Hardwood flooring is fantastic. It looks great, feels lovely and is hard-wearing. However, you do need to care for your wooden floors. Prolonged exposure to water can cause some terrible damage. Not only could your wood flooring get some horrible looking water stains, but overexposure to water may also cause you’re the wood to warp. In the post, our floor restoration experts explain how to repair water damaged wood floors.

How to Repair Water Damaged Wood Floors

Preventing Water Damage

Hardwood floors are coated with a special polyurethane coating which protects the wood from absorbing water. So keeping this protective layer in good condition will help to prevent water damaged wood floors. To protect the wood and its polyurethane coating, you should always make sure you use a specific wood cleaner, a microfibre mop and ensure it is dry after regular cleaning.

We would also highly recommend annually re-sealing your wood floor to help maintain that waterproof coating.

Unfortunately, as much protection as the polyurethane coating offers, it cannot completely prevent water damage. If there is a large amount of water, for example from a leaking pipe, then you’ll need to know how to repair the damage caused.

How to Repair Water Damaged Wood Floors

First Things First

Ensure you fully dry the floor. Clean up any standing water to prevent further seepage into the wood. Use an absorbent cloth/mop or towels to do this.

Next, you should try to air dry the floor. You can do this with a hairdryer set on its lowest setting, a fan or if you have one or a dehumidifier. If the flooring is upstairs or above a basement, i.e. you can get to the underside of it, then apply heat from underneath, this will help to dry out the wood.

If the water has come from a leaking pipe or tap, you need to identify the leak and repair it quickly to prevent any further damage from happening.

Water Stains

If your floor is all dried out, but there is a hazy white film left behind, this is usually a simple fix.

Use a soft cotton cloth with a very mild abrasive. Toothpaste, polishing compound or tobacco ashes mixed with mineral oil are very good to use. Be careful not to scrub the floor, gently rub the mixture on the stained area until you remove the haze.

If the stain left behind has turned black, the solution is a little more complicated. The stain may go all the way through the wood, in which case the affected boards will need to be replaced. However, if it is just a surface stain, then you may be able to fix it without replacing the board.

Black Surface Stain Removal

Firstly mark out the area of your water damaged wood floor with painter’s tape, this will prevent you from accidentally sanding too large an area. Use a 60 or 80 grit sanding sheet to remove the surface finish and smooth off with 120 grit sandpaper.

Next, you will need to mix oxalic acid crystals (available in most DIY stores) with warm water. Carefully brush the mixture onto the stained area. Once it is dry check to see if the stain has disappeared. If not, brush on some more of the solution and leave to dry again. This oxalic acid solution acts as a bleach, so if the dark stain is still there after the second application, the stain likely runs all through the wood, and you will need to replace the board.

The final step in the process is to refinish the wood with a wood stain that matches the rest of the floor and seal the area you have repaired with polyurethane.

You may find that the colour does not match precisely as over time your floor will have changed colour due to sun exposure, heat and general darkening of the wood. An expert floor restoration specialist will be able to help you match the colour closely to achieve an unnoticeable repair.

There will inevitably be some difference between the floor’s repaired section and the original flooring as even the polyurethane will look slightly different being applied by hand rather than in the factory. So between this and the fact that the damaged floorboard has had to be taken back to its original colour and re-stained, you may find that you are unhappy with the final result.

In this instance, you may decide that refinishing the entire floor is preferable as you are more likely to achieve an even finish. This requires quite a lot of work, and while it is possible to do this yourself, we would recommend seeking help from professionals.

What To Do If Your Hardwood Floorboard Is Warped

Should your floorboard be slightly warped due to water damage, you may be able to flatten it out by placing something heavy on it for a few days.

A more noticeably warped board may require nailing down with face nails. This should be done by countersinking the nail heads along the warped edge and filling the holes with colour matching wood filler.

If neither of these methods work, you will need to replace the water damaged boards.

Replacing Water Damaged Wood Boards

If you have tried everything to repair the damage, but find that you need to replace the damaged boards, we would highly recommend seeking one of our experts’ assistance. Changing the affected planks takes a lot of skill to get the desired finish.

An expert craftsman will be able to source the correct wood, remove the damaged boards without causing further damage to the surrounding area, colour match the stain and replace seamlessly.

If you do decide to replace the damaged board/s yourself, here are some tips:

To remove an interlocking board

  • You will need to split the boards before removing. Being careful not to damage the adjacent boards, drill a series of holes along the length of the bard or make saw cuts 3/4 inch from the edge of the board.
  • Use a wood chisel to pry away the centre section of the damaged board, then you will be able to pull away the remaining two sides.
  • Remove the original fasteners that held the board in place.

Replacing the board

  • Make sure your replacement board matches the original floor and finish.
  • Measure the board and cut to length from the tongue end of the board.
  • You will need to remove the bottom groove on the side and cut the bottom board at a 45° angle along the bottom edge. This will make slotting the new board into place easier.
  • You may need to sand or angle the bottom of the ends of the board in order to be able to slide into place.
  • Slide the groove end of the replacement board over the tongue end of the existing, sliding the tongue side into the groove side. The flat end and the side with half a groove may need to be persuaded into position with a rubber mallet.
  • Finally, face nail along the board and countersink the nails filling the holes with matching colour wood putty.

How to Repair Water Damaged Wood Floors Summary

Repairing simple water damage can be done by most people providing they have the correct equipment. If the damage is more extensive and the wood is warped or seriously stained, then it’s best to contact your local floor restoration experts. They will have the experience and expertise to restore your water damaged wood floor back to its former glory.