How To Fix A Water Damaged Wooden Floor
It doesn’t require a disaster of the scope of a spring flood or hurricane to damage a wood floor. Plumbing leaks, fire hoses and the upstairs neighbor’s overflowing tub might pose problems for porous wood floors and substructures. Whatever the cause, water causes warping, and can trigger mold and mildew growth that can ruin wood. Major flooding creates problems in foundations and walls that must be addressed, but the first step in mitigating the damage done by water to a building — including its wood floors — is to gently but quickly ventilate and dry materials.
1. Open windows and doors to dry out the floor. If this is not practical because the outdoor air is saturated, too, turn on the heat or air conditioner to dry the indoor air. Use fans to draw moist air out of the room or direct dry air into the room from outside.
2. Remove wet insulation between the joists under the floor and put either fans or dehumidifiers in the basement or crawl space if the flooding has been serious. In cases of catastrophic flooding, shovel mud off the floor and immediately mop it dry. Damp mop the entire floor with a 10-percent solution of bleach to stop mildew bloom.
3. Pull away baseboard around the perimeter of the room and stack it flat to dry elsewhere. If possible, remove a few boards to provide additional ventilation for floors that have sustained prolonged flooding.
4. Wait until the wood has dried completely. Its normal, or equilibrium, moisture content should drop to about 20 percent.
5. Replace any boards you have lifted once the wood dries. Lightly sand the floor to smooth any edges misshapen by swelling from waterlogging.
6. Wait several more weeks to sand the floor. Wipe it clean with mineral spirits on a clean cloth and re-coat with varnish.
7. Replace the baseboards and place new insulation between joists to complete repairs.
Things You Will Need
- Clean rags
- Paper towels
- Household bleach
- Pry bar
- Garbage bags
- Floor sander and sandpaper
- Varnish or urethane
- Mineral spirits
- Rubber gloves
- Respirator or mask
- Call your insurance agent before beginning mitigation to find out what help is available to you; flood insurance may provide floor replacement.
- Flooring contractors have electronic moisture meters.
- Before dealing with a soggy floor, check the joists underneath the floor and sill — the timber upon which the walls rest — for evidence of sponginess or rot. These structural members should be replaced if they’ve been compromised.
- Tongue-and-groove flooring may not recover from flooding, and plywood subfloors may delaminate — both should be replaced.
- Fungus spores travel in the air and are present in soil, wood and building materials. Moisture feeds them and they bloom into mildew and other molds in wet conditions. Dry floors, walls and other materials quickly to control mold growth. Wear rubber gloves and a respirator when handling silt and floodwater.