Water damage to wood floors: What causes and how to prevent and fix it

When we work, it’s not unusual for the floor covering to get damaged by water. We keep fixing water-damaged floors like parquet.

Moisture is the biggest reason why water damage happens to wood floors. Moisture can come from too much water or water leaking through the subfloor.

Leaking water into wood floors is a common source of moisture. This article is about water damage and answers to the most common questions.

What is the cause of water damage?

Most water damage in a house or apartment comes from broken or leaking parts of the building or the property itself. Water damage can happen because:

  • broken pipe
  • dripping water pipes
  • dripping heating or underfloor heating
  • damage to the roof
  • inadequate sealing of masonry against moisture or cracks in the masonry
  • dripping or unsecured pipe connection

But unforeseen events can also cause water damage in the ground. Examples of this are:

  • flood
  • Moisture in the soil, either in the ground or in the screed or concrete of a new building (usually)
  • Groundwater rise (mostly in old buildings)

When the air humidity is very high, lack of ventilation can also cause walls and floors to become damp over time, and it can cause buckled wood floors.

When wood floors are installed wrong, water damage is more likely to happen, especially on the ground floor and in the basement.

How can you identify water damage on the floor?

Water in the room or on the floor, wet walls, and dripping ceilings are all clear signs of water damage to the floor. For example, water damage can be caused partly by a pipe that bursts or leaks.

In the case of flooding or an increase in groundwater level, on the other hand, water spreads over a large area and does more damage.

The bulge on the wooden floor shows that water has done a lot of damage to the parquet, floorboards, and laminate. The wood soaks up the water like a cork and gets bigger. Because of this, the wood expands, and the resulting tension pushes the floor up.

When floorboards or parquet strips soak up water, more force is put on the wood, and the floor tears apart.

The floor covering is pushed up, and the whole floor looks like it has waves. The adhesive can break down when water gets on glued floorboards, parquet floors, or vinyl. Because of the water damage, parts of the floor covering come loose.

A darkening of the affected area means a small, wet spot on the ceiling, walls, or floor that stays wet all the time. Most of the time, this has a water edge.

Ceilings and walls with damp spots often have paint that peels off. Also, if the room doesn’t have enough airflow, the water damage on the floor will likely cause mold to grow.

Black mold can also grow on walls and ceilings that can’t dry out.

Where in the house and apartment does water damage to the floor covering most frequently occur?

Tap water can cause damage. According to statistics, the most common causes of water damage are a porous seal or leaky connection in the water pipe and mistakes made during installation.

Based on several orders, we can confirm that a burst pipe on the ground floor or a porous or leaking water pipe, like in the bathroom, often causes water damage to the floor covering.

What to do in the event of water damage in the apartment and house?

In case of poor performance or a burst pipe, the first step should be to stop the water from running. This could be done by turning off the water mains.

Then it’s best to get rid of the water as soon as possible, so it doesn’t get deeper into the bricks or the wood floor.

As soon as possible, it would be best to get a dehumidifier to stop mold growth, paint and wallpaper from coming off, musty smells, and the wood floor from swelling.

How can water damage be dried?

You should pump it out immediately if there is still water in the basement or ground floor.

Depending on how bad the water damage was, a construction dryer is the best way to eliminate any remaining moisture in walls, wood floors (laminate, parquet), or cork.

Professional dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air and can be used for longer periods than other dehumidifiers. Wood and screed slabs that cover walls and floors dry out over time.

After much water damage, hollow places like joists or the underside of floorboards can also be too wet. Small holes let warm air into the holes to dry them.

The cold, damp air enters the room through expansion joints or holes drilled for ventilation. A condenser then dries the air.

Depending on how the building is built and designed, there are several ways to dry floors and walls. Because of this, we always suggest hiring a company that focuses on drainage.

Can you measure the moisture in the floor covering?

A moisture meter can determine the moisture level and how much water is in the wood floor, like floorboards or bricks.

A moisture meter can determine how much water is in walls, screeds, ceilings, and other things. With a measurement called “Equilibrium Moisture Content” for subfloors or substrates, the moisture measurement devices figure out the moisture level.

But other electrical measuring tools and methods don’t use relative humidity to determine how wet a building is. This includes things like the Gann Hydromette Compact B.

The Equilibrium Moisture Content measurement is usually used to determine if the screed is ready to be covered.

By finding out how much water is in the screed, you can figure out if you can put a covering on it without damaging it and for good.

When does the floor covering have to be dried after water damage?

Subfloor coverings

With a moisture content of 1.8 percent, the screed needs to be dried out. If it isn’t, top floor coverings like parquet can come loose later because the mineral subfloor can soak up water.

If you want to, you can find out at what moisture level the different types of screed can be covered.

Top floor coverings

Most top floor coverings don’t need to be dried, but wood does because wood is a natural material that soaks up water. Water doesn’t stick to vinyl (plastic) flooring. The main goal here is to dry the bottom.

When it comes to wood floors, it depends on the finish because drying isn’t good for every type of wood floor. Water damage usually breaks laminate, for example.

It is made of different materials that swell differently (no solid wood). Because of this, the laminate’s layers separate and break open.

With solid parquet, water damage doesn’t make it hard to dry. If the parquet is still in one piece and hasn’t been severely damaged or pulled away from the floor, it must be dried until it has up to 12 percent water left.

For instance, you can only work on and sand the parquet floor. Also, the new parquet has between 9 and 12 percent moisture left in it. If the wood has a lot of water, it shouldn’t be used to lay parquet because damage could happen later.

Most solid floorboards dry out without major damage after water damage. After the plank floor has dried, it will be clear if it needs to be worked on. If necessary, grinding and re-coating is a good ways to fix something.

How long does it take for the parquet to dry after water damage?

Most water damage to floors comes from broken pipes, so it takes about two weeks to dry the wood floor.

The company carrying out the plan regularly checks the moisture content. If the masonry is wet, it can take professional dehumidifiers between 2 and 3 weeks to dry.

How can water damage to wooden floors be avoided during installation?

People who do home repairs can avoid water damage if they choose the right floor covering for a room and don’t make any mistakes when putting it down.

Before and while putting in a new floor, there are many things to consider, like the type of room, the substrate, and the material to use.

Our tip for putting in a wooden floor is to seal the subfloor against rising dampness to stop water damage from the start.

Block off the floor in the case of floating installation

Most water damage to old houses is caused by rising groundwater. Most of the time, the screed slabs or the concrete were not sealed to keep the rising moisture out.

Because of this, it is important to put vapor barriers on the floor. Any floating floor covering, like laminate or vinyl in the basement, should be lined with aluminum to keep moisture out.

When a new wooden floor gets water damage, it’s usually because the concrete or screed hasn’t had enough time to dry out. In particular, concrete dries slowly and gives off the water over time.

Vapor barrier for floor panels when gluing the floor covering

If the moisture measurement of screed or concrete shows up to 6% Equilibrium Moisture Content, the floor must have a vapor barrier put down before the floor covering is glued down. This is true for parquet, floorboards, or cork.

For protection against rising dampness and possible water damage, you can use epoxy resin or a PU coating.

Can the water damage in the parquet and floorboards be repaired?

We can fix water damage on a wooden floor, depending on how bad it is.

If the parquet or plank floor is still in good shape, it is usually enough to sand it down and put a new finish on it after it has dried.

If there is only partial damage, like loose sticks and floorboards or a lot of darkening, we replace or glue the damaged parts in place.

When there is a lot of damage, replacing the whole wooden floor is best.