Whether you’ve spilled something on your hardwood floors under carpet, have recently experienced flooding, or think you might have moisture under laminate flooring, it needs to be addressed immediately.
Moisture under hardwood floors can damage and reduce the longevity of your flooring. Spills and flooding that isn’t addressed right away might require repair or replacement shortly thereafter. Not addressing spills and moisture under your floors can also lead to mold under hardwood floors, which can cause difficulty breathing and other respiratory complications.
The last thing you want is a rotting wood floor, so here’s everything you need to know about moisture and your floor boards.
Mold under hardwood floors: the number one reason to prevent moisture leakage
Mold under hardwood floor boards can be difficult to detect and can often be prevented by keeping floors clean and dry, and addressing spills right away. Leaving moisture to dry naturally, or “air dry” will lead to both a rotting wood floor and a perfect environment for mold to develop.
Preventing mold is one of the reasons we will recommend that you clean a floor after a spill or flood. Keep reading to find out when and how to clean after liquid exposure.
The hardwood floor moisture barrier is your key to prevention and preservation
Some floors have a built-in hardwood floor vapor barrier, depending on the material that the subfloor is made of. These barriers help prevent moisture from floods and spills from leaking beneath the hardwood surface and between the floor and subfloor.
Moisture barriers are like putting paper under hardwood flooring to help protect a wood floor from mold and water damage. But hardwood floor vapor barriers are not meant to absorb too much moisture and will eventually saturate. They still require you to address moisture quickly and correctly.
Moisture under hardwood floors: what to do next
So you have a spill, and we told you to act fast. Without further delay, here’s how to care for your hardwood floor after liquid spills and flooding:
1. Remove all wet items from the entire floor. Wet items might include the bottom surfaces of furniture, area rugs, pet beds and kennels, etc. If there is excessive moisture and you’re able to, we recommend removing the items from the house altogether, or at the very least, from the room. Drying your floors properly includes reducing the room’s humidity.
2. Thoroughly towel-dry the area, making sure to reach all crevices and corners in the room. Water will accumulate in the spaces between your floor boards, so follow up with a second dry towel or wet vacuum if possible.
3. Clean the spill or damage site using a natural, hardwood-friendly floor cleaner and scrub brush. This might sound counterintuitive, but cleaning the floor after exposure to liquid helps prevent mold growth and dirt accumulation within crevices which can further damage the floor.
4. Redry using dry towels or the wet vacuum after cleaning thoroughly.
5. Dehumidify or reduce humidity levels in the room by opening up windows and doors, using multiple fans to continue drying the floor surface, or bringing a dehumidifier into the room for 24 hours. You can also reduce the excess moisture in your whole house (like after a flood) by removing shelves and drawers from furniture and placing them outside with windows left open. Do not open windows or doors if it’s raining, because it will make the room/house more humid, even if it’s not raining heavily.
6. Check for moisture with a moisture meter for hardwood floors. A good hardwood floor moisture meter should have two metal prongs attached that can sink into the wood surface for better accuracy. Follow the guidance according to your moisture testing meter product specifications, and repeat steps 4 and 5 if it hasn’t dried properly within 24 hours.
If water has leaked below floorboards, you will follow steps 1-6 above, but you may also remove a plank or two from the floor to give other boards space to shift as they dry. You would also be sure to focus the fans on those spaces that expose the subfloor while it dries. Drying a wet subfloor often takes longer than you expect it to, so be very sure you’ve allowed additional drying time after you think it’s completely dry. Then, replace the boards.
If the floor is not dried properly, you’ll begin to notice visible, permanent damage to the floors, including bowing, discoloration, and cracking. Other damage to wooden floors might be more subtle. In any case, don’t worry. We know what to do.
How to repair water damaged wood floor
Damaged wood floors require different types of care, depending on the severity of the water damage. To repair water damaged wood floors, you must first assess the depth of the damage. Visible water damage to the floor surface that hasn’t affected most of the hardwood plank or reached the subfloor can often be repaired with a refinish. When water leaks beneath the floorboards and onto the subfloor, a full restoration is often necessary.
So, how can you tell?
A superficial stain on the surface of your wood floor resulting from a liquid spill can often be repaired with a refinish, assuming the spill was properly addressed when you first noticed it. If the stain is located within a single space, was properly cared for, hasn’t created mold or physical damage to the floorboard has a good chance of being repairable.
Damage that potentially requires restoration is deeper damage, often beneath the surface of the floorboards. If moisture has permeated your floor surface and affected the subfloor or saturated the vapor layer, your floorboards will probably begin to crack, shift, or bow. When the underside of your hardwood planks don’t get the moisture removal aftercare they need, moisture can cause the wood’s porous surfaces to absorb the moisture and swell. This manipulation of the wood will cause it to bow, shoft, or crack.
What to do if your hardwood floors are damaged beyond repair
Not in the mood to take on a restoration or hardwood floor repair project on your own? Don’t stress. Our experts can repair or restore your beautiful hardwood floors, or replace them with laminate or other types of flooring if the space is better suited for it.