Has A Ceiling Leak Affected Your Hardwood Floors? What Are Your Cleanup And Repair Options?

Dealing with a leak in your roof or ceiling can have you scrambling to make repairs before permanent structural damage occurs. While shingles can be patched and drywall replaced relatively quickly, you may find yourself neglecting (or merely forgetting about) the hardwood flooring below this leak once the initial moisture has been sopped up. Unfortunately, failing to take remediative efforts once your hardwood floors have been exposed to moisture could leave you facing an expensive repair or replacement process. Read on to learn more about how water exposure can impact your hardwood floors and what you can do to restore them to original condition.

What will happen if your hardwood floors are exposed to a water leak?

The ability of your floors to resist moisture largely depends on how they're constructed. Solid hardwood planks are planed from a single piece of lumber, and are generally the most expensive type of hardwood due to their difficulty to produce. Engineered hardwood is made from wood fibers mixed together with a bonding agent and compressed at ultra-high temperatures. This type of hardwood is very water-resistant because it's not as porous as solid hardwood. Hardwood veneer is usually made from a thin strip of solid hardwood above a plywood or particleboard base, giving it the look and feel of solid hardwood planks at a lower price. These floors are especially vulnerable to water damage, as water that seeps through to the particleboard base can quickly soak in and cause the boards to expand against each other.

The extent of water damage your floors suffer will also vary based on the way the boards are attached to your subfloor. "Floating floors" are made of boards with a puzzle-like connection that can snap together, allowing them to float above the subfloor. These floors are less likely to suffer permanent water damage because they're designed to expand and contract with changes in the room's humidity. Other types of hardwood floors may be nailed or glued down, which can present problems when these boards begin to swell and strain against their bonds.

What should you do if your hardwood floors have been exposed to water and begin to warp?

When dealing with any type of indoor water exposure, time is of the essence during the cleanup process. Depending on the extent of the leak and the speed with which it was discovered, you may want to enlist professional help to soak up this water and prevent mold from growing. These water cleanup specialists have high-powered fans, heaters, and other appliances that can wick moisture out of wood and prevent long-term damage or staining.

However, if you feel up to tackling this project yourself, you should be able to dry up much of the moisture by renting some large fans and opening up your windows in the affected rooms (as long as it's not still raining). These fans will help drive moisture out of the floors and into the air, where it will escape through the windows and back into the atmosphere. You may also want to purchase or rent a large dehumidifier to withdraw moisture from the air and speed this process along.

If the affected floors are on the second story of your home, you may be able to remove a small square of drywall ceiling in a closet or bathroom on your home's first floor so that you can direct the air flow from these fans upward and dry the floor from beneath. If the water has soaked through to the underside of your floor boards, you'll also want to treat your floors with an anti-microbial or anti-mold cleaning agent after they've dried.

Click here for additional reading on repairing water-damaged floors.