Hardwood floors are often one of the biggest and most beautiful features in a home – and they’re also a pretty expensive type of flooring to have installed. They are attractive and hard-wearing and a lot of people love them, but there are some drawbacks associated with them. One of the most significant is their vulnerability to dampness.
Unfortunately, if you get dampness under your hardwood floors, mold can start to form, and this will cause major issues. It can wreck the floors entirely, and mold is also dangerous for your health – so what are the signs of mold under a hardwood floor?
What are signs of mold under hardwood floors? The most significant signs that your hardwood floors may have mold underneath them include things like a musty aroma, visible spots of water or dampness appearing on the wood, and a feeling of sponginess when you walk on the floor. You may see some discoloration, such as darkening in the wood.
How Do You Know If There’s Mold Under a Hardwood Floor?
There are quite a few things that may alert you to mold under the floor, but the thing you are most likely to notice first is the smell. Mold has a distinctive, musty aroma that is always a clear warning that something’s wrong. If you can smell mold in the room with your hardwood floor, prioritize finding out where it’s coming from.
If your sense of smell isn’t good, or if you’ve noticed an aroma but you aren’t sure where it’s coming from, you should move on to your visual senses. If you can see any dark spots, or any areas that look damp, start inspecting the flooring more closely. You might see some white or dark fuzziness appearing on the wood.
In some cases, you’ll also be able to feel when your floor is turning moldy, because the wetness will seep up through the boards. This doesn’t always happen, especially if the wood is thick, but it’s a sign to look out for too. Walk on the boards with bare feet and see if you notice any squishiness or sponginess.
If you detect any of these signs, you should try to locate the source of the moisture. It is likely to be coming from underneath the floor, so it may be a burst pipe, dampness from a damaged subfloor, or cracks in the wall below floor level. However, in some cases, dampness could be due to atmospheric humidity, or spilled water being allowed to soak into the floor.
Remember, if you suspect there’s mold, fast action will be crucial. Don’t wait until there are visible signs of it; the faster you can clear it up, the less damage it will do, and the less expense you will incur in fixing the floor.
What Should You Do About Mold Under Hardwood Floors?
As soon as you realize your flooring is moldy, you’ll need to take steps to fix it. The longer you leave the problem, the worse it will get, and the more challenging and expensive your floor will be to fix. You’ll need to start by identifying the source of water and eliminating it to stop the problem from getting worse.
If you’ve got pipes under the hardwood floor, you should take up a section and get the pipework inspected for any dampness or leaking. You will also need to check the subfloor and the walls to see if the water is coming from there. In many cases, mold beneath a hardwood floor will be a result of water seeping up from below.
However, sometimes mold under the floor will have been caused by water from above seeping through and then sitting on the wood beneath, where there is less airflow to disturb the mold. If you have had a flood, getting your hardwood floor fully dry will be crucial in the fight against mold.
Regardless of where the water came from, you should start tackling it with a dehumidifier and increased air circulation. Ideally, you want the humidity level in the room to be at around 40 percent, or even less. Turning on your air conditioning may help.
Let as much warmth and light into the room as possible (although you shouldn’t heat the floor, as this could damage it). Ventilate the space, and keep the doors open. If it’s sunny and warm outside, keep the windows open too. Treat the moldy area with white vinegar every few days, but let it dry out thoroughly in between treatments.
The vinegar will kill the mold spores, preventing further damage. You should make efforts to avoid any spills in the same area, and keep pets – which may have wet feet or fur – away from the area. The drier you can keep it, the faster you will get rid of the mold, and the less damage will be done overall.
How Do You Repair Mold-Damaged Hardwood Floors?
If your floor has been damaged but you’ve fixed the problem, you’ll need to repair the damage. You might be able to repair boards that have been stained by mold by treating them with white vinegar, and then sanding and refinishing them. Use a stain that matches the rest of your floor to finish the area.
If the mold stains run deep, you will need to sand the boards several times to remove them. Hardwood floors can only be sanded a limited number of times.
That means that in some cases, you’ll have to remove the damaged boards in order to repair the floor. This is a lot more work, and will often involve hiring experts, because it’s often challenging to remove and replace boards. It’s better to get an expert in than to try to do it yourself, unless you are very familiar with the process.
If you can smell a musty aroma in a room with hardwood flooring, make sure you investigate promptly. Spongy or wet-feeling boards, dark spots, and fuzzy or powdery mold are further signs that there is a problem. Take swift action to dry the space out and kill the mold to prevent further damage to the floor.