Do Hardwood Floors Need to be Replaced After a Flood?

It’s a fact: sometimes a water-damaged hardwood floor may not be salvageable in any way that makes financial sense. Severity and duration of water exposure is a major factor. For example, a hardwood floor totally submerged in standing water after an event like an outdoor flood or hurricane storm surge probably requires replacement. However, some less-severe scenarios present better chances for successful restoration.

How Wet Is Too Wet?

Common hardwood types have a “safe” moisture content (MC) of less than 10%. If exposure to water increases the MC above 12%, dimensional changes begin to occur as flooring planks swell against each other and cup, buckle and warp. If only a few boards are affected by short-term water exposure, those boards may be individually replaced or sanded down to restore a flat, smooth surface. Widespread water exposure over a longer time frame greatly diminishes chances for restoration, however, particularly if professional treatment is delayed.

Mold Also Matters

Mold growth becomes a factor if standing water seeps through a hardwood floor into the plywood subfloor. Water-soaked plywood and dust beneath the flooring provide a favorable environment for hidden mold growth. While spot treatments can address very limited areas of contamination, the only way to access widespread mold contamination in the subfloor is removal and replacement of all flooring.

For the best chance of restoring a hardwood floor after water damage, here are some contributing factors:

  • Rapid removal of pooling water before it is absorbed. Hours and even minutes count. Quick response by water damage professionals and use of wet/dry vacuums and powerful water extractors is critical to pull moisture out of the floor, ASAP.
  • Wood floors affected by water should be thoroughly scrubbed and sanitized before air-drying to mitigate the potential for mold contamination.
  • Industrial dehumidifiers must be kept running 24 hours a day to reduce moisture content. High-volume air movers are also utilized to circulate air continuously and expedite drying.
  • Drying a hardwood floor is a slow, extended process. Moisture content readings of the wood must be taken at regular intervals to determine when the optimum moisture percentage is achieved.

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