Hardwood floors are a beautiful floor covering choice for homes and businesses. They are durable and luxurious and are a popular option by interior designers and decorators. Hardwood floors, however, can be easily damaged when exposed to water and moisture.

Because wood is porous, wood will absorb any water on its surface. When the water permeates the wood, it causes it to swell and buckle and can destroy hardwood flooring. The flooring will appear cracked and stained and if left untreated, may not be salvageable and beyond repair. Fixing water damaged hardwood floors starts first with prevention, and then with replacement or repair.

Preventing Water Damage to Hardwood Floors

If you’ve experienced a water leak or flood on your wood floors, it’s important to take quick action to avoid costly repairs and discourage mold growth. Whether it was a small leak from a faucet or a flood caused by a storm, the first 24 hours are critical. With years of emergency restoration experience, our team has found the following steps are important to prevent water damage to hardwood floors.

Remove Water-Drenched Objects from the Floor

As soon as possible after you’ve identified and stopped the source of the water, remove any water-soaked items off of the flooring. Rugs, furniture, and other items should be moved to another area of the home or business. If possible, place the damp items outside in a warm, sunny spot to dry out. Leaving the items in the affected area will slow down the drying process and may accelerate mold growth.

Remove Excess Water

After you’ve removed the water-drenched items from the area, you will then need to remove any excess standing water. For smaller amounts of water, you may be able to remove the excess water with mops, towels, and clean rags. For more than a few gallons of water spillage, you should use a wet vacuum to pull the water out of the flooring. Wet vacuums are a great tool to pull water out of the pores and seams of flooring.

Clean the Flooring

It may sound counter-intuitive to add water and additional liquid to wood floors after a spill or water loss, however, there may be dirt and debris leftover from the original water source. This dirt and debris may get stuck in the wood planks and seams and cause bacteria growth. Use a cleaner designed for wood floors, and then after you’ve mopped the space, run the dry vacuum over the area again.

Dry the Wood

Even if you’ve removed the excess water and the flooring appears dry after using the wet vacuum, there may be areas out-of-sight that are still wet. The water can soak through the wood planks and could potentially impact the subflooring.

To find and remediate this moisture, place a dehumidifier in the middle of the room on the highest setting for at least 24 hours. In addition, place fans around the perimeter of the room and position them so they create a constant airflow on the surface of the floor. If possible, also place fans in the room directly below the water-damaged area and point them towards the ceiling. These fans will help dry the subfloor from below.

Search for Mold

Aside from having to replace the entire water-damaged flooring, the biggest headache for home and business owners after a water emergency is mold. Since mold loves moisture, it can thrive in, under, and around water-soaked areas. Once the area is completely dry, look for a white powdery coating or signs of early mold growth. If you see signs of mold, you can remove it using several methods and using products you may already have in your cleaning product inventory. 

Check for Moisture

After several days of trying, use a moisture meter to determine how much moisture is left in the flooring. Acceptable moisture content in wood flooring is between 2-4% of the subfloor moisture level. Don’t be surprised if the moisture level is high the first time you test – wood floors can sometimes take weeks to completely dry out.

To Replace or Repair?

If you notice water stains, warped or bucked planks, or creaky floors after the flooring is dried, you may have to replace or repair the hardwood floors. If you are a skilled DIYer, this can be a weekend home project. For those not well-versed in repairing or replacing flooring, it may be best to use a restoration company or flooring contractor.

Steps for Repairing Hardwood Floors

If you are comfortable repairing hardwood floors, there are several steps to make the process easier including:

  1. Identify which planks need to be replaced and remove them. Look for planks that are visibly damaged with water. Remove these planks first and inspect the surrounding planks for moisture and signs of mold growth.
  2. Ensure the floor underneath is dry. Before replacing the affected planks, you need to make sure the subfloor is dry. If you’ve identified any moisture in the subfloor, continue using the drying methods previously mentioned before moving on to additional steps. If you cover the subfloor with new wood and it is still wet, you may make the water issue worse and cause damage to the new flooring.
  3. Install new hardwood planks. Once you are certain the area is completely dry, you can install the new wood planks.
  4. Sand and refinish the entire floor. To ensure a uniform and professional appearance, sand and refinish the entire floor of the room, not just the area with the new planks. This will give the room a fresh, new look and appearance.

Water Damage Restoration from Reynolds Restoration Services

The Reynolds Restoration Services team of certified, trained water restoration professionals uses state-of-the-art drying machines and methods to repair the damages caused by water. Our team has more than 15 years of experience repairing water-damaged floors and can help you with your project. Repairing hardwood floors can be a complicated process, and we recommend engaging with a restoration company to help you minimize repair costs. Many home and business owners call us long after it’s feasible to repair hardwood floors so be sure to take quick action if you are not able to do the work yourself.

About Reynolds Restoration Services

Celebrating 15 years in 2020, Reynolds Restoration Services is the premier commercial and residential disaster restoration and reconstruction company in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland/DC service areas. Our qualified and dedicated staff are always on call to respond to fire, smoke damage, storm, water, and mold remediation. While we hope you don’t need us, we are here just in case you do.