This is one thing I find really frustrating. You finish assembling your new timber door and you find that the wood has some dents on one side. These will definitely show through your finish.
There are a few ways you can approach how to fix a dent in a wooden door. A compression of wood fibers causes dents, and returning them to their original state can be achieved through several methods. The most common fix uses heated water to engorge and raise the wood fibers, erasing the dent.
In the following sections, I will go over multiple methods you can use for fixing dents and other blemishes that appear on your woodworking projects or around your home. You can do several things to prevent it fix dents, gouges, and nicks in the wood of doors and other objects.
You will learn more about why certain woods are more likely to dent and some tips and tricks for keeping your wood surfaces smooth and clear.
What Causes Wood Doors to Dent?
To figure out how to fix a dent in a wooden door or other wood items, it is essential to recognize what causes this kind of damage in the first place. You need to be able to tell the difference between a dent and scratches or other similar damage because the fixes are usually different.
A dent results from too much weight and pressure being placed on wood fibers in a specific place, causing the surface to bow abruptly inward. In woodworking, this is often caused when metal tools slip and impact the surface. Clamps and other tools can also cause minor noticeable dents.
The wood fibers are each still intact, and there are no missing pieces of wood. The wood is simply pushed inward by pressure. You will often see dents in wooden flooring under places where furniture with metal legs rests or on doors that use something rigid to prop them open.
Dents can be small, shallow, and barely discernible or deep and cover a large area. The primary characteristics of a dent are the lack of split or missing fibers. If some of the wood is splintered off or cut through, it cannot be characterized as a dent, and it will need to be repaired using an alternative method.
Does the Size of the Dent Matter?
A very large dent might take longer to fix and be slightly more complicated. There is also a higher likelihood of other damage such as scratching or nicks when a large part of the surface is impacted in a way that can cause a significantly sized dent.
The larger it is, the more moisture and heat it will take to raise the fibers. You can still use the same methods that I will go over, but it is important to take preventative measures around your home and woodworking shop to avoid large dents.
Does the Type of Wood Matter?
What type of wood your doors or other items are made of will determine how easily impacts can physically damage them. Some woods are harder than others and can withstand higher pressures before the wood fibers are pushed inwards. When woodworking, always be aware of how hard or soft your material is so that you can practice proper precautions.
How Do You Get Dents Out of Wood Projects?
No matter what kind of woodworking projects you are working on, there is a high chance that a tool will slip, or you might accidentally put too much pressure on one section. The resulting dent will mar the surface of your finished piece, but there are some easy steps you can take to make it look good as new.
The most common way to fix a dent in a wooden door or other wooden object is to use water and heat to engorge and raise the wood that has been compressed. Steam methods like this will only work if there is no missing wood and the fibers are not actually cut.
You will want to closely examine the area to ensure that all the wood is there and that it is genuinely a dent and not a gouge or scratch. Once you have determined that the wood is dented, only you can use one of the following methods to smooth the surface quickly.
A quick note: before you start, be sure to remove any layers of paint or sealants that could stop water from soaking into the wood. You may also want to sand the area briefly.
You can use any of the following methods for returning your wood to its previous smoothness.
- Water: apply several drops of water to the dented area only. Do this until the water stops soaking into the wood, and then let it sit. The wood should expand, and the dent should disappear. If the mark remains, then move onto the following method.
- Hot Iron, Wet Cloth: this method is often called ‘steaming’ as it is the heated moisture entering the wood that causes the dent to fill. The steps are straightforward and require a cotton cloth big enough to cover the entire area and a hot clothes iron. Thoroughly dampen the fabric and set it over the dent. Let it sit for several minutes, then place the iron over the area while being careful not to touch it to the bare wood. Press down for a quick one or two seconds and then remove the heat. Check the dent and repeat until the mark is gone.
