Unlike some building materials, wood can be particularly susceptible to water damage. Cellulose fibers in porous wood absorb moisture quickly and dry very slowly. Staining also occurs and wood may be contaminated by saturation with raw sewage or toxic floodwater. Swelling and warping may permanently distort wooden materials.
The most vulnerable wooden materials with substantial value are typically hardwood flooring and wood paneling.
Action must begin as soon as possible following water damage to salvage affected hardwood floors.
- Wet/dry vacuums and powerful extractors can remove pooling water and suck moisture out of the flooring. This may prevent saturation of the subfloor beneath.
- Air drying utilizes high-volume fans that direct airflow across the floor. Industrial dehumidifiers also accelerate drying.
- If water has penetrated below flooring, portions or all of the floor require removal in order to dry the subfloor beneath and prevent wood rot and mold growth.
- Hardwood flooring planks may cup, warp, or buckle during drying. Sanding may restore a flat surface. If distortion is significant, however, affected planks will have to be replaced.
- Sanding and re-staining may be required to erase stains caused by water damage.
Successfully drying hardwood flooring after water damage is very time-intensive. Several weeks of continuous air drying and humidity reduction may be necessary.
If wood paneling is affected by water damage, the wall structure behind it is likely wet, too. Wet paneling must be removed to access the drywall and internal wall cavity. Saturated drywall requires replacement and the wall cavity must be dried and disinfected to prevent mold contamination.
Some wood paneling may be successfully dried without warping if the drying process is slow and natural. After removing the baseboard, individual panels can be taken down and wiped clean with disinfectant. Panels should be separately placed upright, away from direct sunlight, HVAC vents, or other factors that might accelerate drying and induce warping.