Can Hardwood Floors Be Saved After a Flood?

by Charlie
Can Hardwood Floors Be Saved After a Flood

Nobody wants flooding in their home, and it can be one of the most devastating and damaging occurrences. If you have hardwood floors, it’s likely to be an even bigger disaster. Whether the flood is due to a heavy storm, a leaky roof, or a burst pipe, it can ruin a hardwood floor, along with many other parts of your home.

Hardwood floors are very sensitive to water, even if they have been sealed with multiple coats of polyurethane. Something as extensive as a flood could do major damage to the wood, ruining its appearance and causing it to warp, swell, split, or worse.

Can hardwood floors be saved after a flood? Often, hardwood floors can be saved after a flood, but it will often take a lot of work to undo the damage and repair the wood. You also need to make sure the subfloor is fully dried out, or moisture will creep back into the floor after you have restored it, ruining it again. Flooding damage doesn’t have to be the end of your floor.

Can You Redo a Hardwood Floor After Flood Damage?

You can almost always repair a hardwood floor that has been damaged in a flood. You will need to act very quickly, however, as the longer it stays wet, the more damage will be done. You should immediately work to get the wood dry, removing as much water as you can, as fast as possible.

The first thing to do is assess the floor and look at how much damage has been done. If the floor is dirty, it will need to be cleaned, which may involve adding more clean water to its surface. Do this quickly if it is necessary, because then you can start drying the floor out.

Wash off all dirt and use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub away any contamination. Remove any furniture so you can work.

Next, start drying the floor. How you do this will depend on the tools you have to hand, but ideally, you should use a wet and dry vacuum to remove all the excess moisture from the wood, and then put down absorbent cloths that will help to wick moisture up from the surface. Ventilate the space as much as possible.

If you can, you should use dehumidifiers to make the space as dry as possible. The water should gradually evaporate from the wood and the subfloor, but if the room is humid, this will be slow – so you need to give the water somewhere to go.

This may involve opening the windows or doors, or using a dehumidifier (or doing all of these things). The water will then be able to escape from the room, leaving it drier and fresher. The more water you can get out quickly, the less damage will be done to the floor.

You can use warmth to help more water evaporate, but you need to be careful, because making the room very hot could cause your wood to split in places. A little warmth should help, but do not add a lot.

You may need to place weights on the floor to reduce the risk of the wood warping and buckling, depending on how wet the floor is. Once the floor is dry, you can start repairs.

What Damage Does Flooding Usually Do?

Flooding generally damages the wood by causing it to warp and expand. This can damage the boards, because they will press into each other hard, which could cause splitting and snapping. Warping is sometimes known as cupping, and this sort of damage can be permanent if you don’t deal with it quickly.

Even a bit of water on the surface of a wooden floor can cause the grain to lift and the wood to stain and look damaged. It’s important to minimize the water, so do everything you can to pull it out of the wood as fast as possible.

If you don’t have access to the tools mentioned above, you should still make efforts to suck up as much water as possible. Newspapers, cardboard, rags, towels, and scrap paper will help to draw moisture out of the wood, because they are very absorbent.

How Do You Repair a Flood-damaged Hardwood Floor?

Only start repairs once you are sure the floor and the subfloor are completely dry. You may need to get professionals in to confirm this. When you are ready to start repairs, inspect the floor. Any buckled planks that have pulled away from the subfloor will need replacing. Cupped boards may be salvageable, but they will need to be sanded and refinished.

The first thing to do is any repairs that are needed. Lift boards that have been ruined by the water and replace them, and then you can start sanding and finishing the whole floor. You should treat this as a new finishing job.

You will need to sand the whole floor, usually 3 times using different grit levels. This should remove any roughness caused by the flood, giving you a smooth surface to work with again. Sanding should also remove any stains left by the water, leaving them looking like new. If the stains are deep, some may remain even after sanding.

Once you have sanded the floor, clean it with a damp cloth to remove all the dust, and then start varnishing it with polyurethane. You should apply 3 coats of an oil-based polyurethane, and 4 or 5 coats of a water-based polyurethane.

This will usually take several days, especially if you choose an oil-based polyurethane, but it has to be done to make your floor safe to use again. If you don’t seal the floor, any future drops of moisture will cause more damage.

Final Thoughts

A flood can do very serious damage to your hardwood floors, but if you are quick about removing most of the moisture and you dry the floor out thoroughly, it may be possible to save all or most of the floor. This will save you a lot of money, as hardwood floors are expensive to buy and fit.

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