Fixing water damage to cabinets

Posted by Matt Buchanan

We came across a Q&A web site recently in which a homeowner was asking what to do about water damaged cabinets in their bathroom. A “professional” responded with some advice on how to fix the aesthetic issues with the cabinets. What was startling was he never addressed the underlying issues that caused the warping and bubbling found on the cabinets: bound water. So we thought it would be a good idea to discuss some of the things we consider when faced with water damage to cabinets, whether it’s in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room.


What type of cabinet water damage occurred?


bathroom-cabinet-water-damageThe first thing that must be considered is the category of water loss. This is true for any water damage emergency, but also relevant for bathroom cabinet water damage. If you had a sewage backup, it requires a much different response than a clean water loss, such as a sink overflowing or a supply line busting and sending water throughout a bathroom or kitchen. When it comes to category 3 (black water) water damage, in almost all situations the soaked cabinets must be completely torn out and replaced. There might be a slight chance the cabinets can be salvaged if they are natural hardwood cabinets (as opposed to particle board). But even that is a rare instance.

In the event we determine it’s worth trying to salvage water damaged cabinets that have been soaked by sewage, we usually attempt to remove the black water by using a pressure washing system that sprays hot, clean water. This basically pushes the black water out and replaces it with clean water. At that point, we can then use whatever drying technique makes sense to dry out the cabinets, having removed/killed off the harmful pathogens/microbials that were present from the raw sewage.


Salvaging cabinets that have water damage


In most instances where the water damage category is either grey water or clean water, the expectation is that we should be able to salvage the original cabinets. Of course, we say that with the understanding that we can begin our water mitigation processes almost immediately after the water damage occurred. If you wait a week to call us, all bets are off. In fact, it’s a safe bet your initial water damage emergency went from a manageable situation to a much more dire situation in that time, one that will ultimately require most extensive (and expensive) solutions.

But in any event, here are the steps traditionally taken to fix water damage to kitchen or bath cabinets:


Moisture assessment

We use thermal hygrometers, moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras to assess the location and extent of soakage in the area. It is usually the case that if your cabinets have been soaked, so too has the floor beneath your cabinets and the wall behind your cabinets. If our tools indicate the water damage is more extensive than just your cabinets, additional measures will need to be taken….


Cabinet removal/structural drying

drying-water-damaged-cabinetsBy removing the cabinets from the wall, we can address the moisture problems elsewhere in the affected area. If you have water that has damaged an exterior wall, we’ll need to perform a flood cut to remove the bottom section of drywall as well as any insulation that has been soaked by the loss. If the water has permeated the subfloor below where the cabinets were, that area must be properly dried as well. The drying method for the cabinet will vary, but we may simply place them in the middle of whatever room is being dried, or we may apply our Injectidry system to provide a more pinpoint drying process to the cabinets.

Once the area around the cabinets, as well as the cabinets themselves have been dried, it is now safe to re-attach them to the wall and then re-attach the plumbing supply lines and drains (if any). Usually the process of drying out cabinets in place takes about 3 days, but again this can vary depending on the severity of the water damage!


Do have cabinet water damage?


If you’ve had any type of water damage that is severe enough to have soaked your bathroom or kitchen cabinets, it’s always best to call a professional water damage restoration company to assess the situation. We’re happy to do that for free. Just give us a call and we can immediately dispatch a crew to provide you with a free cost estimate for any water damage restoration services you may need!

About Matt Buchanan

I grew up in Irving, TX and left for Nashville, TN for college. After college I lived in Washington, DC and then in Cairo, Egypt. After coming back to the states, I spent a couple of years back in Dallas before moving with my wife to Denver!
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