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How to Dry a Wooden Floor after a Water Leak

Wooden floors are always a beautiful addition to many homes. Not only are they versatile, but they also have a long lifespan, especially when properly maintained. As much as this beauty can add style and character to your home, water damage can end up ruining it by leaving dark stains and causing the wood to buckle. The moment any moisture or water damage occurs on your wood flooring, it must immediately be taken care of, in order to reduce any long-term effects that the moisture can bring to the wood. Fortunately, by drying out your wooden floors and getting rid of mold, you can still save them. A combination of both surface drying and air circulation can help remove moisture from the wood.

How to Dry a Wooden Floor after a Water Leak:

  • Step 1: Get the Materials You Need
  • Step 2: Remove All Floor Coverings
  • Step 3: Suck up As Much Water as Possible Using a Wet Vacuum
  • Step 4: Scrub Woodwork using A Floor Brush and Detergent Before the Floor is Dry
  • Step 5: Remove A Few Boards to Let the Others Expand and Dry the Subfloor
  • Step 6: Let the Floor Dry Slowly
  • Step 7: Deal With Mold on Wood Under Paint
  • Step 8: Use Dehumidifiers If The Water Has Seeped Into The Wood
  • Step 9: Measure the Moisture Content of Your Wood Floors

Drying your wooden floors immediately it gets wet is important in minimizing the degree of permanent damage caused by moisture. The sooner you can dry out your wet wooden floors, the better. This is because the cellulose fibers in wood soak up water rapidly but release the water more slowly. In fact, if you think your wooden floors are so well-coated that water cannot penetrate it, you might want to think again. There are many infiltrations or penetration points on wooden floors besides the top layer. These include broken coats, between seams, under baseboards, through heating registers, and several other areas. Do you want to know how to dry wooden floors after water leaks? Then you’re in the right place. The rest of this article will guide you through how you can dry out your wooden floor after a major plumbing accident or any water leaks that occur in your home or building.

How to Know if There is Water Damage

It is important to know that all types of wooden floors can be damaged by water, and the water can even seep through to the subfloors. Knowing whether or not your floor has any water damage is relatively simple, as the signs can be easily noticed. These signs include warping, buckling, and discoloration. While each type of floors have different signs of water damage, you should look out for the following signs on yours:

● On Hardwood:

  • Dark Spots: Although this may just be a part of the wood’s natural pattern, it may also be the presence of mold or mildew.
  • Cupping: if the floor planks have dips and raised edges, then it’s likely damaged.
  • Buckling: if floor planks have collapsed or have been completely removed from the floor underneath.
  • Bulging: if the floor planks bubble upwards, forming a “crown” shape.

● On Laminate:

  • Swelling: General swelling at the plank edges.
  • Warping: when the planks are no longer flat but are building or cupping.
  • Discoloring: Discoloring caused by mold or mildew.

How to Dry a Wooden Floor after a Water Leak

It’s essential that you immediately dry out any moisture on your wooden floors to avoid permanent damage. If it takes too long and damage occurs, the only option might be to replace the flooring, and this can be very exhaustive and expensive. Here are steps on how to dry out your wooden floor after a water leakage:

Step 1: Get the Materials You Need

  • Dehumidifier
  • Scrub brush
  • Stiff brush
  • Bucket
  • Non-sudsing, disinfecting cleaner
  • A mop or cleaning rag
  • Rubber gloves
  • Washing soda
  • Wood floor cleaner
  • Squeegee
  • Fans
  • Wet vac
  • Hammer
  • Flooring nails

Step 2: Remove All Floor Coverings

If the wood is still wet, the area underneath your wood floor won’t dry. So if your wood flooring is covered by wet mats, rugs, or carpeting, then you must remove them immediately. Remove all furniture and items from the wet area and place them on dry areas, then pull out soaked rugs or carpets. If the entire floor is wet, you’ll need to remove water-soaked items from the house. You can set them out in the sun to dry while you work on the floor. However, if your carpets and rugs have been soaked beyond repair and they are not cleaned immediately, then you may have to discard them due to mold problems.

