How to Fix a Hardwood Floor That’s Warping from Water Damage

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How Do You Fix Buckled Hardwood Floor?

If there is one worst enemy to wood floors, it got to be moisture. When hardwood floors get exposed to moisture for an extended period, they start to warp and get damaged. But, how do you fix the warping on hardwood floors?

The best way to fix warping on wood floors is by replacing the water-damaged plank. You’ll then need to refinish the entire floor after replacing the buckled plank to maintain a uniform look. Ensure you prevent moisture from flooding or sub-floor moisture buildup, drainage problems, or leaking pipes that may cause warping and swelling on your hardwood floors.

Can a buckled hardwood floor be repaired?

Minor buckling in hardwood floors can be fixed using a dry towel and a good disinfectant cleaner. Dry vacuum the affected part until dry, you may speed up the process with an electric fan. Dehumidify the room for at least 24 hrs.

However, for extensively warped planks due to prolonged water damage, you’ll need to replace the raised wood planks with new ones.

How Do You Fix Buckled Hardwood Floor?

Buckling may be caused by minor or extensive damage to your floor. Here’s how to fix bowing damaged hardwood floors.

How to fix Hardwood floor that's warping from water damage

1. Fix the source of moisture

The first step would be to fix the source of the moisture on your floor to prevent any further bubbles and swelling that can spread the damage to new planks. This will ensure normal moisture levels.

Once the floor has dried you can now start spot-repairs to fix minor damage on individual hardwood planks.

Pro tip: Some bulged hardwood floors can just return on their own especially if they have not been exposed to moisture for long. All you need to do is wipe off excess moisture using a towel and a disinfectant. Run an electric fan and a dehumidifier to get rid of excess moisture.

Here’s how to get rid of excess moisture from your hardwood floor:

  • Wipe the affected area with a dry towel and clean it with a disinfectant.
  • Dry-vacuum thoroughly with a hardwood floor vacuum.
  • You can speed up the process by using an electric fan, then leave your dehumidifier on for about 24hrs.

This should help address minor warping and fix the warped floor. However, if the plank still shows damage or swelling, consider using the intensive method to fix the warping.

2. Remove the warped plank

You may need to remove the damaged planks from the floor if the moisture has caused irreparable warping and buckling. Do it carefully to avoid damaging the other wood planks.

Depending on the extent of moisture damage, you may remove part of the plank or the whole plank. For partial removal of wood, set a circular saw to a depth of the board thickness. Make a cut parallel to the damaged part.

Use a chisel, screwdriver or pry bar to pry out the cut strip or the whole wood plank. In some cases, you will need a hammer to loosen the tongue and groove joints. Be careful to avoid interfering with nails holding the groove side of the plank or board in place.

3. Replace the damaged planks

For this step, you will need new hardwood planks to replace the warped ones you removed. Ensure the color, finish, and shine are the same for better consistency.

Measure the plank needed and cut off the plank that fits the cut damaged piece. Alternatively, if it is a full plank, consider a piece that fits in the left opening. Position the new plank to fit on the groove, push it into position and tongue it to fit on the groove perfectly.

Nail the plank or board on the edges of the planks, push the nail head below the surface and put a good wood putty on top. Wipe off any excess putty with your finger to prevent sticky stains off your floor.

4. Refinish the Floor

Sand the plank lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to remove ant dust, and stains. Refinish the floor to make it match with the other flooring. Allow the finish to dry before returning the items in place. This step should help unwarp the wood floor and prevent the wood floor from bending upward.

Keep in mind that crowning is when the hardwood floor is raising up at the center. Its usually caused by sanding a cupped floor before it completely dries up. Moisture build-up, wet mopping, and plumbing leaks are the main cause of hardwood floor crowning.

Ensure you address the first step completely to avoid buckling recurrence and other problems like crowning, cupping and cracks related to moisture problems.

Here is a video of how to fix buckled floor water damage

How to Fix Water Damaged Hardwood Floors | Merion Services

Can buckled wood floors go back to normal?

In some cases, buckled wood floor planks can repair themselves if the moisture damage is not too extensive. Simple cleaning and drying up of the plank will get rid of the moisture and allow the raised plank to straighten up on its own. However, you might want to leave your air conditioner or dehumidifier on overnight for a couple of days to make the process fast.

Causes of Buckled Hardwood Floors

Water damage is the main cause of hardwood floor raising up generally known as buckling. This, however, does not happen all over a sudden, Mostly it occurs as a result of moisture content build up over time.

  • Moisture build-up may start as a result of simple water spills, especially if not immediately wiped up.
  • Another major source of moisture build-up I through natural rise and fall of humidity. Humidity can lead to gradual moisture build-up without even realizing it.
  • Moisture build-up may also come up as a result of flooding. Moisture generally triggers floorboards expanding, contracting and at the end lift up after water saturation. Warping problems also may occur and affect your laminate floor. Do laminate expand and contact? This also does cause buckling in laminate and other solid hardwood floors.
  • Inferior sub-floor, Insufficient glue, Improper nailing do also result in hardwood floor warping. This unlike other cause happen within days after installation.

Signs of buckling hardwood floor

  • Lifting up or actual pull up from the sub-floor can be a green-light for buckling damage.
  • Puffed-up areas on the floor or crowning, especially in moisture damage areas.
  • Wood floor cupping or when boards turn up on the edges.
  • Gap and cracks between hardwood planks.

Ways to Prevent Hardwood Floor Warping

You can take some measures to protect and prevent your floor from buckling, this will help avoid the cost of unwarping hardwood floor. Here are a few steps to help prevent moisture build-up on your wood floor.

  • Wipe the liquid spills as soon as they happen. Liquid spills and moisture get trapped or absorbed until the wood gets saturated to a point it handles no more causing buckling. In addition, it may also bring other moisture problems like mold, mildew and black water stains on wood.
  • Always check and ensure there are no water leaks on taps, pipes, and sinks.
  • You may also consider installing a sump pump and dehumidifier to keep your house or area dry.
  • Avoid wet mopping your floor. Ensure your floor is dry after damp mopping with your favorite dust mop for hardwood floor.
  • Avoid wearing high heel shoes. High heel shoes can cause dents and scratches on your hardwood floor, leading to water seeping under the planks.
  • Avoid steam mopping your hardwood floor unless it is sealed.
  • Choose your hardwood cleaning product wisely. Avoid water-based cleaners, harsh cleaning products, as well as the tools, use to avoid scratches and damage the floor finish.
  • If the moisture content is a big issue especially due to humidity and temperature changes, you may choose engineered wood floors like laminate.
  • An engineered wood floor can be a better option especially since solid woods expand and contract with water leaks and humidity changes affecting the planks. Laminate and engineered wood are manufactured to resist expansion and contraction due to humidity changes.

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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.

3 thoughts on “How to Fix a Hardwood Floor That’s Warping from Water Damage”

  1. The best information and website I’ve seen! Thank you, easy to follow instructions, and explanation to why my floor has warped and fixing it is very comforting. I was panicking! Lol!
    Thank you so much
    Best regards.

  2. Is it possible to reglue or renail floors from the top?
    Our maple floor buckles every summer and it seems to be getting worse.
    The buckling is extensive and the hump is at least 2 inches tall and right in the center.
    The hump extends for about 5 feet parallel to our boards.
    We call it our summer speed bump.
    We have tried to allow for summer expansion by trimming the floorboards under the crown molding and making gaps. This didn’t help too much.

    Thank you for your response!


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