How to Fix Water Damaged Wood

Moshe Amos

Water damage is always a tragedy, but more so for your precious wooden floors. Even with good finishes, wooden floors can still soak up water, bend, discolor, or harbor mold. What can you do if you have floor damage from excess water?
Let’s look at how to identify water damage and how to fix it.

Signs of Water Damage

Water damage can happen suddenly, like during a flood or slowly from leaking pipes. Some warning signs of floor damage include:

  • Stained or discolored wood
  • Cupping (planks curving upward on the edges)
  • Crowning (planks curving upward around the middle)
  • Twisting (planks bending in different directions)
  • Lifted nails
  • Lifted floorboards
  • Black streaks or patches of mold

As soon as you notice these signs, you may have a steady water source damaging your wooden floors.

How to Fix Water Damaged Wood in 8 Steps

1.      Find the Water Source

What is the main cause of your floor damage? In the case of a basement flood after a storm, the damage is sudden and extensive. But if it’s due to indoor sources, discover where the excess water is coming from.
Sinks, AC units, and drains are common spots for water to accumulate. However, a faulty appliance like a fridge or freezer could be shedding extra water onto your wooden floor. A burst pipe could also leak water behind your walls and accumulate in the baseboards. Check your plumbing if there are signs of water damage but no obvious source.

2.      Dry the Floors

Turn off the faucets, leaking appliances, or central water supply. Remove the floor carpets in case of a basement flood. Open the windows to encourage air and heat circulation. Use a towel or a wet-and-dry vacuum cleaner to soak up excess water from your wood floors.
Remember that wood is a porous material, so the longer water remains on the surface, the more the water damage. Add a box fan, dehumidifier, or a heater to increase the drying speed.

3.      Assess the Damage

Inspect the floor damage as soon the wood is dry. You’ll clearly see the extent of the cupping, crowning, or warping on the wooden planks. A dry surface also helps you to know whether the water damage is superficial or not.
Floor damage depends on:

  • The type of water: Clean water affects wood differently than greywater, saltwater, and blackwater.
  • External visibility: Clearly visible floor damage typically means greater damage. But in some cases, the wood surface may still look relatively intact, but the rot has already taken hold underneath it.
  • Duration: The faster you can get rid of the excess water, the better your wood floors will be.

4.      Call Insurance

Once you have a good assessment of the basement flood damage or hardwood floor damage, it’s time to talk to your home insurance provider. Check if your insurance policy covers the repairs or replacements. If so, hire a water damage company for an accurate assessment and recoup the cost. If not, decide whether to DIY or call in a floor restoration expert.

5.      Decide On the Best Way Forward

Depending on the extent of the floor damage, you must choose between repair or replacement. Consider the type of wood, the type of finishing, and the amount of water damage.
You can repair that section alone if the damage isolates to one spot, like around the kitchen sink. But if there is extensive water damage because of flooding, you may need to replace your floors completely.
This is where a flooring restoration expert comes in: what looks disastrous to you may be manageable to an expert. Instead of replacement, you could sand the floor to remove the visible water damage, replace individual planks, or refinish the floor to match the original look.
Note: Only an expert can handle the water damage restoration on any structural support like beams or frames.
Any DIY attempt could damage your home’s integrity, leading to much greater losses.

1)      Choose the Best Floor Damage Expert

A floor damage expert gives you peace of mind through:

  • A thorough water damage inspection
  • An accurate quote or estimate for the restoration
  • Experience working with insurance companies.

A professional flooring expert will put your needs and budget at each step first. Smaller repairs should only take a few hours with no inconvenience to your schedule. A complete basement flood repair may take longer, but always negotiate the best time and cost to fix your property.

2)      Prevent Further Water Damage

Here are some tips to keep water damage at bay:

  • Get into the habit of removing surface water from your wood floors as soon as you see it. Use a wet-and-dry vacuum cleaner or an absorbent cloth to soak up all spills from your wood floor.
  • When you scrub your wood floors, use as little water as possible. Don’t pour water onto the floor: instead, sweep up the dust and dirt first, and then use a damp microfiber mop to pick up any remaining debris.
  • Open the windows and doors, or use fans to dry the floor slowly to keep your wood floor from cracking.
  • In case of stains, use oxalic acid to remove them and restore your wood surfaces gently,

3)      Keep an Eye Out For Water Damage

Water damage can sneak up on you, so it’s always best to be aware of the signs. Any changes in the shape or texture of your wood floors, or discoloration and stains, all signal water damage. Spot these symptoms early enough to save your floors in time. Those said, if you live in a hurricane or flood-prone area, clear the water from your wood floors as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Fix Water Damage with NYTDR

Don’t let your water damage go unattended. New York Total Damage Restoration (NYTDR) is here to help. We specialize in water damage restoration, from insurance management to expert design and contract work. Our team of fully licensed restoration experts takes the stress out of your floor restoration–let us take care of your property and make it better than new. Contact us today.


Moshe Amos

Moshe has more over 15 years as a licensed contractor in the New York City area. 

As a New York State-licensed Mold Assessor, he is especially knowledgeable about mold assessment and remediation.


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