Expert Methods to Restore Water Damaged Wood Floors

October 29, 2020

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The best methods for how to fix water damage on wood floors will depend on the extent of damage suffered by those floors, which is often determined by how long that water sits on the floor! Drying those wood floors quickly not only keeps damage to a minimum but also helps reduce the risk of mold growth and wood rot.

beautiful kitchen with wood flooring

For minor water damage, sand swollen wood floorboards and return them to their original level and even position. Weaving in or adding new planks is needed for severely damaged wood floors or those that swell and then cup and bow during the drying and shrinking process.

 Before you pull out your sander or start ripping up floorboards, or assume you need to call a flooring installation contractor and start shopping for new floors altogether, consider some tips for how to fix water damage on wood floors. This simple guide will help you restore wood floors to their original condition, or know if it’s time to call a pro for water damage restoration services.

You might also note a few added tips for repairing other types of damage and some important details about why you don’t want to put this work off and when it’s time to call in the pros. You can then discuss all your options with a flooring contractor or water damage restoration company near you, and ensure your home’s beautiful wood floors are always in pristine condition!

How to Fix Water Damage on Wood Floors

If your home’s wood floors have suffered water damage but haven’t yet cupped and bowed, you can try to refinish their surface. Slight bowing might be fixed with a bit of sanding, whereas severely warped floorboards need replacing. Note some tips for how to manage each of these options for your wood flooring.

water damage home with wood flooring

  • Your first step in fixing water damaged floors is to remove any residual water. Don’t assume that blotting is enough, as water tends to seep under floorboards where your home’s subflooring then absorbs it quickly and easily. Excess moisture in the air can also warp or otherwise damage wood flooring.
  • As heat holds humidity, avoid hot dryers and other equipment for water removal; instead, switch on the home’s air conditioning, as this will remove humidity from the air. Open a window just a few inches as well, to increase air circulation.
  • If there is no central or room air conditioning in the area of damage, use heavy-duty fans and open the home’s windows all the way!
  • While the air conditioner or fan is running, use a shop vacuum on the “wet” setting (without a bag) to remove excess standing water and to extract as much water from underneath the floorboards as possible.
  • Inspect the planks carefully for any cupping or bowing; use a level to note if those planks are still in good condition and don’t need sanding or replacing.
  • For level and even boards, scrub them with a mild wood floor cleaner and stiff-bristled brush, to help avoid mold growth; avoid pouring more water on the floor as you work! Use a damp cloth to blot the cleanser off the floorboards.
  • If there is still a watermark or other stain left after cleaning, use a fine-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the board. Wipe off any dust and repaint or stain the board so it matches the rest of the floor.
  • For cupped or bowed boards, you’ll need to use a large, orbital sander and sand them down until they’re level and even with the rest of the floors. If they’ve lifted at the ends, use wood glue or connectors to reattach them to the subflooring. Wipe away any dust and repaint or stain the floors.

How to Weave In New Planks on Water Damaged Wood Floors

For larger sections of water damage or extremely damaged planks, it’s best to weave in new planks, meaning to pull up damaged boards and replace them with new. If you installed a snap-together, tongue-and-groove flooring yourself, it might be simple enough to pull up those damaged boards with a pry bar and replace them with new planks.

For hardwood planks applied directly to the home’s subflooring, remove the damaged boards and the ones surrounding them; this will ensure your repairs look seamless while also allowing you to inspect the subfloor for water damage and mold. If subfloor boards are water damaged, it’s vital you replace them and the plywood decking over them.

restored wood floor planks

If the home has concrete subfloors, allow them to “breathe” for a day, to expel any standing or excess water. Use a bleach-based cleaner to wash away any developing mold and allow those surfaces to dry completely as well.

To weave in new planks, measure and cut them to size, noting any patterns along with the current flooring. Wood planks are often glued to the home’s subfloor as well as nailed in place, to ensure they stay secure over the years.

Once your new planks are woven in, you’ll want to sand and refinish the entire floor. A new finish creates an even look throughout the space and allows you to add a coat of sealant over the floor, protecting it from future water damage.

