How To Dry Wood Floor After Water Leak

How to Dry Wood Floor After Water Leak

Ever dealt with a water leak that left your wood floors soaked? Wondering how to dry them effectively to avoid long-term damage?

01/02/2024 – Update

In a Nutshell:

To dry a wood floor after a water leak, first remove furniture and rugs from the area. Use a wet-dry vacuum to remove standing water. Thoroughly scrub the floor with a mild disinfectant to prevent mold growth. For better ventilation, consider removing a few floorboards. Set up multiple fans at high speed to circulate air and turn on the AC or heating system for additional drying. Run a dehumidifier continuously to extract moisture from the air. Let the floor dry completely, check for mold or mildew, and use a moisture meter to ensure thorough drying. If necessary, call in professionals for complex cases.

How Do I Know if There Is Water Damage?

Hardwood floors are prone to warping from moisture. Water damage often manifests as subtle discoloration rather than obvious puddles. It’s common for such damage to remain unnoticed for days or weeks. To spot water damage, look for changes in color and a musty odor, indicative of mold or mildew.

Darker woods may conceal moisture but still emit a distinctive smell. If you detect these signs, promptly inspect and dry the affected area to prevent long-term damage like staining or warping, which could require extensive sanding.

How Do I Know If There Is Water Damage

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)
  • Dehumidifier
  • Moisture meter
  • Disinfecting cleaner
  • Wood floor cleaner
  • Scrub brush & bucket
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sugar soap
  • Baking soda
  • Squeegee
  • Hammer
  • 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.

Best Budget Wet-Dry Vacuum
Craftsman 16 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum CRAFTSMAN 16 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
  • Powerful 6.5 peak HP motor delivers strong suction and features quick-dry filter cleaning to reduce downtime.

  • Durable, low profile tank design with a secure fit hose system to keep the hose in place during use.

  • Compact design allows the XSP 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac to fit and store easily on a garage wall or shelf.

  • Includes 9pc accessory kit, cartridge filter, wet pickup foam filter for dust and debris pickup crevice tool, and quick disconnect cord wrap.

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 airflow 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 time.

Plus if you don’t want to hire or buy the required tools and equipment, this might be the best option.

Note: If uncertain about handling water-damaged flooring, consider consulting professionals. They possess the necessary tools and specialized equipment, like submersible water pumps, to effectively restore your flooring.

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

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.

Hardwood Flooring
Photo Credit: Kustom Timber

Softwood Flooring

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.

Softwood Flooring
Photo Credit: Westwood Flooring

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.

Best Mop for Hardwood Floors
Bissell Spinwave Cordless Hardwood Floor Spin Mop Bissell SpinWave Cordless Hardwood Floor Spin Mop
  • 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 dry completely 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. 

Best Digital Moisture Meter
Digital Moisture Meter For Wood Digital Moisture Meter for Wood
  • 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 before 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.

Key Takeaways:

  • Quick Response is Key: Prompt action is essential for water leaks on wood floors to prevent serious damage. Remove excess water with a wet-dry vacuum, gently scrub the surface, and act fast to avoid mold, warping, or staining.
  • Tools and Techniques Matter: Employ fans for better airflow, a dehumidifier for moisture removal, and remove floorboards for ventilation if needed. A moisture meter is useful for ensuring complete drying of the wood.
  • Seek Professional Assistance When Necessary: For extensive damage, professional help is recommended. They have specialized equipment and expertise for severe water damage. For insurance queries, promptly consult your provider to understand your coverage.

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.