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Wood Floor Water Damage: What You Need To Know and Do

How to Fix the Wood Floor Water Damage on Your Home

Wood floor water damage is a common problem that many homeowners experience. If you want to fix hardwood floor water damage, then it’s important to know the damages and how they occur. There are two main types of water damage: wet wood floors from flooding or leaking pipes and wood floors with warped boards due to constant moisture exposure. These problems can be fixed by either drying out the wood floors or replacing damaged boards.

water damage wood floor

Steps to Take If You Have Water Damaged Wooden Floors

Dealing with water damage is something you hope never to have to do. But it does happen. Running faucets, burst pipe you didn’t know about (low hot water pressure can be a hint of a link somewhere), sitting water you were unaware of, whatever the cause, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do right now to your water-damaged hardwood floor so that you can prevent any more damage from being done to it.


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Step 1 – Identify the Source

Seeing water on your hardwood floors can cause immediate panic. Take a deep breath and identify where the water is coming from. Once you have identified the source or the infiltration points, please turn off the water or ensure that there is no more water to come from where it originated.

In our case, it was a leaking flexible hose under the sink; luckily, our wifi water sensor notified us.

Step 2 – Remove the Water Fast

Getting the water off your floors is something you need to do quickly. Wood soaks up water because it is a porous material, and time is of the essence at this point.

Dry your wood floor with towels, or if you have a shop vacuum (it’s an essential homeowner tool), vacuum up the water with the vacuum hose and dry off the remainder with a towel. The longer the wood is exposed to water, the more it can soak up, causing the wood to swell.

If the water has been on your wooden floor for some time, then the boards may begin cupping. They may dry out and flatten out again, but you will need to give them some time.

water damage wood floor swelling

Ways Increase Drying Speed

Place a box fan in the area to move the air around can help dry the flooring faster. Having a dehumidifier is also a great thing to have. It will remove the moisture from the air and wood. Heaters are another good way to dry out the floors. If it’s possible, open the windows and run fans to circulate the air more effectively. This can help speed up the drying process of the floors. At this point, you are trying to remove the moisture that has gone into the wood.

The more you can remove the water and moisture, the better you are to save your hardwoods. This may take some time (up to a week), depending on how long the floors have been exposed to the water.

Click here to see some good dehumidifiers.


Step 3 – Inspect the Wood Floor and Clean

Once you have removed the water, inspect the damaged flooring to see what kind of type has been done. Give the wood time to dry out while you complete the next few steps.

There are two types of damages that may not be immediately visible. The first one is cupping. This is when the ends of the floorboard are higher than the middle, caused by the wood absorbing the water and swelling.

The other is called crowning, and it is the reverse of cupping. It is when the middle of the hardwood plank rises up instead.

Because the water will have seeped into the pores of the wood and under the polyurethane finish, you will want to give it a good cleaning to make sure that the damage is in the wood and not a superficial stain on top. Also, depending on the type of water, you will want to make sure you take the proper precautions in cleaning it up and using the right cleaning supplies.

Related: What to do if you have wet carpet in your basement.


Step 4 – Contact Your Insurance Agent

Depending on your insurance company and the cause of the water damage, the repairs or replacement could be covered under your house insurance. The amount of coverage you have (if any) will be depending on your policy, but a call to them is a good step to take while you wait for the wood to dry.

water damage plywood subfloor


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Step 5 – Contact a Hardwood Repair or Refinishing Technician

They will come in and inspect the flooring and use a moisture meter to determine how much water is in the wood and decide what the best steps are from there. Another option is a restoration company that specializes in wood floors.

Flooring companies that do wood floor repair and refinishing are a good option because they can show you samples of what the wood will look like when it is done, depending on which type of finish you choose. They usually offer an estimate for their work before starting any repairs to make sure there are no surprises later. Often insurance companies will make you get several quotes on the damaged flooring to make sure you are getting a good price.

