The Wood Doctor | Water vs. Wood

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Why is it that water and wood don’t mix?

Actually in nature, they do, but, for anyone with a beautifully finished hardwood floor installation, that’s where the problem lies. Wood is fast friends with this life-sustaining element. As it would in nature, the wood grain happily absorbs the moisture to survive. However, when you are dealing with a finished wood flooring, you need to make sure you keep them far, far apart. Usually a flat wood floor has moisture content between 6% and 11%, but once a floor begins to take on water, the real trouble begins. If the floor’s moisture content goes higher than 12%, it will start to cup on the surface of the floor. With extreme water damage, you could even see your floor buckle or break the adhesive bond. And at this point, you are going to need an expert repair specialist.

Are there any floors that are more water resistant than others?

With hard-wax oil finished floors, your floors may be more resistant to water than a urethane-finished floor. Both finishes act as a durable barrier between the water and the wood, preventing the water from quickly soaking in, but hard-wax oil allows for expansion and contraction more readily. You see, hot air rises which allows for the water to evaporate out from underneath the DuChâteau hard-wax oiled floor. A polyurethane-finished floor has a plastic film over the top, which can trap moisture underneath, potentially resulting in more damage to your floor if you are not careful.

What are the signs of water damage?

Whether the wood floor is engineered or solid, the surface should be flat. To better clarify, if you run your hand across the surface, it should be level without any edges being higher than others. When water reacts with the wood there will be a visual difference where the edges lift up from the center leaving a cup-like appearance, also known as cupping.

The color of your floor may change if it has come into contact with water for a prolonged period of time. The color of the wood will usually become darker, and in rare cases, may become black as an indication of extreme water damage.

Is there any way that I can save my floor if there is a large flood or leak?

It all depends on how quickly you recognize the problem. For example, I was installing a urethane-finished floor for a commercial project at a corporate space and a toilet clog flooded the bathroom in the middle of our install. We immediately went into action and wiped up all water from the surface of the floor. We then used towels to go back over the floor to make sure the surface was completely dry.

We took the extra step of taking off the baseboards and used hairdryers to evaporate the water that was hidden underneath. The final step was to open all the doors to have enough airflow to finish drying out the floors. Fortunately, after completing the necessary steps in a timely fashion, the floor was saved from any water damage.

However, some people are not so lucky! We happened to be there when the leak occurred and were able to clean up the water as soon as we saw it. You can have a massive flood or leak and still be able to save the floor; you just have to get to the problem quick enough. As a rule of thumb, if your flood or leak has been stagnant on top of or underneath your floor for more than 24 hours, chances are you will have to replace the portion of your floor that was damaged.

Are there any steps that I can take to be proactive and prevent future water damage to my floors?

There are a few basic steps that you can take to be proactive. You should always make sure that your sink, refrigerator, dishwasher and laundry machine’s fittings are checked every few months in order to ensure that their fittings and seals are watertight.

It is important to also be aware of over-mopping your floors. As trivial as it may sound, over-mopping hardwood floors can lead to potential water damage. Most people mop their floors twice a month and some mop as frequently as twice a week. We recommend to only use a sponge mop, which allows the ringing of excess water before applying it to the floor’s surface. Do not use a string mop when cleaning your floors, since it will leave too much water on the surface of the floor and could lead to potential damage. Learn more from our Maintenance instructions by clicking here.

Words of Wisdom from the Wood Doctor:

With all of that being said, don’t be afraid to live on your floor and do not let your floor dictate your life. The advantage of a wood floor is that it gains more character and gets better with age. In comparison, carpet will look its best on day one and progressively look worse as it ages. Damage will happen in your home at some point in its lifespan, that is why we have insurance. Protect your investment, but don’t be afraid to thoroughly enjoy it!

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