There is nothing worse than buying a beautiful, new hardwood floor and days later witnessing damage from moisture or flooding. Thankfully, there are a few handy tips if you happen to suffer minor buckling in your hardwood floors. However, if the buckling is from extreme moisture exposure, you will probably need to consider replacing entire planks.
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Buckling can occur for a number of reasons. Whether there is too much weight on the wood flooring or exposure to moisture, understanding why buckling occurs is the first step to fixing it.
What Is Buckling
Buckling, also called cupping or crowning, is the most extreme case of too much moisture exposure for wood flooring. When a plank has begun to separate from the sub-flooring, it has begun buckling. Although most cases of too much moisture or humidity can be solved before buckling occurs, it does happen.
Cupping is when the edges of a plank begin to rise above the midsection. Crowning is when the midsection begins to swell above the edges.
Buckling, along with cupping and crowning, is a relatively common occurrence, especially in homes with high humidity or moisture content. When you are having your wood flooring installed, make sure the installer is certified by the National Wood Flooring Association and checks the moisture content of the home before installation.
Also, ensure the installer is using the correct materials for installation, especially for floated flooring. If the floors are installed incorrectly, cupping or buckling will probably occur. To prevent this, make sure every aspect of the installation is done professionally and with the proper materials.
Finding the Problem
Before you consider repairing buckled flooring at all, you must find the source of the problem. Again, if the issue is related to improper installation, you may be at risk of replacing the entire floor. However, if the cause is moisture related, finding the source and fixing it could cure the buckling without having to replace anything.
For starters, you should contact your installer and have him/her come take moisture readings of the home and the floor. Hardwood flooring should always have a low moisture content. As wood naturally absorbs water, it should always be kept as dry as possible.
Finding out the moisture content of the planks will tell you whether the issue is moisture related from faulty installation.
The next step, if the issue is too much moisture, is to find out where the excess moisture is coming from. This can be a bit trickier. Sometimes, the concrete in the sub-flooring can be too moist, which can cause buckling. Other times, the issue might be an appliance in the house, like a leaking dishwasher or a broken pipe. If this happens to be the issue, a simple fix of the appliance may be all that is needed.
If an appliance is not the issue, you may also need to manage the humidity and moisture content in your home. This can be caused by a lack of proper ventilation. Again, a certified hardwood flooring installer can determine how to adjust excess humidity in the home. Most of the time, managing moisture content in the home is an easy fix.
If you do not find the source, or if you decide to replace the wood flooring before locating the source, you have not solved the main issue. Simply replacing planks will only be a temporary fix if the source of the moisture is not found and corrected.
Sadly, you may also be facing an issue of acclimation. Before installing hardwood flooring, the new planks must sit in the new room for at least one to two weeks. This is for the planks to become acclimated to the environment of the room. If this did not occur, the planks could warp within a year of installation. If this is the case with your flooring, your only option for severely warped planks is complete replacement.
Fixes for Minor Buckling
Once the source of the moisture has been found and fixed, there are a few simple remedies that could save your flooring. For starters, you may want to pull up a few of the planks to make sure the sub-floor is not saturated with water. If this is the case, soak up the excess moisture with towels or a vacuum. Additionally, you can also bring in fans or space heaters to dry out the moisture more quickly.
Once the excess water has been handled, minor buckled planks should return to normal. For planks that have cupped or crowned, there is also a simple home fix. Place a few larger, heavy boxes or other materials on top of the wood flooring where the cupping has occurred and use the weight to level out the planks. It sounds silly and simple, but for minor buckling and cupping, adding weight to the planks can actually correct the issue.
For serious buckling of planks, you may need to consider replacing the wood. If you are handy with tools and you saved a few extra planks from the original installation, you can simply saw out the damaged planks and replace them with the new ones. Just make sure the surrounding wood matches the new planks. Wood can fade from UV exposure over time, so new planks may have a different shade than the surrounding planks.
Another option, if you do not have extra planks left over, is to go to a local hardwood flooring store and buy matching raw wood. This, however, can sometimes be quite difficult. At times, your best bet may be to contact a professional to evaluate the condition of the damaged wood and suggest possible replacements.
If moisture is not the cause of the buckling, you may have an issue with poor nailing to the sub-floor. To fix buckled floors that have been improperly adhered to a sub-floor, an easy fix may be to simply re-nail the flooring. However, this usually will not work if the planks have become too warped. For warped planks, the only viable solution is to replace them.
In addition, adding a moisture barrier between a cement sub-floor and hardwood flooring could help. However, this solution would force the entire flooring to be replaced. Before installing new flooring, consider the moisture content where you live. If you live in a humid climate and are installing on a cement sub-floor, adding a moisture barrier is a must. Otherwise, you can guarantee that buckling will eventually occur.
Prevention and Maintenance
The sad fact is that many buckled wood floors are not repairable. If the wood has been severely warped or damaged, the only choice is to replace the flooring. That means proper maintenance of your flooring investment is the best fix.
Preventing buckling in the first place can save you time, money, and replacement of your flooring.
Some simple tips for keeping your floors healthy and clean are essential for any hardwood floor owner. For starters, never clean hardwood floors with excessively wet mops or cloths. Again, wood absorbs moisture, so wet mops will do more damage than good when cleaning.
Furthermore, certain shoes can do severe damage to hardwood floors. If your family is constantly wearing cleats or high heels, consider adding rugs around the entrances to your home. Encourage folks entering your home to take off their shoes before walking on the wood floors.
It could seem taxing, but it could save unsightly damage from happening to your floors. The worst offender is probably high heels, so be sure to keep those off your feet until you are ready to leave the home!
Also, vacuuming and sweeping excess dirt and debris from the surface of your floor will prevent scratches. Not only does scratching hurt the aesthetic look of the flooring, but it could also damage the protective coating on the planks. That protective finish is designed to keep moisture out. If it is scratched or damaged, you run the risk of increasing moisture content in the planks, which could result in buckling.
Immediately cleaning up liquid spills of any kind is a must. To guarantee warped planks, leave spills to dry by themselves. The worst thing you could do for your hardwood floors is to not clean up spills when they happen.
If the moisture content is either too high or too low in a room, consider adding a humidifier or dehumidifier. Again, moisture and water is the biggest cause of buckling.
Being proactive and managing moisture levels is a surefire way to prevent damage to your flooring.
Finally, consider adding protective felt padding to the feet of heavy furniture. A very common way owners can scratch and damage hardwood floors is to slide furniture across the floor. Felt pads are an inexpensive way to prevent damage.
Research and Education
Another great way to prevent damage, or to handle repairs, is to ask knowledgeable folks what they do. There are many helpful blogs from great individuals who understand hardwood floors, but one of the best is the Hardwood Flooring Nut. There are numerous posts regarding damage prevention and repairs.
The National Wood Flooring Association also provides a wealth of information about hardwood floors, from species and installation to maintenance and repairs. Doing your research on keeping your hardwood floors healthy and beautiful is a necessary part to being an owner.
Finally, understanding your hardwood floors is also essential. The Wood Floor Covering Association’s website is a great place to educate yourself on the species, installation, and maintenance of your hardwood floors. If you are not sure what type of flooring you own, do your research and find out. Care and maintenance for hardwoods can change slightly depending on the species you have installed in your home.
The repair of buckled flooring is possible but, most of the time, the damage has already been done. To prevent buckled and cupped floors, follow the easy maintenance steps and take care of your investment. Remember, if you are not confident in your ability to replace planks or flooring, contact a certified professional!