to sand the whole thing, not going to sand the new boards alone.
    – user176121
    Nov 8, 2023 at 0:31
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This looks like 1920 oak strip flooring.

Call around and find a guy who has some in stock or from a previous project. I used habitat for humanity store and they not only had the same flooring I could spec the width. Or find a tear down house of the same vintage in your neighborhood and get the same boards.

The salvaged floor still has the same stain... for any cuts or dents you can just touch up the stain. If you can only find wider then you can have a flooring guy rip it to width just not as ideal.

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