- Needles and Water: the deepest dents may make it harder for the water to reach all the affected fibers. In those cases, use tiny needles to poke holes around 1/4; inch into the dented area of the wood and then apply water. The swelling should fix the dent and render the small pin holes unnoticeable. You may need to try the steam method if water alone does not do the trick.
Things to Avoid When Fixing Dented Wood Doors
When you work to determine how to fix a dent in a wooden door or another wooden object, there are a few things to avoid.
- Wood Sweller: it might seem counterintuitive not to use a wood sweller like Swel-Lock to decompress wood fibers. The main reason not to use these products on dents is that this is not their intended purpose. Some people do use them to fill gaps, cracks, and gouges, but they are not designed to remove dents. Wood swellers work by soaking into the wood and expanding the fibers over a twenty-four-hour period. After swelling, it remains rigidly locked in place.
- Protective Sealant: Avoid using steam or water over sealant, paint, or other protections. Doing this can cause discoloration, warping, and sagging of the surface layers.
Fixing Old Vs. Recent Dents
Older dents that you are only just noticing or getting around to repairing will require a bit more prep work. This is because they often have dirt and dust embedded in the bent fibers, which means that if you use a water or steam method to enlarge them, the dirt may become further trapped, leading to either the fix not working correctly or discolored wood.
A quick way to get rid of this issue is to thoroughly clean the area and lightly sand it before adding any moisture. This will release any debris that has been trapped within the wood.
How Do You Get a Dent Out of a House Door?
House doors usually have some form of paint or sealer, and you will need to remove this from the affected area before attempting to use any of the methods we listed above. Once the area is clear, lightly sand it and then apply water and heat using the steam method. Once you are done fixing it, you will need to reseal and repaint.
Larger dents may require more time and work. You should practice preventative measures to lower the risk of your doors being subjected to impacts and pressures that may cause this kind of damage in the first place.
How to Fix Nicks, Gouges, Splinters, Scratches, and Cracks in Wood
More minor issues like nicks are common blemishes on many wooden surfaces. Fixing them is usually fairly straightforward. There are several ways you can repair damage to your wood both during woodworking projects and after it has been installed.
Wood furniture, doors, cabinets, and flooring are all subject to a lot of outside forces as they are used day-to-day, and, unsurprisingly, they often pick up minor scratches, nicks, or splinters. Here are a few things you can do to fix them. You will want to thoroughly clean the wood before attempting any of them.
- Shallow Nicks and Scratches: you can fill in shallow nicks and scratches with wax meant for this purpose and then match the color using a retouching marker or scratch cover polish.
- Gouges or Deeper Nicks: these require a bit more preparation. You will want to remove any hard edges or splinters with sandpaper and then fill it with putty meant for this purpose. You can purchase it at any hardware store. To correctly match any polish or finish, you may need to mix various putty colors.
- Splinters: use sandpaper to remove any splinters and then fill in the missing wood pieces with wax.
- Cracks and Gaps: these are often going to appear around joints and may be caused by a change in humidity or some other factor. An easy fix is to use a wood sweller to engorge the wood fibers, closing the gap or crack and retaining the joint integrity.
If your wooden is normally painted and it has a large dent, you may need to apply filler to the dent or hole. Wait 24 hours for this to dry, then sand smooth. After you are happy with the finish, you can apply some paint.
Preventative Measures to Keep Wooden Doors, Furniture, and Floors From Being Damaged
Most of us have a wide variety of wooden items around our homes (e.g., doors, furniture, flooring, window frames, etc.). Taking preventative measures will ensure there are fewer visible flaws that will need to be repaired.
Below are a few quick and easy ways to protect wooden items in your home.
- Floors: wood flooring is the hardest to keep clear of tiny scrapes and dents, but there are some things that you can do to lower the risk that dropped objects, furniture, or foot traffic will ding or dent your wood flooring. Put down rugs under furniture and in places that experience a lot of foot traffic and avoid placing heavy metal items onto the hardwood. This will protect against dents and impact damage.
