Droplets of water on a hardwood floor

Water leaked on our wood floors, what do we do now?

This is one of our most common issues that we help our clients with. It is important to follow a few steps in order to mitigate this situation properly. Be aware that this often is not a quick fix, if we are trying to salvage the existing wood and subfloor.

First, fix the leak and stop the water from continuing to damage your wood floors.

Next, let’s start to dry the floor. We can do this a few different ways. First let’s get some air movement. We like to use floor fans, that can be placed at the area of the leak (blowing across the floor), and if possible, below the area as well. For example, most water leaks occur in the kitchen, so quite often, we will place a fan in the basement, blowing up towards the subfloor, where the leak occurred. This obviously works much better in an area where there is not a finished ceiling. In homes with a crawlspace, use exhaust fans. This will help expedite the drying process.

Next, you should be using a dehumidifier, placed at the area where the leak occurred, it can’t hurt do use another one, below the leak (in the basement, assuming the leak was on the 1st floor) also. Ideally if you can drain the dehumidifier using a hose, instead of the bucket, that is preferred, or you will have to manage the emptying of the bucket.

Introduce heat. Whether you are turning up the heat in the home or just using some type of space heater, this will expedite the drying of the wood floors.

If the wood floor is installed on top of plywood that is over concrete, it is unlikely that it will dry out in a reasonable amount of time. Quite often removal of the wood floor and plywood would be necessary.

An “average” water leak, meaning the floor was not flooded with water for more than a handful of hours, can take 1-3 months to dry out naturally (not adding fans/heat or dehumidifiers) before we can start sanding/repairing the floors. You can cut this time in half if you implement these drying techniques. A quicker fix would be to cut out the floors, replace the subfloor and install new wood flooring. At this point we can start repairing/sanding the floors much quicker. We cannot sand the floor, until all the moisture in the wood floor and the subfloor are back to normal. We gauge this by using a NWFA certified moisture meter on the wood flooring and the subfloor. Generally, we want to see the moisture reading between 7-9% and the subfloor within 2 degrees of that. If your floors get sanded before they are dried, you may see excessive gapping as the floors loose the moisture and shrink. High moisture readings on a wood floor that took on water can be as high as 25% or more.

Caution!!! A lot of water/fire mitigation companies will come in and without much conversation and start cutting out your wood floors that got wet. THIS IS NOT NECESSARY AND CAN COST YOU MORE MONEY IN THE FUTURE. In extreme situations, this may be necessary. This is the beauty of wood floors, they are sustainable, renewable and often do not get ruined when they get wet. This can be even more problematic if the wood flooring you have is hard to find or obsolete. Sometimes these companies implement drying mats that are placed on the wood floors and will pull the moisture out. We have found these to work pretty well over the years. We like this option much more than cutting out and removing the damaged areas.

Please give us a call as we realize this can be daunting and confusing, especially if this has never happened to you before. We are happy to walk you through the process, as we have done for so many of our clients in the past! We are here to serve you!!