How to Fix Water Damage on Wood Floors

Water damage can be one of the most destructive events that can happen to your home. If it’s not addressed quickly it can damage building materials such as wood floors. Water on wood floors can cause it to warp, discolor and grow mold. Water damage on wood floors can be caused by a number of different things, such as leaks from plumbing fixtures or appliances, heavy rains, or even flooding. Regardless of the cause, it is important to act quickly to mitigate the damage and prevent further damage from occurring. Although it may seem daunting, there are ways to fix wood floor water damage.

How Long Does It Take for Water To Damage Hardwood Floors?

The sooner you begin the cleanup process, the better chance you have of salvaging your floors. If you have a large water damage disaster like a hot water heater leak, malfunctioning appliance, flood, or burst pipe, you should contact a water damage restoration company right away.

The amount of time it takes for water to damage hardwood floors depends on several factors, such as the type of wood, the finish on the floor, and the amount of water. A small spill that is cleaned up immediately will likely stay on top of the wood and not seep under the floorboards.

Engineered hardwood floors are more resistant to water damage than solid hardwood floors because they have a plywood or particle board core that is less likely to warp. However, even engineered hardwood floors can be damaged if they are left wet for too long.

The finish on the floor also plays a role in how quickly water damage will occur. A floor with a urethane finish will take longer to show water damage than a floor with an oil-based finish. The reason for this is that urethane is a plastic that is not as easily penetrated by water.

cupped wood floors

How to Deal With Water-Damaged Wood Floors?

Once you have determined that your floors have been damaged by water, it is important to take immediate action. Here are the main steps you should follow:

Find the Water Source

First you should identify where the water is coming from and stop it at the source, if possible. Every home has a main water line that you can cut off if you can’t quickly identify the source.

If the water is coming from an appliance or plumbing fixture, you should shut off the power to that appliance or turn off the water to the fixtures. If you cannot find the source of the water, you should call an emergency plumber.

Remove Water from Wood Floors

Once you have stopped the water at its source,  you should start the process of removing water from your wood floors. The best way to do this is with a wet/dry vacuum. If you don’t have one, you can rent one from most hardware stores.

Start by vacuuming up as much water as possible with a shop vac, then move on to mopping with a clean cloth or mop.

Clean and Sanitize Wood Floors

After you have removed as much water as possible, it is important to clean and sanitize your floor. This will help prevent mold growth and keep the floors safe and clean.

Start by cleaning the floors with a mild soap or cleaner, then use a disinfectant to kill any bacteria or fungi that may have been present in the water.

Dry Flooring

It is crucial to dry it as soon as possible not only to avoid warping the surface but also to prevent mold from developing. In fact, even after the floor has dried, mold spores may still be present on the wood. Furthermore, mold can jeopardize the health of everyone in your home–especially those with respiratory problems such as asthma.

Industrial fans and dehumidifiers can help speed up the drying process, and should be placed in the affected area. If your home has a crawlspace or basement, place fans in those areas too and point them directly towards where the water is leaking. You can also drill a couple of holes in the subfloor where the leak started so that the water doesn’t puddle between the floors.

In the case that the hardwood flooring is wet on a 2nd floor or higher with a finished ceiling below the floor, it might be a good idea to cut a neat square into the ceiling to ensure that the fans will dry the underside of your sub-floor efficiently

water removal wood floors

Treat All Areas Presenting Mold Growth

If you suspect mold has grown on wood flooring, it’s important to act fast. If left untreated, mold can spread quickly and cause permanent damage to the wood.

First, you should use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to pick up any loose spores. Next, you will need to treat the affected areas using an appropriate mold cleaning solution and sealant to prevent the mold from returning. If the area is more than 10 square feet, it’s best to leave the removal to a professional mold remediation company.

Sand the Floor Where Needed

In the case that the floors have warped due to water exposure you should sand it down until the surface is even. Make sure to use a sander with a fine grade sandpaper and be sure to clean up any dust or debris left behind.

The next step is to sand the floor if there are any areas that have been warped due to water exposure. This will help level out the surface.

man sanding wood floors

Apply a Finish

You should apply a finish to protect your hardwood flooring. Whether you choose an oil-based finish, a water-based finish or a polyurethane finish, make sure to allow the flooring to dry completely before applying it.

Wood Floor Water Damage Repair

If your floor has sustained extensive damage, you may need to replace the entire floor or certain damaged planks. Take caution when removing the damaged boards, as you don’t want to damage any surrounding flooring.

Signs of Water Damage on Hardwood Floors

Not sure if water damage is affecting your hardwood floors? Here are some signs that they may be suffering from water or moisture issues:

  • Buckling or warping
  • Floor Cupping
  • Loose boards
  • Discoloration, staining or fading
  • Swelling of the wood surface
  • Musty odor

If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to take action quickly. The faster you address the water damage, the better chance your floors have of being salvaged without needing to be replaced.

Common Causes of Cupping in Flooring

Cupping can happen for other reasons besides water leaks and flooding. Here are a few common causes of cupping:

Change in relative humidity

Depending on the climate where you live, your wood floors may expand or contract due to changes in humidity.

If cupping is happening in a fairly uniform manner throughout your home, and the cupping is not drastic, then the changes in humidity are most likely to blame.

Subfloor moisture

If there is too much moisture in the concrete slab, crawl space, or basement below your wood floor, this can cause cupping. This is especially common with new construction if the flooring is installed before any type of HVAC system has been set up within your home. It could also happen down the road if your basement has high humidity levels.

Improper installation

If you install a hardwood floor before the subfloor is properly dried or the floorboards reach an equilibrium moisture content, later cupping might occur.

Once you begin to add furniture and people to a room, the moisture and temperature levels in the air will change. You want to make sure that there is proper EMC (equilibrium moisture content) between the subfloor and finished floor to prevent cupping.

Wood Floor Water Damage Prevention

The best way to avoid costly repair bills due to water damage is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Some tips for preventing water damage on your hardwood floors include:

  • Check plumbing fixtures and pipes for signs of wear or leaks.
  • Fix any leaks or cracks as soon as possible.
  • Keep humidity levels

Professional Wood Floor Water Damage Repair

If you find yourself in need of hardwood floor repair due to water damage, contact a professional for advice and assistance. The sooner you tackle the problem, the better chance your floors have of being salvaged. With proper care and maintenance, your wood floors should last for years to come.

finished hardwood floors

Alpha One Restore Water Damage Repair

Alpha One Restore is a certified and licensed water damage restoration company and rebuild contractor that can assess your unique situation and provide advice on the best course of action. We can help with every step from the water removal and drying to the repair process. Hiring a professional to take care of your hardwood floor water damage repair needs is always recommended for optimal results.

Alpha One Restore serves the greater DFW Metroplex including McKinney, Frisco, Prosper, Lucas, Allen, Fairview, Little Elm, Celina and Plano TX.

Contact us today to request an estimate. We’re available 24 hours for emergency service.


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