Facility Managers

Wet Wood Flooring? Drying Advice to Minimize Damage

by Jason Brubaker

Water is the enemy of hardwood flooring. Due to the porous nature of wood, moisture can be easily absorbed into the material. So your flooring may show signs of staining from small spills. The wet floor may also begin to buckle and cup when large amounts of water are absorbed as the planks swell.

You may say to yourself, "Well, the wood has been sealed and waxed. So no water can be absorbed into it." While sealers and waxes are designed to add more water-resistant benefits to wood flooring, they can't completely prevent moisture from being absorbed. These products are designed to give you more time to clean up the water or spill from the floor, as well as toughen the flooring so that it does not become easily damaged.

Drying your floors quickly is essential to reduce the amount of permanent damage. Here are steps that you can take if you have wet wood floors after a major plumbing accident or flooding has occurred in your home or commercial building.

Remove Water-Soaked Objects from the Floor

Rugs and furniture that has been soaked with water will continue to shed the moisture into the wood. Also, the wet furnishings can create mildew and mold growth, which will get into the pores and seams of your flooring. Remove all wet items from the room and place them in an area where they can dry effectively without ruining the floor.

Soak Up as Much of the Water as Possible

Towels, mops and clean rags can immediately soak up small puddles and spills. Use a wet vacuum to pull up larger water sources from out the flooring. Don't stop using the wet vacuum even when you can no longer see the water on the surface of the wood. There will still be water lurking in the wood pores and plank seams. Continue to run the wet vacuum over the floor until there is no water seen in the vacuum canister.

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Clean the Entire Wood Surface

It may sound strange to add a liquid to the floor after siphoning off the water. Yet there will still be debris and dirt in the pores of the floor, which can store water as well as bacteria that can further harm the wood materials. Use a disinfectant cleaner that doesn't produce suds and a scrub brush that won't scratch up the surface of the floor. Once you have removed the dirt and debris, clean up the leftover water with the wet vacuum and apply a wood floor cleaner to remove the leftover disinfectant. Then rinse the wood surface and dry once more.

Completely Dry the Wood

While the wood flooring appears dry, water could have penetrated throughout the plank as you can't remove it with the wet vacuum. Use a dehumidifier placed at the highest setting possible to dry the floors. Place it in the center of the room and leave it on for at least 24 hours.

Next, place fans around the room so the entire surface receives the blowing air. Place the fans at the highest settings possible. If there is a level below the flooring that can be accessed, place fans on the lower level and aim the air up toward the ceiling to dry the subfloor and flooring from underneath. You can also open the windows to bring in more moving air, yet you should not do this when it is raining outside as you don't want the extra humidity to enter.

Inspect for Mold

Mold is a dangerous health hazard inside homes and commercial buildings. Residents, employees and customers can experience allergic reactions and breathing problems when coming in contact with mold or inhaling the spores. Check the flooring for mold and mildew when the flooring looks visibly dry. If you see the signs of mold in the pores of the wood, you will have to scrub the floor with a solution of baking soda and water. Then vacuum up the moisture and continue the drying process.

Perform a Moisture Test

You can check if there is any remaining moisture in the wood with a moisture testing meter. Don't be surprised if the meter still shows signs of moisture in the floor after a day or two. It can take up to several weeks for wood flooring to completely dry. Also, the humidity in the room and the amount of water that was present on the floor can prolong the process. So leave the fans and dehumidifier running until the moisture test shows that no water remains in the wood.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should never wait for the flooring to dry naturally. The sooner you take the following steps, the better off your flooring will be. If you just let the water sit, you will end up shortening the longevity of the wood and will have to replace the section of the water-damaged flooring or the entire floor in the room. Then keep your flooring looking beautiful by performing the appropriate periodic cleaning and preventive maintenance work so that your wood flooring lasts for many years.