They will need to treat the damaged flooring for wood rot and mold growth. They will also want to apply a new finish over the wood as well, which may not be covered under your insurance policy. If you choose this option, make sure they show you samples of their work – it is worth spending money on floors that are durable because these can last for decades if maintained properly.

water damage wood floor sanding and staining

Step 6 – Remove and Replace or Refinish the Hardwoods

Depending on your damaged hardwood planks, you will either need to replace the damage to your hardwood floors with new flooring, or you will have to refinish the floor by sanding it down, restaining, and sealing it. If the cupping is severe, you likely need to replace the wood, as sanding it down will not be enough.

If the water damage is fairly localized, and you have extra wood from when the hardwoods were installed, then you can remove the damaged planks and replace them with new ones after you have dried the subfloor and surrounding area.

Determine how big of an area you will need to replace (use this square foot calculator), and then use this hardwood flooring calculator to determine your cost to replace it.

Depending on the age of your wood planks and how long the water was standing on your floors, you may need to replace the entire floor, including a new plywood subfloor, if the water has gone under neat the floorboards.


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Do Damaged Hardwood Floors Need to Be Replaced?

Just because your floor has some water damage does not mean that they need to be replaced; you will need to consider the following:

  1. Source of the Water – Was it clean, greywater, black, or saltwater. Each of these has its own issues. Not to mention the potential for mold and mold growth to occur.
  2. Visibility of Damage – Can you see the damage, or does it not appear to show the water damage?
  3. Amount of Damage from the Water – How long was the wood exposed to water.


Frequently Asked Questions about Water Damaged Hardwood Floors

Can water-damaged wood floors be fixed?

Yes, these floors can be repaired and replaced if the wood is still in good shape. The key to fixing a water-damaged wood floor is getting rid of any excess moisture that has seeped into it before trying to fix it or refinish it.

What do you do if you get water under hardwood floors?

If the water gets under your hardwood floors, you should remove the wood that is damaged and replace it with new wood.

What are my options if I have water damage on hardwood floors?

If your wood floor has been exposed to a lot of water, you should consider completely refinishing or replacing it because there will be too much moisture in the wood that can’t be removed without having to sand down the wood.

How long does it take for water to damage wood floors?

Water can damage wood floors within hours, depending on how much water is in the wood.


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How do I know if my wood floors have been damaged?

If your wood floor has damage that hasn’t yet spread to other areas of the wood, you can try using a mop and bucket. If there are any signs that it’s spreading or not drying up after 24 hours, then it’s time to call in the professionals.

How do you treat water-damaged wood?

The best way to treat water-damaged wood is to remove the wood that is damaged. You should also clean up any excess water and dry your wood floors before you try to fix or refinish them.

How much does it cost to replace wood flooring?

The average price for replacement wood flooring depends on how many square feet of wood are needed, as well as what type of wood. Other factors are if the subfloor plywood needs to be replaced and the wood trim have been damaged by the water as well. 

How do you fix wood floors?

Wood floor repairs are usually done by sanding down the wood, then restaining and sealing it to prevent any more water damage from happening in the future. If your wood is still wet, however, you can’t refinish or repair it until after 24 hours of drying time has passed. There must be enough time for the moisture to be removed from the wood.

How do you fix water-damaged floorboards?

The way to fix water-damaged flooring is to replace the wood that has been damaged with new wood. If there is no more wood left, then you will have to replace your entire floor and remove any water seeping under it.

What are my options if I have water damage on hardwood floors?

If your wood floor has been exposed to a lot of water, you should consider completely refinishing or replacing it because there will be too much moisture in the wood that can’t be removed without having to sand down the wood.

What is more expensive, hardwood floors or laminate?

Laminate wood flooring costs about $0.20-0.30 per square foot whereas a hardwood floor averages out at around

If the water damage is fairly localized, and you have extra wood from when the hardwoods were installed, then you can remove the damaged planks and replace them with new ones after you have dried the subfloor and surrounding area.


Final Thoughts on Water Damaged Wooden Floors

While damage to your hardwood can be devastating, there is no need to panic. Take these steps one at a time and determine if you can do the repairs on your own or if the damage requires a professional.

Click here to find a professional hardwood installer now.


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