Return to the Blog Home Page

Water Damaged Wood: Repair or Replace

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021
water damaged wood

Because wood is a naturally porous material, water damage inside a home is its natural enemy. Wood is vulnerable to several water-related issues including rotting, discoloration and mold growth. While different types of wood are more susceptible than others, the common denominator for limiting wood water damage is quick preventive action. As time elapses after water exposure, wood is increasingly likely to incur damage, some of which may be irreparable. That’s one more reason why rapid response by water damage professionals is critical after any incident.  

Here are some common types of wood water damage and steps that may be required to restore it.  

Hardwood Floors

  • Stay out of flooded rooms until the electricity is shut off.
  • Mop up pooling water and/or push water out of the house through a nearby exterior door. A wet/dry vacuum is also helpful to remove pooling water.
  • Water damage recovery includes utilizing high-volume fans and dehumidifiers to continue the floor drying process over an extended time frame.
  • Disinfectants may be applied to the floor surface to inhibit mold growth.
  • Moisture meter readings will determine whether water has penetrated beneath hardwood flooring into the sub-floor beneath.  

Wooden Baseboards

Water damage at the floor level usually affects wooden baseboards. Most residential construction includes baseboards made of multi-density fiberboard (MDF). This composite material does not resist water well and, if thoroughly wet, typically requires replacement. To prevent damage to the drywall behind it, water damaged baseboard must be removed ASAP and rapid drying applied to the wall followed by mold disinfectants.  

Wooden Furniture

Some wooden furniture affected by water damage can be dried and rehabilitated. Other types are not good candidates for repair.

  • Wooden furniture should be removed from the wet indoor environment, wiped dry and then allowed to air dry. Fans and dehumidifiers can accelerate drying.
  • Hardwood furniture that is valuable may require professional reconditioning as glued joints may have been loosened by water exposure.
  • Water stains and discoloration may affect hardwood furniture and require professional refinishing.
  • Common wooden particle board furniture swells and decomposes after absorbing water and is usually not worth the expense of salvaging.

How Dry Should a Basement Be?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
basement water damage

In many cases, a dry basement doesn’t happen naturally. In fact, basements are almost a laboratory setting for the accumulation of humidity and moisture. Ideally, basement humidity should be kept below 50%. Factors working against maintaining a dry basement include:

  • Soil moisture exuding upwards through the foundation
  • Significant condensation as warm moist air contacts chronically cool basement walls and floor
  • Leaky or “sweating” plumbing pipes routed through the basement
  • Cracks in the foundation wall that admit groundwater seepage, particularly during the summer rainy season
  • Overflowing roof gutters or downspouts that are too short
  • Running clothes washing machines and driers in the basement

When a dry basement becomes chronically wet:

  • Moisture plus the unventilated basement environment provides ideal conditions for the growth of toxic mold that may continuously contaminate the living spaces above
  • Damp basements are often a source of musty odors that infiltrate the house
  • Household systems, including the furnace and main electrical panel, are frequently located in the basement and may be deteriorated by moisture exposure
  • Pre-sale inspections include inspecting and verifying a dry basement; a wet basement may discourage prospective buyers and/or attract lower offers

Creating a dry basement—and keeping it that way—requires a multi-faceted approach:

  • Purchase a hygrometer to determine moisture content inside the basement.
  • Have a plumber inspect pipes routed through the basement and repair leaks and/or insulate pipes that sweat.
  • Locate and repair cracks in basement walls that admit groundwater. Apply waterproofing paint to all walls to reduce micro-seepage.  
  • Install a sump pump in the basement floor to remove rising groundwater and reduce pressure against the underside of the foundation.
  • Make sure roof gutters are unobstructed and not overflowing during rain.  Gutter downspouts should discharge water at least three feet from the house.
  • Buy a dehumidifier sized for the square footage of the basement. The best choice is a model that integrates a hygrometer and automatically maintains the desired humidity setting at all times. Run the humidifier drain line into a basement drain.
  • Properly vent a clothes dryer installed in the basement to the exterior of the house.

Repairing a Water Damaged Bathroom Floor

Thursday, August 13th, 2020
water damaged bathroom floor

Though bathrooms are built to be water-resistant, a water damaged bathroom floor is still not uncommon. The sink, bathtub, shower stall, toilet, and associated pipes and connections are usual suspects if and when it happens. If the water damaged bathroom floor happens to be on an upper level, ceilings in rooms below may also be affected.

Bathroom Floor Damage

For obvious reasons, bathroom flooring is usually waterproof vinyl or ceramic tile. Unless significant flooding occurs, a simple overflowing sink or toilet usually doesn’t result in a water damaged bathroom floor assuming the incident is fully resolved and water is promptly removed.

