water damage to wood floors

Hardwood floors are at special risk in the event of water damage inside a house. While vinyl, linoleum, and tile are water-resistant to a variable extent, wood’s natural absorbency often makes these floors ground zero for damage due to water exposure.

While most hardwood floors have a sealant coating, sealant retards water absorption but will not indefinitely stop it. Where an incident is limited to shallow pooling on the floor of a single room, prompt do-it-yourself action may limit floor damage.

However, greater water volume —or wider spread inside the house—should be promptly handled by water damage recovery professionals.

Here are four DIY steps to take to minimize water damage to hardwood floors:

  • Remove water fast. If you have a wet/dry vacuum, this is the best method to quickly remove pooling water. Otherwise, use mops and towels to pick up water. If there’s an exterior door nearby, a floor squeegee or push broom may be utilized to quickly push water outside.
  • Wash the floor. Fill a bucket with soapy water and a common household disinfectant and scrub the floor with a stiff brush. Rinse the brush in the bucket frequently. What you’re doing is removing dust and dirt containing organic residue that feeds mold growth frequently triggered by water damage to wood floors.
  • Dry slowly. Air-dry the floor with fans and natural airflow from open windows or doors. If you have a dehumidifier or opt to rent one, keep it running continuously. However, don’t utilize heaters to accelerate drying, as this may cause wood to splinter. Continue the drying process for a minimum of 24 hours. Many experts recommend drying a wood floor for up to four days.
  • Reapply finishing coat and sealant after total drying is confirmed.


  • Concave or convex warping (known as “cupping”) may affect individual hardwood boards. If this effect is mild, affected boards may be sanded to restore a flat floor surface. More severe cupping—or other damage such as splitting—requires replacement of individual boards.
  • If portions of the floor are discolored by water exposure, these areas will require staining to match the original floor.

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