Flooded Hardwood Floors, Wet Hardwood Flooring:
What to do and what to expect
Q: A residence with a solid oak floor and a surface finish has been flooded
A. REMEDIAL ACTIONS
(2) If the water has been removed and cupping is prominent (buckling not present) light sanding directly across the grain of the flooring to remove the finish is required (this procedure should be done by a professional). Since the sanding drum follows the contour of the cup, flooring edges are not removed, which helps prevent crowning later. The sanding procedure allows the excess moisture in the flooring to dissipate faster. Do not sand the floor to bare wood, simply remove a majority of the finish. Drying of the floor as described in #1 should be initiated. After drying has occurred and the floor has stabilized and flattened, some compression cracks, some loose strips, and cracks due to movement from the initial flooding might be expected. At this time re-finishing may begin. Loose areas should be re-attached by nailing or screwing and cracks should be filled. This repair is a judgment call as the more severe the initial cause the more remedy #3 is indicated.
(3) If the floor has cupped and buckled, excess moisture probably remains in the flooring and floor system. Since the floor has also separated from the subfloor (buckled) and has loosened, replacement of the damaged and surrounding area is generally the procedure for repair. The excess moisture remaining in the under floor system should be completely removed before re-installation and finishing. If the flooring is installed over plywood attached to a slab, removal of the entire system is normally required.
An attempt to cosmetically repair by simply re-nailing, sanding out the cup and re- finishing could backfire. Later problems with staining, crowning, cracks, finish failure, or loose floors could develop. By the time these later problems occur most insurance claim releases have been signed, and either the home owner or flooring contractor is saddled with the final repair. Additional repair, partial replacement and refinishing could be the least severe result. The worst case would be to completely replace the floor.
In any case quick action to remove the induced flooded moisture is the first step in successful repair. Patience is also required as finished flooring and floor systems do not react and dry out overnight. It may take weeks for the flooring to flatten and/or stabilize.
The above procedures would also apply to a sealed and waxed floor with
the exception of not having to cross sand to remove finish. A sealed floor
would also tend to dry quicker and in the least severe cases complete
refinishing would not be required. Refurbishing or renovating with the
appropriate cleaner and re-waxing can often restore a sealed and waxed