How Long Does It Take for Water to Damage Wood Floors?

One important reason you need to remove water spills from wood floors and use caution about excess humidity in a space is that it doesn’t take long for water to damage wood floors! Within just a few hours of a large spill or flood, drywall might begin to soften, metal surfaces start to tarnish, and mold spores begin to grow and spread. Water flooring damage can occur easily within 48 hours of a spill, and those floors continue to absorb water for several days afterward.

The longer you ignore spills, floods, and plumbing leaks, the worse that damage! Your home’s drywall might break and crumble while rust and corrosion then spreads across metal surfaces, including plumbing pipes and fixtures. Mold and mildew spread across drywall, wood framing, and carpets and their underlying padding.

flooding and water damage in Sandy Ridge township

Homeowners might also note that water attracts pests to their home! Insects and rodents are always looking for a food and water source, so even if your home is scrupulously clean and free of food debris, an untouched flood or spill can mean an unpleasant infestation!

Along with all these risks, note that wood floors might suffer the most damage, as the wood continues to absorb moisture until saturation. As it does, the wood then swells and bulges; wood planks push against each other during this process or pull away from the home’s subflooring. As the wood dries out, it then shrinks and cups or bows, also pulling away from the home’s subflooring.

How Do You Repair Damaged Hardwood Floors?

Water is not the only cause of damaged hardwood floors! High-heeled shoes can dent wood, and hardwoods can suffer scratches and nicks from virtually any kind of shoes, pet’s nails and claws, children’s toys, and sliding furniture and other objects over the floor. Corrosive and harsh materials like nail polish remover or peroxide can also strip floor coatings and damage the wood.

Buffing with a chamois cloth can remove some surface scratches, or you can sand those areas with a fine-grit sandpaper and recoat them. For deep scratches, dents, and damage due to corrosion, it’s time to bring out the drum sander and sand the floor, and then recoat the entire surface. Heavy-duty sanding ensures the entire floor is level and even, removing dents and dings as well as other surface damage.

Sanding and recoating the floors also allows you to cover some damage you cannot remove with a drum sander. For example, you might use a dark stain or paint to cover areas bleached out by peroxide or nail polish remover, or spilled paint and other materials that have saturated a floor’s surface. If you cannot restore dented areas with sanding alone, fill those in with wood filler and then cover that repaired area with the paint of your choice.

ruined wood floor in a home

Mistakes to Avoid With DIY Wood Floor Repairs

Severe wood floor damage is often best left to a professional. A floor restoration company makes quick work of sanding down damaged areas, repairing dents and dings, and weaving in new planks where needed. They can ensure seamless, invisible repairs that last.

A water damage restoration company also ensures thorough water removal from the home, including from underneath wood planks and along the home’s subflooring. Water damage cleanup companies also wash away dangerous germs, bacteria, and other contaminants often trapped in floodwaters and which wood floors absorb quickly and easily.

If you do want to try DIY wood floor repairs, however, first note that you’ll want to use a fine-grit sandpaper and light pressure, and keep the sander moving. Too much pressure and especially in any one area can result in swirl marks and gouges! Ensure you remove all dust before painting or sealing, so that nothing gets trapped under that fresh coating.

A homeowner should also ensure they’ve addressed the reason for water damaged floors! Remember that wood absorbs moisture from the air and not just it's surface; ensure your home’s basement is dry, for example, and consider investing in a dehumidifier if needed. Plumbing leaks can also allow water to run along pipes and then wind up underneath floors, so keep the home’s fixtures in good condition.

You’ll also want to use a stain, paint, sealant, and other coating meant for your floor type in particular. When searching for how to fix water damage on wood floors, ensure you specify the wood type in your home and any other such details, so you know you use the right products and techniques and that those repairs will last for years.

A Word from 24/7 Water Damage Charlotte

When you require water damage restoration services near Charlotte, NC, our experts are there to lend a helping hand. When a storm surges, don't wait to contact a local water damage and restoration company quickly. The faster you act, the better chance your hardwood floors have of getting restored!

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