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I'm replacing a half dozen board ends in a hardwood floor due to water and carpenter ant damage. Each is about 4-6" long. I have the old boards cut and removed, and in fact I can slide the new boards in from the ends, and so don't need to cut off the bottom of the groove edge of the boards. But, the floor was at one point sanded and refinished, so the new boards are about 1/32" proud of the main floor.

Should I sand down the new boards to the correct thickness before installation? Or, should I install them and then sand them in place? And the same question with polyurethaning the boards: before or after installation? (I'm worried that sanding or getting finish on the old boards will make the repair more visible.)

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If you can slide them in, then - sand, finish (top face only), assemble. You may need to use a bit of glue on the grooves in the new pieces to hold them in place.

There still may be a visible difference between the color and finish of the old and the new. The only way to get them both exactly the same is to refinish the entire floor as suggested by @python starter. But whether the difference is too much is a matter of taste.

  • Good note about finishing the top face only; I think I would have done that by default, but the reminder is very helpful. – Daniel Griscom Jul 1 '15 at 13:28
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If you ask me there is only one right way to solve this problem: place the boards in the position, then sand the entire floor and polyurethane it. This way repair will (almost) invisible.

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    Oy. You're right, but I have to balance the gorgeousness of the results with the fact that I'm repairing about one square foot of the floor, and it's a square foot where we usually keep wastebaskets. – Daniel Griscom Jun 30 '15 at 14:57
  • In that case do exactly the same but applied on the smaller area, and not the whole room. You can maybe mark with the tape zone of intervention, like a square. This will make the painting easier and not so messy. – python starter Jul 1 '15 at 7:04
  • I'm worried that there will be a transition between the old and new finish, and having that transition around a 1' x 3' area will be worse than having it around each of six 4-6" boards. Pros and cons... – Daniel Griscom Jul 1 '15 at 10:08
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    transition in color or in level? Basically cons are: yes it wouldn't be perfect.Cons: like you said it is a place where you hold wastebaskets :)) – python starter Jul 1 '15 at 12:56

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