Water Damage to Wood Floors – The DIY Folly

Posted by Matt Buchanan

Here’s one of the worst calls a water restoration company gets. It happens all the time and it’s never a good scenario for the homeowner. Hopefully this doesn’t happen to you:


woman-on-phoneCompany: Restoration Service, how can I help you?

Caller: Hello, we had a small flood that soaked our wood floors a little over a week ago, and we cleaned up all the water and put down some fans but now the planks are cupping and we’re worried there is still a problem. It also smells musty. Is that something you can fix?


Why is this such a bad situation? For a few reasons:

  1. The floors usually can not be salvaged.
  2. By the time we get the call, the wood floor water damage has morphed into a mold problem.
  3. Insurers won’t be pay for mold issues.


flooding-water-damage-wood-floorsWhat happens? When water damage occurs to your hardwood floors, only a percentage of the moisture sits on top of the surface. The rest either finds its way to your subfloor or actually permeates the membrane of the wood and sits within the wood itself. So if you attempt the water damage cleanup & drying process yourself without the right equipment, you a) won’t be able to get to the sub-surface moisture and b) you won’t know when the flooring is actually dry.


How are water damaged wood floors supposed to be fixed?


First, moisture readings must be taken that measure the moisture content on the surface as well as below the surface. This requires sophisticated moisture reading equipment that can measure the moisture of the entire area to within a tenth of percentage point (this matters as we will discuss shortly).

drying-hardwood-flooringSecond, there are a number of different drying systems and techniques that may need to be deployed depending on what the readings are. For instance, if the surface dries faster than the subsurface, and you continue drying, you’ll over dry the surface before you reach the appropriate moisture content readings for the subfloor.

Lastly, you have to reach a certain range for wood flooring (and subfloor). Don’t dry enough, and you’ll get mold and the cupping most people see. Dry too much, and the planks will shrink and create huge gaps in the flooring, completely ruining them.

Even experienced water damage companies can screw up wood floors, so if you’re trying it on your own without experience or the right equipment, it’s like shooting free throws in the dark. You may get lucky, but it’s not likely.

Don’t make the mistake too many homeowners make and attempting the dryout process if your hardwood flooring has experienced water damage. You should always call an emergency restoration service the moment you discover the flooding! If your loss occurred due to an water source within your home and you have homeowners insurance, the chances are your loss will be covered by your insurance policy. But if you delay and the moisture issue isn’t properly dealt with, most likely you’re going to end up with ruined floors and black mold. The cost to tear up and replace the floors as well as fix the mold problem far outweighs the cost of cleaning up water damage, but worst of all you’ll being paying for the former while the latter would have been covered by your insurer!

How precise should the process be when drying wood floors? See our infographic below!


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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