Water damage is a common problem for many homeowners. Water can seep through your ceiling, walls, or floors and cause significant structural damage to the home. Water damage often leads to mold growth which creates an unhealthy living environment. It’s important that water-damaged wood flooring be dried out as quickly as possible in order to prevent permanent structural damage and ensure mold doesn’t grow inside the building envelope. Water damage can also cause unsightly buckling and curling of floors, especially if the flooring is made from certain types of wood. Water-damaged floorboards don’t necessarily need to be replaced as long as they are dried out properly. Here’s a guide on how to restore water-damaged wood floors.
Remove all furniture from the room.
You may need to break down any existing furnishings or move them out of the way in order for you to adequately access the floorboards.
Remove all wall hangings that are hanging above the water-damaged areas. This includes posters, paintings, curtains, and other wall art. You can remove these items by dismantling screws, brackets, nails, flanges, and other connecting hardware.
Remove the floorboards that are buckled or warped by cutting them into small planks that can be easily pried up with a pry bar. You cannot expect straight boards to return to their original shape after they have been curled up for such a long period of time. It is likely that you will need to replace these boards with new flooring.
Measure and mark out the dimensions of the room, making sure to include all existing walls and door openings in your measurements.
Use a straight edge to connect opposite corners of the room by drawing a line across each board that needs to be removed. This will ensure that you remove only the boards that need to be replaced.
Fill a bucket with water and mix in dish soap to create a soapy solution.
Allow the soapy solution to penetrate the wood of the water-damaged floorboards. You can use a garden hose or pressure washer to spray down the area, but only if the area you are cleaning is easy to access.
Allow the soapy solution to soak into more difficult areas of the wood for at least fifteen minutes before checking on it. If after fifteen minutes, there is no noticeable change in the water-damaged floorboards, then allow the mixture to soak for another fifteen minutes and check back.
Use a scrub brush to agitate the soapy solution and remove any dirt and stains from the wood flooring. A toothbrush can be effective for cleaning more detailed areas of the floorboards. Rinse away with clean water. Allow the floorboards to dry completely before proceeding with your restoration.
The drying process can take several days for each board. After you have finished cleaning, allow all of the water-damaged wood floor boards to dry out at room level in indirect sunlight. You can help speed up this process by using fans or dehumidifiers.
Use a broom or vacuum to clean up any standing water on the floor.
Once the floorboards are fully dry, you can begin restoration by sanding down any rough edges of the wood or removing loose pieces with a chisel. You may need to clean out larger gaps of water-damaged wood with a small paint brush that fits into the crevice.
Pour wood filler into all of the gaps and use a putty knife to smooth out the filler by running it along the length of the gap.
Allow your newly filled gaps two days to dry completely before sanding down any rough edges or filling in small crevices. Use an electric sander for this task in order to avoid covering up areas where you used wood filler.
Pour oil-based stain onto a cloth and rub it into all of the sanded and filled in gaps. Be sure to only use the amount of pressure that is needed to remove any remaining rough spots or streaks from your work. Allow the stained boards 24 hours to dry completely before moving them back into the room.
Once dry, use an electric sander.
Do not reattach wall hangings until the final coat of finishing has been completed and you are satisfied with your restoration. You can use paint or stain to refinish the boards, but make sure to use the same type of product that was used on the original flooring. This will help retain the overall design and color theme you started with.
If you placed any items in storage while your floors were undergoing restoration, then reattach them after your project is completed. Reinstall any furniture and appliances as well.
If you are ready to get started, the first step is removing all of the boards along the perimeter of your room. You will need a pry bar for this task. Remove only the boards that need to be replaced with new flooring, it is likely that most of these pieces can be salvaged.
Then, use a flat pry bar to remove the boards that are most likely warped and will not lay level after they have been sanded down. Use a hammer and chisel along the joints of these boards where there is still wood present. Once all of the old floorings have been removed, you can begin using the soap and water mixture to clean the wood floorboards that are still intact. Use a vacuum hose, water hose, or pressure washer depending on the difficulty of the area being cleaned. Allow these boards to dry completely before moving forward with the restoration.
Sand lightly in circular motions.
Sanding restores the floor boards, but it can also remove any existing stain or varnish. To prevent this from happening make sure you are using an electric sander instead of an orbital sander. If you only have the orbital type of sander, then you can use it on its lowest possible setting.
Like any other home repair project, make sure to read the instructions before attempting to restore water-damaged wood floors yourself. If you are not comfortable completing this task or if you are unsure about what types of woods should be stained or varnished together, then it is best to hire a professional restoration company. To find these types of companies in your area, simply type “restoration” into Google and you should be able to easily identify local services that can assist you with this task.
Wipe down the surface with mineral spirits.
Mineral spirit is a solvent used to remove polyurethane. Do not let the mineral spirits dry on the wood floor as it will also strip the finish.
Wipe down with a rag soaked in denatured alcohol. Use a lint-free cloth as any fibers left behind may mar the surface of the flooring even after the water has been completely dried. Alcohol may also remove the color from any dye in the wood flooring.
Denatured alcohol is alcohol that has been mixed with a bitter substance to make it undrinkable. It is also referred to as methylated spirits or shellac thinner which is used for removing paint, varnish, and decorator stains.
Wipe down with a clean rag soaked in mineral oil. Mineral oil is a natural wax that makes the surface shiny and protects it from moisture. This will also help any remaining water to evaporate more quickly so that no mold or mildew can grow on the wood as it dries out. Use a rag to wipe over the entire surface of the floor, but avoid leaving streaks.
Prevent mold and mildew by wiping up spills immediately with a clean cloth moistened in mineral oil.
Allow several days for the wood to completely dry out. This may be as long as two weeks depending on the humidity level and other conditions in your home. If you can still smell an acrid scent, the water has not been fully evaporated from inside of the wood.
In order to prevent mold and mildew, you must allow all of the water that was on the floor to evaporate completely before refinishing it or lighting a fire inside of your home that could cause fire damage. Smoke is a byproduct produced when the fire burns wood.
Germ Disinfection Approach
The Germ Disinfection Approach is a plan to disinfect and clean water-damaged areas after all visible signs of water have been eliminated. Disinfection affects the germ until the surface has dried completely. The Germ Disinfection Approach is important because it must be done to prevent mold growth.
Clean the area with a vacuum and dispose of its contents in an outside waste container. This is designed to remove any water that may still be trapped in the carpet or padding, which can cause mold growth. For upholstery, wipe down the entire surface with alcohol-soaked pads. The alcohol will dry quickly and prevent mildew from growing.
Leaving water behind or moisture in any form can allow mold or mildew to grow, causing biological contamination requiring a Level II clean-up by a professional restoration company.
Do not use bleach as it may discolor the surface of your furniture and ruin its fabric. If there is a musty odor left after drying, you can sprinkle baking soda over the area and vacuum after it has absorbed the odors.
After all visible water has been eliminated, use disinfectant sprays containing quaternary ammonium or phenol to prevent further biological contamination. For heavy stains, mix one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach in one gallon of water and apply with a spray bottle.