However, a bathroom floor can also be affected by ongoing indirect sources other than obvious spills or overflows. Water originating elsewhere in the bathroom migrates into the subfloor, causing changes in tile or vinyl flooring. Signs of hidden subfloor damage include:

  • Buckling or uneven flooring
  • Cracked flooring material
  • Loose tiles
  • Areas of floor that feel soft or spongy
  • Stains on flooring for no apparent reason
  • A chronic musty odor, indicative of mold growth

Locate the Source of a Water Damaged Bathroom Floor

Potential sources that may result in a water damaged bathroom floor include:

Drying the Subfloor

After resolving the source of water, some or all of the wet subfloor must be exposed and dried.

  • A portion of the bathroom tile may require removal. Afterward, tiles may be reinstalled with new grout.
  • Vinyl flooring may be cut out to access and dry a limited area, and then replaced and seams where cuts were made sealed.
  • In severe cases, all flooring material must be removed to access the entire subfloor.
  • Mold growth under a water damaged bathroom floor is likely. In addition to air drying, wet portions of the subfloor should be treated with fungicide disinfectants to kill mold.  
  • Where a subfloor is chronically saturated, or structural instability such as wood rot has set in, the entire subfloor must usually be removed and replaced.

How to Fix a Water Damaged Floor

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
water damaged floor

The floor in a home is often the first casualty of indoor water damage. After all, water naturally flows downward and usually ends up pooling on the floor surface and infiltrating beneath, as well. If that water isn’t removed in a very short time frame, damage to flooring is likely. The extent of damage and the likelihood of repairing the floor depends on the length of time it was exposed to water and, even more importantly, the type of flooring involved.  

Do-it-yourself approaches to saving a floor seriously affected by water damage are limited. The most important DIY step is to remove standing water and begin the drying process, ASAP.  

  • Use a floor squeegee, sponge mops, or even brooms to push as much water as possible out the nearest exterior door. If you have a wet/dry vacuum, utilize it to remove pooling water fast, but take care using electrical devices in a wet environment.
  • Direct fans to blow air across the surface of the floor after pooling water is removed. This may reduce water infiltration beneath the surface. Also, open windows to release humidity from the room.  

Here’s how different types of flooring are affected by water damage.

  • Vinyl tiles are more water-resistant than other flooring. However, prolonged exposure may seep beneath tiles, causing the glue to release. Wet subfloors beneath vinyl also do not dry quickly and may be subject to rot and mold growth. Sections of tile may have to be removed, the subfloor dried, and new tiles laid.  
  • Laminate wood flooring consists of a thin top layer of wood with thicker pressed particle board beneath. Particle board readily absorbs water and disintegrates, therefore soaked laminate flooring is frequently ruined beyond repair.
  • Natural hardwood floors absorb water during prolonged exposure. This can cause swelling, cupping, and buckling of wooden planks. Discoloration may also occur. Prompt action by water damage professionals with powerful water extractors, air movers, and dehumidifiers may mitigate hardwood damage. If recovery work is timely and successful, after drying hardwood floors, they may be sanded and refinished to restore a flat surface and natural coloration.

Water Damaged Floor Repair: Five FAQs

Thursday, February 20th, 2020
Water damaged floor FAQ

Water damaged floor repair is a common outcome after water inundation strikes. Whatever the source of water damage may be, the flooring in a house is often a prominent casualty of it. Here are five frequently asked questions and answers to help you make decisions about water damaged floor repair.

How does water affect flooring?

Hardwood floors—including engineered hardwood and wood laminate—are naturally porous and susceptible to water damage. While most tile flooring is initially water-resistant, as hours elapse, water may seep between squares and underneath, causing tiles to loosen and detach. Conversely, vinyl sheet flooring typically installed in kitchens and bathrooms is generally waterproof, although peeling may occur around the edges at the baseboards.

What are the potential consequences of water damage to a floor?

Depending on the material, you may see dimensional changes, including warping, swelling, and buckling of floor planks, as well as loosened tiles. Discoloration and staining may also occur if the floor material is exposed to water for long. Mold growth on and/or beneath flooring is another common consequence.

What’s the most critical factor to minimize water damage to a floor?

Fast, professional water removal and drying. Time isn’t on your side; the longer standing water remains on a floor, the greater the likelihood of permanent damage that may require replacement of some or all flooring. As the hours pass, the requirement for professional water damage floor repair becomes more and more urgent.

What about the subfloor?

If water is removed and effective drying techniques are applied quickly, penetration to the plywood subfloor below may be avoided or at least limited. Once the subfloor is saturated, however, flooring materials must be removed and the subfloor dried (or portions cut out) to prevent mold growth and rotting.

Should I repair or replace it?

Deciding factors include answers to the following. How long was the floor exposed to water? Is it solid hardwood or engineered hardwood? Has water seeped into the subfloor? If only a few planks in a wood floor require replacement, can you accurately match the original stain colors so they blend in?