Flooding and Hardwood Floors


Flooding and Hardwood Floors

Water is one of the greatest dangers to hardwood floors.  If the humidity is too high, the natural wood will absorb excess moisture, causing it to warp, cup, buckle, and otherwise move out of place.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes water gets into our homes.  Whether it be a flood, an ice maker that leaked, or some other unexpected source, water can cause real damage to hardwood floors.

Repairing Hardwood Floors

What are your options if your hardwood floors have been exposed to a large volume of water?  Will you always have to replace them?  Thankfully, the answer to that question is no. 

Depending on several factors, it may be possible to dry out the hardwood and re-seal the planks to return the floor to its former glory.  However, this is not always possible.  Dirt and grime can be removed from the surface, but the real test of salvageability will be what lies beneath the surface.  Seek out professional guidance to determine whether your floors can be saved.


In the best-case scenario, the wood planks will not have expanded dramatically at all, with no cupping or buckling.  If there is no mold or mildew, it may be possible to salvage the flooring. 

Depending on the subfloor and how easily it can be dried out, professionals may be able to use a variety of high-powered fans and dehumidifiers to pull the moisture out of the wood and re-stabilize the floor.  This has been done successfully even in places where inches of water covered the floor.


In the worst-case scenario, there is buckling in the wood planks, the subfloors cannot be easily dried out, and mold and mildew have taken root.  At this point, you should think about replacing your flooring rather than trying to salvage it.

If you want to save your floors, contact a professional as quickly as possible, and start pulling water out of the wood with high-powered fans and dehumidifiers.  Don’t wait to start drying out the planks. 

Free and Bound Water

Hardwood flooring takes on water in two stages.  In the first stage, water seeps into the parts of the wood structure that are open and not separated by cell walls.  This is called free water.  In the second stage, water permeates the cell walls and fills up the closed areas.  This is called bound water.

This means that your flooring may have a delayed expansion if you do not remove the source of water as quickly as possible.  If the initial damage doesn’t seem that bad, don’t take that as a sign that you’re in the clear.  Once hardwood floors have taken on water in the cell walls, it becomes much harder to dry them out.

Ambient Sources of Water

Wood is a natural material that absorbs moisture from anything around it.  That means that if you only dry out the wood planks but replace them on top of a wet subfloor, they will absorb that water again, recreating the same issues.

It is crucial that you are able to dry out both the hardwood planks themselves as well as the surrounding environment.  A trained professional can give you good advice on whether this is possible.

If everything lines up, hardwood floors can be salvaged and re-sealed.  Depending on the quality of the professional work, you may not even be able to tell that there was a flooding event in the first place. 

The key is to act quickly.

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