Water leakage can cause a lot of problems in your home, especially when it comes to wood floors. Leaks and water spills take time to dry out completely and can even leave behind residue that sometimes cannot be removed by normal cleaning methods.
The longer the moisture stays on the wood flooring, the greater chance there is for mold and mildew growth or warping and swelling.
Firstly, if you notice a water leak or spill on your wood floor, don't panic! Remember that the most important thing is to remove any excess moisture as quickly as possible.
There are several ways to do this and we'll cover the exact steps necessary to dry a wood floor fast!
How Do I Know if There Is Water Damage?
The first thing you should know is that hardwood floors are very sensitive to warping due to humidity.
Water damage is usually easy to spot, once you know what signs to look for. Not all water damage appears as a big red puddle, though it may be your first instinct to look for one.
In most cases, the damage from a leak or spill will simply appear as a slight discoloration in the wood flooring. Believe it or not, it is very common for water damage to go unnoticed for days, even weeks after the initial spill.
If you are unsure if there is an issue with your wood flooring, the best thing to do is to check for discoloration and smell for mold or mildew.
While darker woods can hide moisture quite well; fortunately, you can still detect issues by checking for a musty smell.
If you do notice any of these signs, don't wait until your flooring develops dark stains or warping. The only solution is to conduct a thorough investigation and commence surface drying, unless that is you want to be attemtping an entire surface sanding job.
11 Steps for Drying Hardwood Flooring
Once you determine that there is water damage, you will want to act with a sense of urgency to dry out your hardwood flooring as quickly, and safely as possible.
While there is a drying process that you will need to follow to effectively dry hardwood flooring, there's also a list of things you'll need.
What you'll need to effectively dry hardwood floors:
- Wet-dry vacuum
- Fans (ideally 2-3)
- Moisture meter
- Disinfecting cleaner
- Wood floor cleaner
- Scrub brush & bucket
- Microfiber cloth
- Rubber gloves
- Sugar soap
- Baking soda
- Flooring nails
Alright, now that you've got everything you need, let's get to it with these 11 step-by-step processes to correctly dry hardwood flooring.
1 | Clear the Area of Furniture or Rugs
If you have a surface-mounted hardwood floor, it is very important that you turn off the power to any appliances or electronics near your damaged wood flooring.
Water and electricity are not a good combination at all! If you have wall plugs or junction boxes in the area, be sure to shut those down as well. Apart from the electrical hazards, you'll also need to remove any wet carpet or items including furniture and or rugs immediately.
2 | Make Use of a Wet-Dry Vacuum
A wet-dry vacuum is often an overlooked piece of equipment. But when it comes to household or workshop clean-up duties, a wet-dry vacuum is the outright best way to remove visible standing water from water soaked items and surfaces.
While a regular vacuum cleaner can work as well, they just don't possess the same level of suction. A powerful wet vac will easily remove water silt trapped from invisible pores in the wood. In other words, the more you can suck up, the better! I'd recommend this option over a mop and bucket as your really just pushing water around causing more damage with the latter.
3 | Thoroughly Scrub the Surface
Scrubbing is the next most important thing you can do when drying out your wood flooring. You want to use a very light scrubbing motion, and be sure to work with the grain of the wood floor.
This will not only help to lift up water that may still be in the wood fibers, but it will also help to prevent any permanent damage caused by scrubbing too hard. Honestly, you will need to get to it and immediately scrub the surface of the floor, and you should only use a non sudsy disinfectant or a baking soda and water solution.
4 | Remove Several Boards (Ventilation)
If you just have one board that is damp, removing it and setting it aside until it is visibly dry can be a great way to speed up the overall drying time for your wood flooring.
You may even want to remove a whole section of floorboard and or baseboards if there is extensive damage. Just remember to replace them as soon as they are fully dry, in order to prevent any warping or other long-term damage to the wood. Ideally, you'll also want to position some fans in the direction of the vacant few boards for additional airflow to speed up the drying process.
5 | Set up Several Fans on High Speed
After turning off the power, you will want to use your fans. Ideally, you should try and create as much airflow as possible by placing a fan in front of each door or window that opens into your home. This helps increase the air flow within even a small room or bigger room.
Placing fans at each corner of the room will improve airflow even more. Be sure to point your fans outwards, not inwards, so that you are moving all of the existing air in your home toward the leak site.
