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How to dry out timber floors after a flood

18th Nov '20 • By Rohit Mankame

Water and wood just don’t mix. It may permanently damage the timber when water sits on top of hardwood floors, as wood absorbs the water through its pores, causing warping and discoloration. So whether you have a flood or water damage to your hardwood flooring, you’ll want to drain the water and dry your floors as soon as you can.

Flooring person putting timber laminateHardwood floors are a classic design choice with many practical advantages, but wood flooring is extremely vulnerable to water damage despite the aesthetic appeal. In just a few days, leaky roofs, busted pipes, overflowed toilets, and other causes of sudden floods can turn magnificent wood planking into a warped, mold-prone mess. It's more important than you realise to properly dry hardwood floors, and fixing water damaged floors is more important than spreading out a few towels and a fan... dry-looking wood can still buckle later. It is best to hire a flooring specialist to get a professional opinion on what things you might have to do to your floors to fix the problem. 

Wood's cellulose fibres soak up water easily, but slowly release the water. Therefore you can start to take your store vacuum to remove the water as soon as possible. Think again if you assume that your wood floors are so well-finished that water will not get into the raw wood. Since the top layer, wood floors have several penetration points: between seams, through coating breaks, under foundations, through heating registers, and a host of other areas.

Immediately after experiencing water damage, following these measures will help insure that your hardwood floors dry properly and preserve their look and functionality.

Living room flooded with water

What are the steps to dry out timber flooring?

Remove Floor Water-Soaked Items 

Rugs and water-soaked furniture will begin to spill moisture into the wood. Wet furnishings can also create mildew and mould formation, which can get into your flooring's pores and seams. Remove all wet objects from the room and position them without ruining the floor in a location where they can dry effectively.

Blue water vacuum

Remove water from the surface 

Using the wet mode without the bag in the shop vacuum to extract as much water from the floor surface as possible. This is best with the vacuum hose providing a large flooring attachment. USing a squeegee to catch the water while you suck it up also helps

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Scrub the floor 

In a bucket, mix a mild detergent and a compatible disinfectant with clean water. With a stiff brush, clean the entire surface of the woodwork floor including baseboards, stairs and post, but don’t forget to rinse the brush regularly in the bucket. Do not spill the water onto the floor as you will just add to the problem. Remember to scrub thoroughly to remove all soil, mud, and organic material, will prevent the growth of mould.

Mold on timber

Inspect for mold 

Mold is a harmful health hazard within homes and commercial buildings. When coming into contact with mould or inhaling the spores, occupants, workers and customers can experience allergic reactions and breathing problems. When the floor looks dry you should check for mold and mildew formation. You would have to clean the floor with a solution of baking soda and water if you see signs of mould in the pores of the wood. Again, continue to vacuum up the moisture and begin the process of drying. 


Dry the floors 

Although the wood flooring appears dry, water may have penetrated into the board as the wet vacuum will not remove it. To dry the floors, use a dehumidifier installed at the highest setting possible. Place it in the middle of the room and keep it on for a minimum of 24 hours. 

First, position fans around the room so the blowing air is felt by the entire surface. Place the fans in the highest possible setting. Place fans on the lower level if there is a level below the flooring that can be reached and direct the air up towards the ceiling to dry the subfloor and flooring from below. You can also open the windows to get more moving air in, but when it rains outside, you should not do this as you do not want the extra moisture to reach.

sanding timber

Sand the water damaged timber flooring 

You may have some concave or convex floorboards after drying a wood floor; this is called "cupping." Hard sanding with a drum or orbital sander may actually take down" some small elevated areas. However it is not possible to sand down smooth, heavily cupped wood. It is unavoidable that certain floorboards at the ends will lift up completely. Face-nail the floorboards back down in this situation.

timber laminate flooring

Replace the laminate 

Laminate flooring can look similar to solid hardwood or engineered hardwood, but the material is not the same. The bulk of wood pulp is made from a laminate flooring plank, much like particleboard or medium-density fibreboard.This material is particularly prone to water damage and swells when it gets wet, ruining the material's integrity. It is important to repair most laminate flooring that is water-damaged.

Moisture test meter

Perform a moisture test 

With a moisture checking metre, you can determine if there is any residual moisture in the wood. Don't be shocked if, after a day or two, the metre still shows signs of floor moisture. Wood flooring can take up to several weeks to dry fully. The humidity in the room, and the amount of water on the floor, can also prolong the process. So when the moisture test indicates that no water remains in the wood, keep the fans and dehumidifier going.

Home insurance in hand with blue nail paint

Does insurance cover water damaged flooring?

Well the short answer is that it depends! Whether or not your insurance will be covered the damage depends on your insurance plan and the cause of the damage. Please notice that most homeowners don't have flood insurance (less than 20 percent). Therefore if the damage was caused by flooding from water coming from outside your home's premises, there is a fair risk that you would not be shielded. 

But if the water damage was due to some type of technical problem from a leaky or frozen pipes, bursting water heater, overflowing toilet, damaged appliance, power outage so that the sump pump did not work or a house structural problem like a roof leak, ice damming, then you are covered for a fair chance of claiming your insurance. 

If the damage is covered by the insurance policy, they can pay for everything related to the claim including mitigation/removal of water, damaged furniture, and to rebuild your home to how it was including floors and painting. It is best to call your insurance company and read your policy carefully. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can never wait for the natural drying of the flooring. The faster you take the steps above, the better your flooring will be. You would end up shortening the lifespan of the wood if you just let the water stay, and you will have to repair the water-damaged flooring section or the whole floor in the room. Just do the required periodic cleaning and preventative maintenance work to keep your flooring looking beautiful so that your wood flooring lasts for several years.

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