- Doors: Keep wooden doors either fully shut or propped open. This will keep them from being accidentally snagged on things or impacted. When propping open a door, do not use sharp metal edges like a table or shelf corners because they can dig into the wood and leave behind marks.
- Furniture: wooden furniture can be protected by using a combination of protective coatings and other physical barriers in the form of cushions and coverings (e.g., table cloths, chair cushions, sofa covers, etc.), which act as a further protective layer. For cabinets, try to keep them closed and frequently clean them to stop debris from lodging into any scratches. This will make them easier to fill with a pen or polish.
Does the Finish Impact How Easily Wood is Damaged?
The finish that you use will affect how easily your wood item develops dents and other visual imperfections. Oil-based finishes are going to be more flexible and can withstand more movement before leaving a mark. Water-based finishes are usually more rigid and extra-durable but less flexible, making them more likely to show flaws caused by abrupt movement, pressure, or weight.
Some finishes are also much easier to remove than others. For example, oil-based polyurethane, lacquered, and shellacked wood can be more easily stripped of the layered protection than water-based polyurethane.
The type of wood under the finish will also play a role in whether or not your door or another wooden object will be likely to dent and how easily it will be to fix. When woodworking, you will want to be aware of any inherent vulnerabilities in the materials you are using, including their hardness and likelihood of accumulating physical flaws during the creation process.
Which Wood Species are Most Likely to Dent?
One reliable way to determine which Woods are more likely to dent is by using the Janka Hardness Scale, which measures the wood’s hardness. The more solid the wood, the higher their Janka Hardness rating.
Woods that are lower on the scale, such as basswood and butternut, take very little weight or pressure to leave behind a dent or gouge, so you will need to be especially careful while working with them.
The lowest rated woods on the Janka Hardness scale included the following. You should try to be cautious when working with them while using heavy tools and avoiding placing too much manual pressure on any area. These are all under 1,000 on the scale.
- Basswood (410)
- Obeche (490)
- Butternut (490)
- Cypress (510)
- Poplar (540)
- Alder (590)
- Spanish Cedar (600)
- African Mahogany (830)
- Lacewood (840)
- Aromatic Cedar (900)
- Cherry and Curly Cherry (950)
- Soft Maple and Curly Soft Maple (950)
- Imbuia (950)
The hardest woods on the scale are listed below and are the most resistant to nicks, dents, and scratches. These are all above 3,000 on the scale.
- Massaranduba (3190)
- Gaboon Ebony (3220)
- Macassar Ebony (3250)
- Cumaru (3540)
- Blackwood (3670)
- Ipe (3680)
How to Fix Dents in Finished and Sealed Wood
The standard wet cloth and iron method will work just as well on finished wood as they would on unfinished projects. However, a few exceptions may make it necessary for you to add a few steps to the process.
Sometimes it is necessary to sand away a finish in order to allow the wood to soak up the moisture needed to fix a dent. Some will also warp and grow discolored if you use steam on them. You will want to test a small section before committing to working over a finish. When in doubt, lightly sand the area and reapply the finish when you have removed the mark.
Dents in Wood Flooring
Wood flooring is not always as easy to fix, and sometimes the best way to get rid of the worst dents is to simply replace the area, but there are a few things you can try first.
For many short, shallow dents, a bit of sandpaper gently used on the area will even out that part of the floor with no need to use moisture or remove the sealant. However, for most dents, you should thoroughly clean the area, sand away any layers of sealer or finish, and then carefully apply the water or steam method. Afterward, you will need to reseal the area.
Doing this will usually remove any imperfections caused by accidentally dropping something or prolonged pressure from something like a metal furniture leg. For larger or deeper dents that might have been caused by foot traffic or a more significant impact on the floor, you may need to remove the affected section and replace it entirely.
Before doing so, it can be helpful to have a professional come and take a look if none of the methods listed on this page were able to entirely remove the dent. They will have specialized experience and knowledge that might make it possible to salvage your flooring.