What to do when a water-leak damages your hardwood floor

“My dishwasher/refrigerator leaked! What do I do?” The Cause:

When water is allowed to saturate a wood floor the result is a condition we refer to as cupping pictured here:

This happens because more moisture is absorbed by the unfinished underside of the boards causing the bottom of each board to expand more than the top. The result is a wavy appearance and each course of wood is raised at the seams. In most cases the wood is not ruined.

The wood is ruined if the boards cup so badly they begin to actually lift off the floor pulling the fasteners up like the floor pictured above. The only solution here is to tear-out and replace the wood.

The Solution: Dry the floor out

When wood gets wet, it has to be dried out, this can be done in three ways:

The quick way:

There are many companies that offer dehumidifier services that can dry out your floors very quickly. This is a great option because you do not have to wait and many home-insurance providers will pay for this service. If you’re in the Kansas City area check out http://www.cwmrestoration.com

The slow way:

Wood will eventually dry out on its own and become almost completely flat again. However, this can take anywhere from 2-12 months depending on air-movement, temperature, and relative humidity in the home. When I go out on calls like this I always measure the moisture content of the wood. The important thing is that we eventually get consistent reading throughout the entire floor. Running a fan or small dehumidifier on your own can decrease the time it takes to dry the floor out

The alternative way:

Another option is to tear-out the wood that is wet and replace it. This allows the floors to be fixed right away, and may be cheaper than paying for them to be dried out.

Sand and refinish:

Once the floor has been dried out, hire a professional like Totta Hardwood Flooring to come sand and refinish your floor. The good news is that most of the time these types of situations are covered by home-owners insurance.

What you don’t want to do:

The biggest mistake I see made is floors getting sanded while they are still wet and cupped. If a floor is sanded before it is fully dried, it will be flat initially, but there will be problems down the road. When the floor eventually dries out, you will get the reverse effect of the cupping referred to as crowning illustrated here:

If your floor gets wet, it’s not the end of the world. In some cases it can be a blessing in disguise because you may get your insurance to pay for your entire floor to get refinished. If you are in the Kansas City area and you have a floor that gets wet, give me a call, I’m always willing to help.

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