Water damage is a serious threat to any wood flooring in your home—especially when water goes undetected or ignored. When the presence of water is spotted early, it’s possible to remove the water and minimize or eliminate long-lasting damage. If ignored or given too much time to soak into the wood, damage will become permanent—and may require a full replacement.
Attentive homeowners can save themselves from interior damage by reducing the risk of water exposure in the first place and taking appropriate action to address hardwood floors once the presence of water is detected. Read on for tips on identifying water damage, and how to fix a water damaged wood floor in your home.
Causes of Water Damage on Baseboards and Floors
The most likely causes of water damage include:
- A plumbing leak that floods a portion of your hardwood floors. This can sometimes develop out of view, such as underneath kitchen cabinets, resulting in floor damage that progresses before you’re able to identify visible signs of water exposure.
- Roof leaks or other indoor leaks. These leaks can travel through your home inside the walls, reaching flooring if other signs of leakage are not detected.
- Improper installation on wet surfaces. If the slab where wood flooring is installed isn’t thoroughly dry prior to installation, it can cause water damage to the floor.
- Standing water on the floor. If your home suffers a flooded kitchen floor or has water on wood floors due to flooding from plumbing leaks or natural disasters, it can destroy the wood underneath before you have a chance to clear the water away.
While humidity can cause slight variations in the composition of wood as it absorbs or releases water based on environmental conditions, humidity often isn’t enough to cause floor damage on its own. However, extreme changes in humidity and temperature—such as if a home is abandoned and/or unregulated by air conditioning during intense weather—could cause buckling or warping in the wood.
Signs of Water Damage on Hardwood Floors
If water isn’t actively present on your hardwood floors, it may be difficult to identify damage from water exposure. Common signs of damage include:
- Cupping or buckling of the hardwood.
- Staining and discoloration on the hardwood—especially if the shape of the staining bears similarity to the shape of spilled water.
- Lifting nails and/or floorboards. Hardwood floor buckling can cause the wood slats to pop out of place—especially because water absorption can cause slats to increase in size, crowding out space along your subfloor.
- Mold growth. The development of mold between your hardwood slats is one of the most common signs of mold under hardwood floors.
How to Remove Moisture from Wood Floors
If water exposure to your floors is recent—such as a burst pipe you’ve discovered—it’s worth taking action to remove moisture from the wood, in hopes of minimizing or avoiding hardwood floor damage altogether. Take the following steps:
- Stop the flow of incoming water. Shut off water at the source to control the space in your home.
- Clean up all standing water. Use towels and/or mops to clean up the mess. A wet vacuum can also help clean up standing water quickly.
- Remove furniture and other wet items from the home. Wet furniture is a source of moisture for your flooring and can lead to additional damage.
- Set up a dehumidifier. Pulling moisture out of the air can help remove water that is absorbing into the wood slats. For a significant mess, consider renting an industrial humidifier.
- Use standing fans to circulate air.
Once you’ve done everything you can to mitigate water damage, inspect the floor for signs of damage. Buckling, staining and other changes may reflect permanent damage that needs repaired.
How to Repair Hardwood Floor Water Damage
When hardwood floors require repair, often the only solution is to remove wood slats that have been damaged by water and replace them with new pieces that match your existing flooring. This is often much cheaper than replacing the wood floors altogether and can result in your floor looking as good as new.
When these repairs take place, you’ll want to inspect the subfloor and replace any pieces that appear damaged. Depending on the extent of subfloor damage, you may have to remove additional wood slats to access and properly replace the damaged subfloor.
In cases of extensive water damage, you may end up replacing all the hardwood flooring in a room, or in your entire home—as well as any damaged subflooring.
Water damage can be a source of stress for any homeowner who loves the wood floors in their home. If you suspect water damage or are dealing with the active presence of water, contact a restoration specialist that can help mitigate water damage and preserve the integrity of your hardwood floors.