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Moisture & Hardwood Floors Don’t Mix

Hardwood floor water damage can be quite distressing because it is not always easy to fix. Don’t despair though! If you have water damage, we are here to show you how you can repair your hardwood flooring and even prevent moisture damage in the future.

There are several common reasons why hardwood floors incur moisture damage, ranging from high humidity to serious water spills. Sometimes, if the damage is not too severe, the wood can be restored to its original beauty. Unfortunately, one of the main causes of hardwood floor water damage is due to a wet subfloor. Ideally, a moisture barrier is installed between the hardwood floor and the subfloor at the time the floor is installed because that is the best way to prevent moisture damage in the first place. Hardwood floor water damage comes from many sources. They include:

  • Humidity rising above 55 percent
  • Ordinary household spills
  • Leaks from plumbing, appliances or roof
  • Pet accidents
  • Natural disasters like flooding
  • Floor boards not dry enough when installed
  • Ambient conditions (relative humidity and temperature) not considered during installation (wood flooring was not acclimated to the indoor conditions)
  • Concrete subfloor is too wet when flooring was laid
  • Wood subfloor absorbs ground moisture

Moisture from Subfloors

Subflooring is often the culprit and can cause the most widespread damage. Concrete slabs with more than 12% moisture content at the time of hardwood flooring installation can easily cause the floorboards to rot or warp. Wood subfloors laid on joists can absorb moisture from the ground, and that moisture is seeps into the wood flooring. Moisture left unchecked can cause hardwood floor planks to warp, cup, crown, buckle and/or crack or form gaps. Water left standing and moisture that seeps into the wood can also lead to wood stains, mold or rot.

Can I Repair Wet Hardwood Floors?

Whether or not the water damage is repairable depends, of course, on the type and extent of the damage. In some instances stained wood can be dried, re-sanded and re-stained. Flooring that has buckled can sometimes be flattened after the room humidity is stabilized but if the flooring has rot, deep staining or severe warping, it may be necessary to have a professional remove the damaged planks and install new ones.

When it is a wood subfloor over a crawlspace that is causing the flooring damage, it is sometimes possible to add a moisture barrier. First, you need to stabilize the humidity and manage the temperature to dry out the floorboards, while also laying plastic sheeting on the ground in the crawlspace. When the subfloor is dry then spray a foam vapor barrier in between the joists from below. The risk is that the subfloor is not fully dry and moisture will get trapped by the spray foam. The only other option for wood or concrete slab subfloors is to remove the wood flooring and install a moisture barrier.

Preventing Moisture Damage in Wood Floors

There are usually no easy fixes for hardwood flooring water damage. Though it is impossible to prevent all water from touching the hardwood flooring, it is quite possible to prevent hardwood floor water damage due to subfloor moisture by installing a moisture barrier between the subfloor and the hardwood flooring when the floor is installed. There are different types of moisture or vapor barriers in use today. They include roofing felt, polyfilm, and high-tech products like trowel-applied urethane membranes. A contractor can advise property owners on the best products to use in any given situation.

Making sure that you protect your wood floors with a moisture barrier is essential for maximum results. However, as demonstrated, there are a ways to repair wet floors.

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