As any seasoned homeowner can attest, water is hardwood floors’ natural enemy. Exposing hardwood to standing water for any significant period of time can result in discoloration, warping, and even mold growth.
What makes it even worse is that water damage could be taking place at any moment, just below the surface of the wood, and once it becomes noticeable, it’s already too late, which is why prevention is the best way to avoid water damage.
However, you can’t plan for everything; floods, leaks, and burst pipes are just some ways in which water can make its way onto your hardwood floors. Once that happens, here’s how you fix it.
What are the signs of water damage?
1. Warped Floors
Hardwood is an extremely porous substance, which means water will easily be absorbed. As the wood intakes more and more water, it’ll expand and warp your floors as a result. This will first reveal itself at the edges of the board turning up, and if it’s severe enough, the whole board cupping or buckling.
If your floorboards are starting to turn a darker color, you can be positive that there has been water damage of some sort. These spots or staining is caused by mold growth, the tannins in the wood reacting to the minerals in the water, rust from the nails at the ends, or a combination of all three.
These kinds of water damage require a constant source of water, so at least you know you’re not dealing with a one-off occurrence -like a flood – and need to find whatever is causing it before repairing the damage.
How to fix a water damaged wood floor
1. Optional – Contact your insurance
If your homeowner’s insurance covers these sorts of incidents, you should get in touch with your provider as soon as possible. They will most likely hire a professional to assist you in restoring your wood floors.
In some cases, insurance providers will offer to replace the whole floor rather than do repairs. If that’s the case for you, we suggest you take it.
2. Remove the water source
The first step to fixing water damage is to stop it from getting any worse. This can range from relatively easy to incredibly hard, depending on where the water is coming from. If you’re dealing with a spill or flood, this is relatively simple, just dry it out as quickly as possible; You can even use a shop vacuum to suck out as much water from the wood as possible.
However, if there’s no water in sight, you’re probably dealing with a leak of some sort, perhaps from a broken pipe. You’re going to have to locate the leak and fix it; otherwise, whatever you fix will be damaged again later on.
This may seem like a daunting task, but there are a few tricks you can use to your advantage. You should take note of the location of the damage; if it’s close to a door or window, start by making sure these aren’t letting water in due to an improper seal. Similarly, it is not uncommon for refrigerators or AC units to leak in the summer.
3. Clean the floor
If you’re cleaning up water from a flood or burst pipe, it’s crucial that you clean the floor and wood products as soon as possible to prevent mold growth. It’s not just water that causes mold, but also dirt, debris, and silt. Using clean water and detergent, scrub the affected areas thoroughly. However, DO NOT pour water over the floor. Instead, wet your brush to use as little water as possible.
4. Run Drying Equipment
Before you get up to any repairs, it is crucial that you allow the wood to dry fully. Even if you’ve soaked up any water on the surface, there is still plenty of liquid inside the wood that can cause damage later on.
There are a few household appliances that you can use to speed up the drying process, such as heaters and dehumidifiers, but we suggest you hire a professional. A specialized contractor can use an electronic moisture meter to determine if your wood is dry enough to be worked on.
If you’re keen on doing this yourself, we suggest you wait at least six months before sanding wood to get rid of cupping or stains since the wood can bend back into shape on its own, leaving you with a concave floorboard from excessive sanding.
5. Begin repairs
Once you’re certain that your floor is dry, you can begin repairs. How to go about repairing hardwood flooring will depend on the severity of the damage. If it’s minor mold growth, staining, or cupping, you can get away with sanding up to ¼ inch of wood, but if the damage is more severe, you will have to replace one or more planks.
If your floors are not made from traditional hardwood, then you should be even more careful since laminate and engineered wood are a lot less resistant to moisture and will most likely need to be replaced.
6. Hire a professional
If your house has suffered extensive water damage, then you’re better off hiring a professional. We’ve seen countless cases of people spending time and money to fix their floors by themselves, only to have issues pester them later on. Here at RestorationUSA, we can get you in touch with the best professionals in your city to fix your floor the right way!