Minimizing Water Damage to Wood Flooring

The beauty and resilience of wood flooring has one drawback: water damage. Hardwood floors and water simply don't play well together. The natural composition of wood fibers makes the floor absorbent and susceptible to water damage. However, the unexpected presence of water on your floor is not necessarily always a worst-case scenario.

If the volume of water involved is limited to minor pooling that doesn't extend under baseboards, and you're able to act fast, you may successfully avoid further complications common to wood flooring in more serious water damage incidents. If that doesn't describe the situation you're facing, however, contact qualified water damage professionals immediately to handle the job instead.

Here are some steps to take—quickly—to minimize water damage.

  • First, a no-brainer: Stop the source of water wherever it originated.
  • Now move everything out of the room. Start with anything that's soaked and contacting the floor such as a sopping wet rug. Remove all furniture from the wet area to take the weight off the floor.
  • Mop up the major volume of water.
  • Use a wet/dry vacuum (available at home rental outlets) to remove additional water. Continue to vacuum the floor surface even after visible water is removed, applying suction to pull moisture out of wood pores.
  • Begin air drying. Use multiple fans to continuously circulate air. Tilt the fans to direct airflow to the floor surface.
  • Don't run the furnace or use space heaters to accelerate drying. Excess heat will increase the likelihood that flooring planks will warp or cup following water damage.
  • Rent a dehumidifier. Place the unit in the center of the room and keep it running continuously for 24 hours, at least. Two or three days is preferable.
  • Keep foot traffic in the room to a minimum as drying proceeds.
  • Use a moisture meter—inexpensive at local home centers and easy to utilize—to check moisture content in the formerly wet area. At typical household temperatures, a reading of 6% to 9% is considered acceptably dry.
  • If discoloration occurs where the floor was wet, sanding and refinishing the entire floor after drying may be necessary to restore uniform appearance.