6 | Turn-On Your AC or Heating System
While opening your doors and windows to increase the ventilation within the affected area, turning on your air conditioner or heating system will also be highly beneficial.
If your air conditioning system is ducted (not window air conditioners) or you're lucky enough to own a hydronic heating system, you can make use of this privilege and turn it on for several hours. This will help to dry out the air in your house and make it easier for any wood flooring that needs to be removed to dry without warping or cracking.
7 | Run a Dehumidifier for an Entire Day
Moisture removal is the goal here, and a dehumidifier is perhaps the most important tool for removing excess moisture from wood flooring.
It works by drawing out water vapor from the air of your home, which means that more of it can then be vented through your air conditioner or heating system. Depending on the extent of the damage to your flooring, I'd suggest leaving a dehumidifier running for an entire day or even up to a week depending on the severity of the water damage.
8 | Let the Floor Dry Adequately
Most damage is done in the first couple of days after a leak, so you want to make sure that all moisture has been pressed out before you take any chances. At this time, you should maintain air circulation and refrain from walking on your hardwood floors until they're completely dry.
If there are any signs of mold or mildew, then it's very important that you have them cleaned up by a professional. This will ensure that all moisture is removed from the wood, and will help to prevent any issues with the smell or long-term damage to your flooring.
9 | Check for Any Mold and Mildew
After you know that your wood floor has been given enough time to dry thoroughly, you should go through the area inch by inch with a flashlight and closely inspect any areas where mold or mildew may have started.
If you do find any patches of mold or mildew, clean those areas as soon as possible with anti-mold or anti-fungal products. While there are a few different products to choose from, I'd recommend going with a heavy-duty contractor-grade cleaning solution like RMR's instant mildew remover.
10 | Meter-Test the Moisture Content
The last step in the process is to check the moisture content of your wood flooring. By using a "moisture testing meter", you can test how much water is left-over inside the wood fibers.
As long as it's below 5%, then it means that you are safe to use your floor again! Now, if you don't already have one, this is a great reason to consider getting one. Plus, if you're into woodworking, you'll most definitely make use of this nifty gadget in the future.
11 | Call-in the Professionals
Sometimes, no matter what you do, your wood flooring will just need to be replaced. This is very common after a long-term water leak has gone undetected for an extended period of time.
If you are unsure about how to proceed with this type of issue, then call in the professionals! They have all the tools and resources you need to get your flooring looking as good as new. Another thing with hiring a professional is that they already have the specialized equipment on-hand that you won't have to hire or buy like a submersible water pump.
Pro Tips - For Removing Water and Drying Your Hardwood Floor After a Flood
The first 24 hours are super important! Water damaged flooring from severe flooding is stressful enough to deal with, but if you remove water quickly from your floorboards, you probably will be able to save the wood (or most of it).
Most likely you will need to sand and refresh the wood exposed to excessive amounts of water, whether that be engineered hardwood or softwood.
And while refacing hardwood is usually more cost-effective than replacing it, the price tag is still jaw-dropping either way. So if possible, prevention is key when it comes to excess moisture and floor coverings.
How to Dry Wood Floor After Water Leak FAQ.
How Long Does It Take for Water to Damage Wood Floors?
When water seeps into your wood flooring, it can cause permanent damage to the entire floor even if only a section of the floor has visible water damage.
That said, unfortunately, extensive damage to hardwood flooring can occur in a very limited timeframe.
The amount of time it takes for how to dry wood fast outside or inside, depends upon many factors including how much moisture is introduced and the type of wood floors you have.
Hardwood flooring is generally made from hard, resinous wood like; pine, oak, maple, or birch.
These types of woods are not very absorbent and will quickly dry after a leak. If you have a newer type of wood flooring, it can be dried within 24 to 48 hours.
Softwood flooring is made from less expensive and softer woods such as cedar, pine, and fir.
These types of wood floorings tend to be more absorbent than hardwoods and can take longer to dry depending upon the amount of moisture introduced. If you have a softwood floor, it can take 1 to 3 days for the wood to totally dry.
Note, keep in mind that if your home is subject to major flooding, you could be looking at several weeks for your flooring to dry out entirely. This would also be with the use of commercial dehumidifiers and high-powered large fans to remove moisture caused by extensive flood damage.
