Water Damage and Wood Floors

Water Damage and Wood Floors

The worst and most severe type of damage a floor can suffer is the one caused by water or excessive amounts of moisture. What are the reasons for this and what can we do to protect our floors from this? We will answer to those question in the article below.

Floor Cupping and How to Deal with It

Water damage is one of the most serious problems your wooden floor could endure. The Reasons can be many – high humidity levels, leaks from plumbing, spills, flooding. In many cases, this can result in discoloration, fading, unpleasant odours and in the worst cases – cupping or crowning. 

What Is Cupping?

Cupping and crowning are the issues we have when our floor is suffering from excessive moisture. Wood flooring is prone to expand when humidity is high and contract when it is low, it's even more pronounced when the flooring is solid hardwood . When that humidity reaches levels which our floor is incapable of taking, the floor boards begin to change their shape.

When the floor curls up and the edges of the boards become higher than the centre, you have a cupping problem. When the boards are lifted upwards it is obviously crowning. In both cases, we have water damage but it is not always for the same reason. The initial installation of a hardwood surface requires leaving an expansion gap between the floor and the wall itself so it can move a bit when required. It is staggering how often the reason for bulging is simply because the people doing the installation ‘forgot’ to leave this mandatory gap.  So choosing the right person for the fitting job is fundamental.

The best way to ensure the floors in your home are not about to experience water damage is to watch the moisture levels. Those can be monitored with a hygrometer and when you see the signs of a growing problem, you could have time to take measures before it is too late. 

cupping board floor damage
crowning boards water damage

You Cannot Have Wood Everywhere

Usually, when we are called to lay a floor, we check the amount of humidity in the area. Not every place is suitable for a flooring made out of wood and before we begin the job, we warn our clients of the potential dangers involved. The majority of the floors we lay come with a two year guarantee but if a client wants to proceed with installation in an unsuitable place for the wood material - that warranty is significantly shortened. The standard procedure for installing a floor in a place with excessive humidity is to bring a special piece of equipment called dehumidifier to prepare the area for the task ahead. Some flooring companies also offer a dehumidifier services separately from the fitting, as a sort of a maintenance, in order to fix existing moisture issues. We do not. The reason for this is that even if the machine remedies such a problem it is only temporary. This is a band-aid at best, not a real solution. The issue will appear again and again after the machine is gone. It is, however, possible to use this equipment before a floor restoration because the sanding and repairs require the surface to be fully dry. 

Possible Reasons for a Cupped Floor

measuring floor humidityOne often overlooked reason for a warped floor is the possibility that it just wasn’t laid correctly. The floors from a particular supplier usually come with installation instructions and some contractors may not follow them thoroughly. If they did not keep in mind the humidity levels when installing and warning their customers of the risks they are obliged to fix their mistake.

Other possible reasons could be:

  • Leaking pipes or some kind of wall imperfections allowing rain water inside
  • Leaking household appliances
  • Flawed damp course
  • Wooden subfloors with excessive moisture beneath
  • Non-functioning ventilation
  • Wooden subfloors with excessive humidity levels beneath
  • Cement or concrete sub-floor left without sufficient time to dry

How to Fix Water Damage? floor repair and restoration

The first thing to consider when repairing water damage is its severity. As long as the boards are not warped its relatively easy task to remove the stains. For this, the best way is to probably use oxalic acid crystals, re-stain, and re-seal. 

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is whether it’s possible to relay a buckled hardwood floor? The answer is ‘No’ . A severely warped floorboard is beyond saving. Such boards cannot be repaired, only be replaced.

Cupped floor boards can be cut with a saw or pulled up with a pry bar especially if the board is bent upwards because it often means it is not attached to the floor. Obviously, the replacement must be of the same type, in order to match the rest. The fitting is done by sliding the groove onto the tongue of another board and shooting staples through its tongue. 

The floor sanding, staining, and finishing are pretty standard.  It must be kept in mind that the sanding process on water damaged floors can be quite aggressive because the amount of damage suffered is more severe.