A wood floor can accidentally get wet or even flooded with water. Quick thinking to mitigate the situation can be important in preventing further damage, as well as restoring your floor.
So, what do you do if water spills on your hardwood floor?
Water is the mortal enemy of any wood, and in particular hardwood floors. When the two mix the outcome can be devastating. The water doesn't mind — it's a one-way rivalry, really.
Wood boards are highly absorbent and, when exposed to water, they absorb it, swell, and start warping.
The longer there is water-wood contact, the more water is absorbed and the deeper it gets. If you can act swiftly, there will be a good chance of saving your wooden floor from water damage.
Water is likely to penetrate into wood, especially when the finished is damaged or not properly done. The seal may also get damaged when water is left to remain on the surface for a long time.
There are also unseen cracks in the finished surface due to wear and tear that can allow moisture to penetrate and reach the wood. Liquid spills can also enter through seams between the planks.
Engineered hardwood floors can still suffer the same fate after prolonged exposure to water. The adhesives used to attach the materials can get weakened.
Wooden floors can get wet in a number of ways: pet accidents, water spills while cleaning, pipe leakages, flooding from outside, hurricanes or storms, toilet overflow, appliance leaks such as clothes or dish washing machines, a leaking roof, or from underground due to a high water table.
Removing the water quickly and drying the floor reduces the chances of great damage. Doing so also prevents the possibility of future mold growth, which is hazardous to both humans' and pets' health.
Uncleaned spills may also lead to dark stains on hardwood floors that are usually tough to remove.
How Do You Save Your Hardwood Floor From Water Damage?
Before figuring out how to save your wood from water, begin by establishing where the water is coming from and try to block it.
If it is a leakage from a pipe or an appliance, you can lock the control tap or knob. Here are further steps to take:
1. Remove any water-soaked items from the floor
Soaked objects such as carpets, rugs, and furniture have to be removed from the room and taken outside in the sun or another area where they can dry.
Ensure they are completely dry before you take them back inside. A damp carpet can cause a moldy and smelly floor, as well as worsen the level of damage to the wood.
2. Soak or vacuum the water as much as possible
Immediately use towels or mops to soak up water if you are dealing with small spills or puddles. For larger accumulations of water, use a wet vacuum to suck up all standing water.
Continue running the vacuum even if no water is visible on the floor. You will realize water is still collecting in the canister and you will have to continue for a while.
This completely removes water even from the invisible wood pores and plank seams.
3. Clean the surface using a disinfectant
Small debris is likely to remain on the floor even after clearing the water.
Such dirt particles could still retain moisture that will encourage the growth of mold and bacteria.
Use a disinfectant to clean without scrubbing the floor, apply your favorite hardwood floor cleaner, rinse with a mop dampened with clean water, and dry your floor.
4. Use a dehumidifier to completely dry the wood
Some traces of water that have penetrated the planks may still remain even after vacuuming.
A dehumidifier will help completely dry the wood. Place it at the maximum output and set it at the center of the room and let it run for around 2 or 3 days.
5. Use fans to clear moisture
Set large fans to face the floor, open the windows slightly and open the door wide. Run the fans at the highest speed to drive out any moisture in the room.
Ensure your fan is clean with no dust. You could also turn on your air conditioning system without any heat. Heat may cause wood cupping and splitting, especially if it has not dried completely.
6. Dry a sub-floor if you have any
If there is a level below the damaged floor dry it as well. If there is a room beneath, place fans inside it and open its windows to drive out any moisture.
Place another dehumidifier there and run it for 2 days. Do not open windows if it is raining outside as this will add more humidity.
7. Inspect if it's dry and check for molds
Mold grows mainly in humid and warm areas. Besides changing your floor's appearance, it is dangerous to humans and pets when it grows in a home.
They can cause allergies and affect the respiratory system. If you see any signs of it, immediately scrub the wood floor with baking soda, vacuum, and continue with the drying process.
8. Conduct a moisture test
Your floor may take up to 5 weeks to completely dry. Use a moisture testing meter to establish if there is any moisture. If it detects any, then you will have to continue the drying process.
A moisture test is usually important before wood sanding, refinishing, or replacing. Do not proceed with any activity unless the moisture content is between 6 and 9%.
9. Sanding and refinishing
For flooding or heavy water damage you will need to sand and refinish your wooden floor or replace the damaged boards.
Water usually wears down most seals such as polyurethane, which will therefore require replacement.
A proper finish ensures protection against minor water exposure, minor damage, and daily wear and tear.
What to Do after a Hurricane or Storm
Serious flooding of your floor caused by a hurricane or a major storm needs professional mitigation. You could contact a restoration expert who will come with relevant equipment to deal with the situation.
Due to the high demand of such services during a hurricane, the experts may take a while to arrive at your place. In the meantime, you can do your best as per our guide.
Insurance is another organization to approach when your floor is severely damaged by floods. Some homeowners have flood insurance as part of their plans — make sure you know if you do or don't.
Many homes are covered under plans that take care of damage caused by mechanical problems such as broken pipes, power outages, toilets overflowing, and home structural issues among others.
But don’t hesitate to call your insurer in the event of a bizarre situation.
Always act fast to save your wood floor from water damage due to spills or flooding.
The longer it takes, the worse it becomes and the more difficult bringing your floor back to life will be.
Always perform regular cleaning and protect your floor against damage to keep it beautiful and long lasting.