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Hardwood flooring is the pride of any home. Whether installed when the home was first built or a costly new investment, protecting these stunning floors is of paramount importance – if only to preserve your home’s value. Today, we look at how to repair a water-damaged wood floor.
Any leaks or flooding can prove disastrous. Standing water seeps into wood floors, bending the boards and turning architectural heritage into junkyard scrap. It’s a homeowners’ nightmare. For people living in hurricane- or flood-prone areas, it’s a familiar scene. Many quality wood floors have gone the way of the chipper after torrential rains and rising waters flooded homes and businesses.
If you’ve got a wood floor that’s recently sustained water damage, don’t despair. Before you set to work pulling up your beloved hardwood floor, you may be able to salvage and repair the damage.
Learning how to repair a water-damaged wood floor isn’t hard. With some simple tried-and-trusted techniques, you can restore your wood floor to its former glory.
How to Tell if Your Wood Floor is Water Damaged
The most obvious sign is standing water. If you spot the water early enough, you can usually save the wood before any damage sets in. Wood’s cellulose fiber rapidly soaks up water, releasing it slowly over time. The more quickly you mop, wipe, or vacuum up the water, the better.
Where water has already caused damage, you may notice:
- Cupping or crowning. The individual planks have warped from the water, creating a hump or depression in the floor. Because the wood readily absorbs the water, it expands, warping the shape of the planks. That reveals the edges of the planks or leads to buckling.
- Staining. Another key sign of water damage is black or dark staining along the plank’s edge. The most common cause is mold growing, as well as the tannins in the wood changing color in reaction to the minerals. Nails holding boards in place may also be rusted.
In such cases, you’ll need to assess the damage to determine if the wood is salvageable. Sometimes, you only need to remove a few planks, whereas, in others, the whole floor is unfixable.
How to Repair a Water-Damaged Wood Floor
Modern wood floors are often coated with polyurethane to keep water and dirt from penetrating the wood. However, even the most durable polyurethane coatings are not 100% waterproof – at best, they’re a temporary defense.
That’s why you want to act as quickly as possible. Water will penetrate between seams, through any breaks or scratches in the coating, under baseboards, and into anywhere you don’t want it to be. There’s a reason why water damage is treated so seriously.
What You’ll Need
- Shop vacuum or mop
- Rubber gloves
- Absorbent cloth or sponge
- Mild detergent or disinfectant
- Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
Repairing Water Damaged Wood Flooring:
1. Remove any standing water
You want to remove every last drop of standing water from the floor. The fastest way to do so is to use a shop vacuum in “wet mode” (no bag). Using the vacuum hose and a squeegee, gather the water as you suck it up.
Alternatively, you can go for the old-fashioned approach. Use a mop to soak up the water, squeezing it out into a bucket. Mopping is unlikely to remove all the water, however. Once you’ve finished mopping, wipe the floor down with a dry, absorbent cloth.
2. Clean the floor
To prevent mold growth, remove any lingering dirt. Mix a mild detergent, disinfectant, and clean water in a bucket. Scrub the entire floor using a stiff brush – get all affected wooden surfaces. Remember to rinse the brush frequently to avoid rubbing in the dirt.
3. Deal with any mold
If you notice any signs of mold, use TSP or a TSP substitute mixed with water. Scrub the solution into the affected areas until the mold and discoloration are gone. Then, rinse with clean water and dry.
4. Remove paint
If the floor is painted, mold growth can occur beneath the paint. Paint acts as a barrier, sealing in the moisture. In most instances, you’ll need to scrape off the paint, scrub the wood or use a TSP-water solution, and then allow it to dry – as described above.
5. Allow drying
Drying the floor is a waiting game. However, you can speed up the process by opening a window or door or using a fan. Box fans, for instance, can help blow the evaporated moisture out of the room.
You want to dry the floor slowly. Going too fast can crack the wood, and excess heat results in splitting, cupping, and other problems.
6. Sand down the floor
Where there is some mild discoloration, you should be able to remove the top veneer of the wood. If the discoloration penetrates deeper, there isn’t a permanent solution.
Cupping is also a major problem. You’ll want to ensure the wood is completely dry on both sides – if the wood is wet on one side, the expansion causes it to warp in the opposite direction. Heavy sanding – using a drum or orbital sander – can remove the cupped area. However, heavy cupping cannot be sanded flat.
7. Replace laminate flooring
Laminate flooring may appear like solid hardwood; however, it is not the same. Made of wood pulp with a laminate veneer, it’s highly susceptible to water damage. If the water has soaked into a laminate flooring, your only solution is to replace the affected area.
Luckily, laminate flooring is easy to remove and replace. Simply pull at the affected sheets, and slot in new ones.
See Any Water Damage? Act Fast!
Where there’s water, there’s damage – that’s a fact. If not now, then later. The sooner you act to dry the wood and clean it, the less damage you’ll see. Try the above techniques to salvage your wood floor.
If you’ve sustained any water damage to your home, we’re ready to help. Contact us today to find out more about our repair and restoration services.