Hardwood floors are beautiful, easy to upkeep, resist wear and tear, and are environmentally friendly. However, the one downside to a hardwood floor is that it doesn’t stand up well to water, and can be damaged by prolonged water exposure. Hardwood that’s exposed to water may end up getting warped or stained, and the damage can range from a small stain to completely ruined boards. What can you do if your floor was exposed to water?
Clean Up Spills Fast
If an appliance leaks or a drink gets spilled, mop up the water as soon as you can using an absorbent cloth. The quicker you clean up the moisture, the less hardwood floor damage will occur. After mopping up the liquid, use a fan or hair dryer on your hardwood flooring to thoroughly dry the area as best you can. If you get to it in time, you might not see any lasting damage.
Rub away mild water stains
If you see a white film where the water was spilled, use a soft cotton cloth and a very mild abrasive (like a polishing compound, or even toothpaste) to rub away the stain. You should be able to find hardwood polishing compound at most hardware stores. Rub the stain gently until it’s gone.
Deeper stains take more work
If the water damage is more severe, noticeable black stains can appear on the surface of the hardwood floor. First, remove the surface of the hardwood flooring with a coarse grit sandpaper, finishing with a medium grit sandpaper to smooth it out.
Next, combine oxalic acid crystals (which you can find at hardware stores) with warm water. Gently brush the mixture onto the stain. Allow the area to dry, and repeat if necessary. The oxalic acid solution may be able to bleach away the dark stain. If a few applications don’t remove the stain, the board may have to be replaced. If the stains have been removed, you’ll need to refinish the area using wood stain to try match the original color and then refinish the floor with polyurethane.
Repairing a Warped Hardwood Floor
When a board warps due to water damage, its size physically changes and it will never return to its pre-warped state. If the damage is slight, the floor may be able to be professionally sanded to remove the curved and swollen edges of the boards. This is a big job and since the sanding can remove a significant portion of the woods surface, will also reduce the life of the floor.
If the floor is so damaged that sanding doesn’t work, you may have to replace some of the damaged boards. Because hardwood flooring is fit together using tongue and grooves, you’ll need to cut the damaged board lengthwise in the middle and pry it up from the split. From there, you can cut a replacement board to fit but do note, the bottom half of the board’s “groove” section must be removed to allow the replacement board to over lap the tongue and fit.
When your hardwood floor is originally installed, it’s always a good idea to keep a few extra boards in storage for times like these. If you don’t have an original replacement, you’ll need to cut your own replacement from matching wood.
If you find that your hardwood floor has been damaged by water, don’t panic. Simply follow the steps listed above to see if you can repair the damage on your own, and your floor will be looking as good as new!