Step 3: Suck up As Much Water as Possible Using a Wet Vacuum

Dry out visible water immediately after the floors get wet. Using mops and trowels may be sufficient but if the leakage is severe, then you may need to use a water pump. Using your wet vac, suction up as much water as possible until there is no visible water. Always empty the wet vac at intervals to prevent the water from seeping back out and to also keep the suction strong. Keep suctioning along the floor, even though there is no visible standing water as the wet vac can still pull out water from the pores of the wood that are not visible.

Step 4: Scrub Woodwork using A Floor Brush and Detergent Before the Floor is Dry

There’s most likely going to be mud and silt trapped in the corners of your flooded floor. So before the floor totally dries off, use a non-abrasive stiff brush, together with a non-sudsing detergent and plenty of water to thoroughly clean the floors. Keep scrubbing until all the debris, grease, and other substances left behind by the leakage or flood is completely removed. Suck up the remaining water and dry the floor as you did before. Using a wood floor cleaner, clean a second time to make sure all substances are removed from the floor. If necessary, use a scrub brush, if not, then stick to a cleaning cloth or mop. Rinse again with water and suction up the water with your wet vac, then dry with dry cloths.

Step 5: Remove A Few Boards to Let the Others Expand and Dry the Subfloor

When wooden floorboards are wet, they swell or expand. By removing a few floorboards (one every 5–10 feet should do), the floorboards will be allowed to expand without buckling or cracking. It will also help the subfloor to dry faster.

Step 6: Let the Floor Dry Slowly

Dry the floor slowly with fans and allow plenty of air to flow through space. One of the fastest ways to dry out your wooden floors is by using large fans to promote air circulation in your home. You can make use of regular box fans or better still, large industrial-strength fans to achieve faster drying. To ensure that air is evenly circulated through the entire space, use as many fans as possible. If you can access the flooring from a lower level, place fans there as well, specifically pointing them in damaged areas. Open up windows (except if the outside air is humid), and set fans at high levels, leaving them on until the subfloor is completely dry.

Step 7: Deal With Mold on Wood Under Paint

The growth of mold under a painted floor is quite tricky and requires special treatment. The only solution at this point is to remove the paint, as paint forms a seal that traps water in the wood below. After scraping off the paint, scrub the wood with an abrasive cleaner, or a TSP-water solution with an added cup of ordinary laundry bleach per gallon of water. After cleaning, suction up and dry the floor as described above.

Step 8: Use Dehumidifiers If The Water Has Seeped Into The Wood

You can run dehumidifiers as well as window air conditioners to reduce the moisture in the air, especially in closed areas. You can make use of home dehumidifiers, and for severe flooding, you might want to rent commercial dehumidifiers to get better results. Commercial dehumidifiers can remove 3-4 times more water than the home models. To get better results while using a dehumidifier, close windows, and doors. Keep the dehumidifier and fans on until the floor is completely dry. 

Step 9: Measure the Moisture Content of Your Wood Floors

Make sure your wooden floors are completely dry before you re-cover them with rugs or carpets. To ensure that the floors are totally dry, you can invite a professional to measure the moisture content, or you get a moisture meter to do it yourself. Usually, the drying process takes up to several weeks, depending on the humidity and moisture level of the floor when you started. The ideal moisture content of the section of wood flooring that wasn’t affected by leakage should be within 5%. To get the most accurate readings, make sure you purchase a moisture meter with pins or probes that can be inserted into the wood.

Final remarks

That being said, water leakage and flooding can occur in different types of flooring. Water can get under engineered wood flooring, as well as the wood laminate flooring. In short, regardless of the wood flooring type, the moment water or moisture is sighted, it should immediately be removed using the method stated above. This will help return the floor to a dry state. Although wood floors and the area beneath them can take several weeks or even months to dry completely, it’s still worth the wait, as some floors will return to their original state once dried. Some of them may require re-nailing or a surface sanding but compare to replacing the entire floor, that’s less trouble.