What You Need to Know About Water Damaged Wood Floors:

Edited April 28, 2021

Step One – Stop the Cause

You are left with water damaged wood floors  in the aftermath of flooding caused by ice dams, faulty appliances, burst pipes or another incident in your home or office. First and foremost, you must stop the source of water. Second and equally important you must dry the floors with the use of fans, blowers and dehumidifiers. The final step is repairing and refinishing your floors.

What happens to The Wood?

Water damage happens when water is allowed to saturate a hardwood floor often the result is a condition often referred to as cupping. This happens because more moisture is absorbed by the unfinished underside of the boards causing the bottom of each board to expand more than the top. The result is a wavy appearance and each course of wood is raised at the seams.

Step Two – Drying

The hardest part when dealing with water damaged floors is waiting for the floors to dry out. If the floors are cupped like a washboard they may flatten out with time and you may avoid replacement. After about one week of drying out your water damaged hardwood floors, give your flooring contractor a call. The contractor will take a moisture test and depending on the reading you may simply wait a couple more weeks for another round of tests.

Once the moisture content of the damaged boards stabilizes and the moisture readings are consistent through out the room you can commence with repair or refinishing. If the floors are sanded before sufficient drying has taken place, you will be left with issues when the floors do fully dry out. The effect will be the reverse of cupping referred to as crowning.

In extreme cases of water damage hardwood floor boards peak up off the floor 4-5”. In this instance chances are the floors will need to be replaced. When excessive water has infiltrated an area the water damaged wood floors need to be removed and the area needs to dry out thoroughly before laying new floors.

Step Three Repair, Replace and Refinish

The final step, returning the shine and luster to your wood floors. Depending on the severity of  damage, the hardwood floors may only need to be refinished. In some cases patching is required to replace the damaged boards prior to refinishing. In the worst case scenario, the entire floor needs to be removed and replaced.

Prevent Damage

Sometimes the cause of water damage is beyond our control but sometimes we can take simple steps to prevent accidental water damage.

Promptly clean up any water spills or pooling of water on your floors. When you see any signs of moisture, grab a clean, dry cloth or mop immediately. Quick action will minimize or eliminate any impact on your floors.

Keep your floors in good repair. Floors that have lost their protective coating of polyurethane are susceptible to damage more readily than floors with a layer of polyurethane. Learn about maintenance coating here.

When cleaning your floors remember to never use excessive water or cleaning solution. A string mop is not recommended as this type of mop holds too much liquid. Take care when cleaning your wood floors because excessive amounts of water can be absorbed by the grain in the wood.

Check your plumbing and fixtures. Keep an eye on your plumbing and if in doubt call in an expert to be sure fittings and fixtures are in proper working order. Always have a professional install your appliances.

When away have a neighbor or friend walk thru your house to be sure heat is to temperature (in the winter months) and that there are no other issues that need tending. If away for an extended time, it may also be prudent to turn the water main off to your home.

Here is a short video explaining what happens when water damage occurs to your hardwood floors.