Hardwood Floor Buckling Water Damage

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Hardwood Floor Buckling Water Damage

As beautiful as the hardwood floor may look, It’s usually sensitive to pipe leaks, floods, high humidity, poor installation, and improper cleaning technique. This can cause crowning, cupping, and warping problems that are expensive and hard to fix.

Moisture content change due to humidity combined with temperature can cause wood to contract and expand. This is when the real wood floor problems start like hardwood floor raising up often accompanied by cupping or swelling starts. Once the root cause of peaking is identified, the hardwood floor peaking problem can be fixed.

Causes of Buckled Hardwood Floors

Moisture primarily is the main cause of buckling. This can happen after the wood floor suddenly gets flooded with large amounts of water and when moisture content builds up over time.

The main reasons for moisture build up include:

  • Excessive job site moisture.
  • If the wood floor was installed on a wet slab.
  • If the floor or the area has drainage problems, the house may end up flooding.
  • Leaking roofs may also cause wood floor peaking.
  • Pipe leaks can lead to flooding or increase the moisture content on the wood floor.
  • If a house has been left vacant without good ventilation for an extended period of time may also get moisture build-up.
  • Humidity is another issue that impacts on hardwood floor. While humidity may be low in winters, they level rises up n summer month that may end up accumulating to a level then makes the wood floor to swell up, creating pressure between the planks and finally raising up or buckling.

Poor installation of the hardwood floor may be the reason for the wood buckling. In case the floor was not well installed, even after doing a heft investment on a wood floor can also cause warping. Failure to take proper preparation, insufficient nailing to the subfloor, installing in an uneven surface and poor quality products for the installation, it may lead to hardwood floor peaking.

Improper care for the wood floor can also lead to floor warping. You need to follow proper care instructions for hardwood floor longevity. Consider cleaning spills immediately, use a mat and pick the best area rug for your floor, use microfiber dust mops regularly, avoid wet mopping. However, you can fix hardwood that is warping from water damage.

Can You Repair Water Damaged Hardwood Floors?

Despite the care and maintenance to prevent the floor from wear and tear. Since the floor is subjected to this on a daily basis, one may not escape from the wood floor rising up problems. However, with simple steps, you can fix the floor that is warping from water damage.

Hardwood Floor Buckling Water Damage, causes and how to fix

Fixing warping floors help restore its aesthetic appeal as well as prevent costly replacement undertakings in the near future. When you notice hardwood floor raising up you may take precautions of drying hardwood floors water damage.

Here are steps to fix steps to fix buckling include:

  • Investigate and fix the moisture source.
  • Fix or remove the cuckled board or plank.
  • Replace the damaged plank.
  • Sand the floor.
  • Refinish the wood floor.

Ways to remove water from wood floor

Prevention is better than cure, as the word says it good to address the wet floor as soon as possible. Hardwood floor does soak water to a saturation level very quickly than it releases it to the environment. Drying hardwood floors water damage takes a lot of work and resources.

You need to consider that water can penetrate to your floor though many infiltration points, whether you have finished or unfinished the wood floor.

Resolve the Water Source Problem.

You cant remove the water from wood without positively identifying and resolving the water and moisture source. If this is not resolved the cupping, crowning, peaking of wood and laminate floor continue recurring down in weeks or months to come.

Resolve the Surface Water

Take a mop, a vacuum or squeegee to help gather water as it sucks it up form the wood floor.

Scrub Clean the Wood Floor

Get a mild detergent with hardwood floor compatible disinfectants. Mix it with water in a bucket. Using a dump mop, scrub the floor as you remove any black water stain. Ensure you remove all dirt, silt mud or any organic material as you pay attention to any white stains on the floor.

Treat Mold, Mildew on wood floor.

After dump moping, you need to take care of the area that has developed mold and mildew on your wood floor. Rinse the areas wild mold and cloudy haze on hardwood floors or any other discoloration. Select the compatible hardwood floor bleach that will not leave your floor sticky after moping or discolored.

Dry Mop your Floor

Pick one of your best dry mops for the wood floor to dry it. However, you may decide to dry it naturally but a slow method. Make sure you open the windows, doors and is you have fun and dehumidifier for wood floors turn them on. Incase ventilation is an issue you may have to address it to prevent further moisture build-up.