What Do You Do if Your Wood Floor Gets Wet?
Locate and fix the source of water before it may indeed rise higher. If you've had a long-standing leak, carefully inspect your home for leftover water that will most certainly cause major damage and mold if unattended.
If you find no problems with your wood flooring, but it gets wet from other reasons like a kitchen or bathroom accident, place several fans near the area to promote a faster drying time.
I also advocate removing a few floorboards to examine for signs of moisture as it can be hard to detect small leaks within sealed floors. You're looking for any signs of mold growth, water damage, or staining on your wood flooring.
If you find such issues, then there are a few things that can be done:
- If the area is smaller than 1 square foot and hasn't been wet for more than 48 hours, then it's possible to repair the damage yourself.
- If the damage is more than 1 square foot and is still wet, then you will most likely need to replace that section of flooring.
- If your wood floor gets wet from standing water or a continuous slow leak, call a professional as soon as possible.
When it comes to sealed floors and excess moisture, an electric spin mop is a brilliant home appliance to own. Once you've removed the majority of the moisture from wooden floors with the process we previously suggested, a spin mop should be your go-to option.
- Great cordless spin mop for cleaning up excess moisture and spills to restore your floor's shine with its On-Demand Spray feature.
- Safe to use on wooden floors with its soft touchpads and swivel steering feature making it almost effortless to maneuver around your floors.
- A high-grade lithium-ion battery provides 20 plus minutes of cordless run-time while still delivering powerful scrubbing on tough and sticky messes.
- Super potent electric mop can be used on all sealed floors, including hardwood, tile, linoleum, laminate, and vinyl.
How Do You Get Moisture Out of Wood?
The most important part of removing moisture from your wood floors is to act fast. As we've discussed, the longer you wait, the more likely it will be that damage and staining occur.
There are several things you can do:
- Your first action should always be to find and stop the source of water leakage. This way, the wood flooring is exposed to less chance of moisture.
- You can also use a wet vacuum to remove the remaining water, fans, and dehumidifiers in your home as a way to draw out as much moisture as possible from your floors is the way to go.
- Utilize a protective barrier under the wet area to keep any humidity from getting into the wooden planks. When these types of barriers are used, wood floors should be able to completely dry within 24 hours if you follow the above steps.
When it comes to precisely measuring the moisture content of any piece of lumber whether it's hardwood floors or wooden furniture, you're not going to get far without a moisture meter. For as little as $30 you can get yourself a quality moisture meter and determine the extent of the damage to any piece of wood within minutes. Honestly, it's a no-brainer.
- Accurately locate excessive moisture content within wooden materials including floors and walls with this moisture meters 2 pin precision system.
- With 8 calibration scales, you can easily assess any piece of lumber before cracks, splits, warping becomes a problem in everything from walnut to pine.
- Select from two different measuring modes to precisely assess the %MC (Moisture Content) and the potential moisture level growth.
- With its bright LED display, strong stainless steel pins, automatic shutdown, and memory function, this is the best budget moisture meter available.
Will My Insurance Company Cover My Water-Damaged Wood Flooring?
If you had water damage to your wood flooring, you might be wondering whether or not your insurance company will cover the cost of new flooring. Be it a minor leak from a skylight or a major plumbing accident, you'll need to consider your excess for making the call to your insurance provider.
That said, there are many factors that will determine if your claim is approved such as:
- The cause of the water damage and how it occurred.
- A history of claims filed with your current insurer.
- Whether or not the damage was covered under your policy.
In general, if water damage to your property is caused by a burst pipe or leaking roof, it will be covered under most homeowners' insurance policies.
However, if there is a history of water damage with your current insurer, they might choose to reject the claim and you would have to look for coverage elsewhere. If you have a water-damaged wood floor, give your insurance agent a call and ask about the process for filing a claim.
The Bottom Line
Drying hardwood floors wet from a water leak can be tricky. There are different ways to dry the floor subject to excess water, and it's important to use whichever drying method best suits your situation.
If you don't get the moisture out of your wood, mold will grow and cause serious damage!
So don't wait until your beautiful-looking hardwood flooring is an unsightly uneven surface, and if need be, consult a professional contractor if the task at hand seems too overwhelming. In other words, the DIY way isn't your only option.