How to Restore Water-Damaged Hardwood Floors
Wood flooring is trendy among many homeowners and interior designers. Hardwood floors are outstanding in every way, with only a weakness for water as even a small amount of water can deal a lot of damage. Are you one of those homeowners whose wooden floors have been damaged by water? If so, then make sure to read this article since we will be explaining how to restore water damaged floors.
Step 1: Assess the damage.
Wood is a hygroscopic material; hence it can absorb and retain any moisture in the environment. Knowing how to spot the signs of water damage will help you catch the problem before significant damage occurs. Cupping and crowning are some clear signs that there is an issue somewhere.
Cupping happens when the edges of the floorboards are lifted much higher than the center. Each of the floorboards has a concave appearance. Cupping is the first sign that indicates there is a moisture problem in your floors. When noticed, it generally means that there is either water vapor or direct water coming from underneath your floorboards.
The bottom side of your floorboards absorbs more moisture than what is at the top, causing them to expand. It could be from a broken pipe or the extra rise in humidity from an insulated crawl space. Since the moisture content is higher at the bottom than at the top, the bottom of each floorboard swells, making the top curl inwards while the sides of the boards swell around the center, bringing about the concave look.
Crowning is when the edges of the floorboards slope downwards, and the middle tends to be raised, making the floor have an arched appearance. Crowning usually means that the moisture content at the top of the floor is higher than that at the bottom.
When humidity and moisture content in the air rises, the wood absorbs the excess moisture and reacts by swelling, which causes crowning. Crowning is not only caused by moisture content, but also occurs if the water is directly placed on the wood floor. Some examples include mopping the wooden floor, any appliance that leaks water like a dishwasher, entry and exit areas where wet shoes come into contact with the wooden floor, or the area you place your pet’s water bowl.
All these examples show locations where water is directly placed on the wood floor, having the potential to cause crowning and further damage.
Step 2: Determine if your floor requires repair or replacement.
Damage to the wood flooring may vary depending on the amount of time the floor was wet. The moisture content in any typical hardwood floor ranges between 6-12% and a flooded floor will have a moisture content of 40%; which is why the damage can be severe.
It all depends on the amount of time the floor is exposed to water, i.e., if the wooden floor is left to dry on its own, more moisture is retained. Determining whether to repair or replace the flooring will depend on the following factors:
- The total amount of time the wooden floor has been exposed to the water.
- The type of your wood flooring; if it is either engineered hardwood or solid hardwood.
- How severe the damage is; has any water penetrated down to the subfloor.
- The flooring finish: stains on isolated floorboards may have mellowed with time, making it difficult to replace such sections.
The bottom line is, if there is minor damage, saving the floor is possible by replacing the affected floorboards, sanding, and refinishing the entire floor. If the floor’s damage is severe and extensive, the whole floor will need replacing, and sometimes the subfloor may need replacement.
Step 3: Find the root of what’s causing the issue.
Before starting any repair on your hardwood flooring, it is crucial to determine where the water causing the damage came from. Problems that cause damage to wood floors may happen due to persistent moisture over a long period.
External sources are the first place to look to determine the cause. Stains on window and door frames indicate that water is seeping under the door or on the window’s framing. Around windows, you may also notice some signs of water on the wall in the form of staining or peeling paint.
Internal sources of water include radiators that might be leaking, refrigerators, and dishwashers. These appliances often have clogs on their filter housing which causes a persistent drip of water that may find its way down the floorboards and cause damage to the planks. It is essential to perform visual inspections to identify these leaks and fix them to avoid further damage.
Step 4: Fixing water-damaged floors
The sooner you attend to your damaged floors, the better the chance of saving them. The first step is to gather all the tools and materials you will require to aid your repair. These tools will include:
- Shop vacuum
- Stiff brush
- Rubber gloves
- Fans or dehumidifiers
- Disinfectant (bleach solution or trisodium phosphate)
Remove the surface water.
Wood fibers rapidly absorb water but tend to release the water more slowly, meaning you should use a shop vacuum to start pulling out the water as soon as possible. Removing much of the water on the floor’s surface will require the shop vacuum to be used with its “wet mode” setting. It’s much easier to use a wide flooring attachment on the vacuum hose to make the process effective.
You could also use a squeegee to gather up the water and then suck it up.
Clean the floor and treat moldy areas.
To thoroughly clean the floor, you will require a mild detergent combined with a compatible disinfectant such as Mr. Clean. Add the detergent and disinfectant to a bucket of warm, clean water and stir to ensure an even mixture.
Using a stiff brush, scrub the floor’s entire surface and all the related woodwork (stairs, baseboards, newel posts, etc.). As you use the brush, it is important to rinse it frequently inside the bucket. Keep the water usage minimal, and do not pour any water on the floor since we do not want to add excess water to our current problem. Ensure you take the right amount of time while scrubbing and remove all the mud, dirt, and grime as any material left will cause bacteria to grow.
In the areas that show signs of mold growth, clean them with TSP (trisodium phosphate), which will help eradicate mold growth. Scrub all the affected areas with the cleaner, ensuring the mold is gone together with its discoloration. Rinse the area with clean water and then dry the surface with a cloth.
Run drying equipment and wait until the wood fully dries.
It is advisable to dry the floor steadily, slowly, and naturally, as drying wood too quickly may cause it to weaken and crack. Also, never apply direct heat to hardwood floors as it can result in problems like splitting and cupping. Equipment such as dehumidifiers and heaters are also great at sucking up the excess moisture from the hardwood flooring, producing excellent results.
Open doors and windows to allow the outside air to fill the room and dry your surface. A large fan or a carpet drier can be placed on a door opening, and fan airflow out through the window. However, if the outside air is more humid than the inside air, close the doors, windows and run the fans.
Sand the floor
On the completion of drying a wooden floor, you may notice that some of the floorboards are bending upwards or downwards, otherwise known as cupping. A drum sander or a good orbital sander should be used to do heavy sanding to reduce some of the cuppings.
However, areas that are significantly cupped cannot be sanded flat again. Face nailing the floorboards back down is the only option in these cases. Sanding is a demanding process, so to avoid frustrations, mistakes, and damage, hiring a professional is highly advised.
Stain and refurnish
Mold growth may also appear under the paint on the wooden floor, which creates a tricky problem. Your only option is to remove the entire furnish as the paint creates a seal that can trap water between the wood.
First, scrape the paint off and use an abrasive cleaner to scrub the wood. Dry the floor with the method outlined earlier, and when completely dry, you can then refurbish your hardwood flooring.
The most recommendable way to protect your hardwood flooring from water damage is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Always make sure to use the appropriate sealant and reapply it quite often. Find and fix any areas with water leakage to address the problem early.
You should always perform routine maintenance and manage any water damage signs immediately to ensure the floor stays nice and beautiful in your home. Hiring a water damage restoration or flood cleanup company to address the problem is also advisable to ensure they do not return.