Sand the Cupping Planks  

Sand the water-damaged planks on the floor. The planks that form concave and convex or that are cupping after drying the floor need to be sanded if they have minor damage. Unfortunately for the heavily crowned or cupped planks, you have to remove them since they cannot be sanded flat. Nailing the planks may also be done to stick it on the subfloor

Its good to note if you have engineered wood or laminate floor that is warping, it may not be possible to sand. The majority of this water caused problem is solved by replacing the ruined planks. The MDF or particleboard are highly vulnerable to water damage and swelling. This makes it hard to sand to fix engineered or laminate floor buckling.

Seal and Refinish the Floor

Carefully check if there are molds growth under the paint or sealed floor. In such a case you will need to remove the paint and clear a new seal. Scrap off the paint, dry it first and then reapply the paint of the wood floor finish to seal it. This would help restore the aesthetic look of your wood floor.

Here is a video to causes and fix buckling water damaged hardwood floors in the basement.

Buckling Hardwood Floors Above Vented Crawl Spaces | Ask the Expert | Lowcountry Foundation Repair

Warning Sign of Wood Floor Buckling

How do wood buckle? The simple answer is all wood is made of fibers, whether engineered or natural solid wood. The fibers absorb water in planked, milled, sanded, and finished wood causing contraction and expansion. This happens to be uneven and in fact in many cases it the edges to swell first before the center.

This however does not happens overnight, below are some of the warning signs that can help you take appropriate measures before buckling damage.

  • Cracks and separations between hardwood boards and the subfloor is a sign of buckling.
  • Cupping: it’s a defect that occurs when excessive moisture which causes the wood flooring to swell, crush and deform on the edges. This makes the plank board edges to swell higher than its middle or center.
  • Crowning: it’s a defect that develop when exposed to moisture. When the floorboards absorb moisture from the subfloor or humidity from the air, they swell and push against each other. This causes the centers of the boards to bulge or swell above the edges. In addition, Sanding a cupped floor before restoring its moisture content convex surface once dry.
  • Plank or board Lifting up: this occurs when the cover floor pull up from the subfloor.
  • Mildew, mold and cloudy haze on your floor can be a warning sign of high moisture content

Wood Floor Cupping Prevention Measures

Much warped wood floor due to water damage tends to be unrepairable. If your hardwood or laminate floor buckling or severely raising up, you will need to replace the flooring. Fortunately, with proper care and maintenance, you can prevent and avoid the expensive wood floor bowing repairs.

Here are few prevention and maintenance measures.

The do’s

  • Wipe any spill immediately to avoid water infiltrating to the subfloor.
  • Encourage people to take off shoes before walking on the wood floor.
  • Always use vacuum cleaners and sweep excess dirt and debris from your floor surface to prevent wood flor scratches. Scratches risks increasing the moisture content into the wood planks.
  • Put area rugs and mats on your wood floor.
  • Pad your furniture legs to protect your floor from damage.
  • Consider adding the moisture barrier especially if the wood flooring is on top of the cement subfloor. In addition, if you live in a humid climate moisture barrier is a must or else buckling will eventually damage your floor.

The don’ts

  • Avoid wet mops at all cost, it will do more damage than cleaning your floor.
  • Avoid walking with high heels and cleats on your wood floor
  • Avoid steam cleaning your floor unless its sealed wand you run in lower settings.

What is buckling?

Buckling is when the cover floor starts to separate from the sub-floor. It may manifest as cupping where the edges of a wood plank rise up above the intersection of the plank or and Crowning where the mid-section of a wood plank rises up or swell above the edges of the plank.

Sources and References

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

1 thought on “Hardwood Floor Buckling Water Damage”

  1. Is there a point where we can’t repair? I have a very old house and the floors upstairs are in very bad condition. We have one where the buckling is in several places and are too extreme to be sanded. I would say they are raised at least a half inch if not more so to sand would leave zero wood left. We are trying to keep the house as original as possible but im afraid this particular floor is too far gone. We are pulling the hardwood from the bathroom floors and replacing with a solid plywood subfloor that will be painted with rhino liner to help keep the water damage from returning in the future. Yes we will go up the walls partially. So I could use some of the wood from the bathroom if it can be salvaged but right now it is covered by plywood.


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