Hardwood Floor Water Damage

Quick Summary

Hardwood floor water damage is unsightly, unhealthy and expensive to repair. Fortunately, these problems are minimized when water damage is fixed quickly. Repair your hardwood floors as soon as possible to prevent health conditions, save your hard-earned money and return your home to a beautiful state.

About Hardwood Floor Water Damage

Beautiful hardwood floors can last decades and endure significant wear and tear as families go about their everyday lives. But even the hardiest hardwood floor has one major weakness—water.

Hardwood floors that are exposed to too much moisture will be permanently damaged. Floorboards will warp, bend and bow, causing uneven walking surfaces. Additionally, mildew and dangerous mold can grow in areas that are hard to see or access.

Water damaged hardwood floors can be repaired as a DIY project, or homeowners can hire qualified experts to help. Regardless of which option homeowners pursue, water damage needs to be fixed quickly to minimize damage, eliminate health risks and reduce costs.

What Causes Hardwood Floor Water Damage?

Hardwood floor water damage occurs when the floor absorbs excess moisture. Water damage is most likely to happen over time when issues such as plumbing leaks, foundation and structural damage, or high humidity levels are not adequately addressed.

Hardwood floors that remain wet for too long and don’t have enough time to dry out become damaged.

Plumbing Leaks

Plumbing leaks occur when a pipe or fitting is punctured, corroded or otherwise damaged, allowing water to escape. Plumbing leaks can occur anywhere there’s a water source, including household pipes, appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.

Additionally, HVAC leaks can also occur, such as with radiator and air conditioning unit leaks.

The majority of leaks happen from aging homes or appliances, as pipes and parts wear down over time. Homeowners should do regular visual inspections of faucets, valves and water-using appliances to identify leaks as early as possible.

Foundation and Structural Leaks and Damage

Water that seeps in through foundation or structural leaks can cause an immense amount of damage in a short period. This type of damage is likely to occur during and after flooding, especially if the affected area of the home isn’t immediately drained and dried.

Floods that cause structural damage can be the result of many weather phenomena, including:

Homeowners should take care to safely but thoroughly inspect their homes during these weather events to identify any potential damage. Inspect attics, cellars, crawlspaces and basements to ensure the entire home stays dry.

Signs of Hardwood Floor Water Damage

Depending on the extent and location of the water leak, hardwood floor water damage may be highly visible or it may be hidden.

There are several clear signs of water damage in hardwood floors, including:

  • Discoloration and fading
  • Warping, cupping and buckling
  • Swelling and bulging

If a  hardwood floor no longer lays flat without any known trauma, it is likely water damaged.

Hardwood floor water damage occurs close to the source of water. Damage frequently occurs near doorways and appliances like radiators and kitchen islands. In many cases, the damage isn’t easy to see and may be located behind walls or shelving or beneath appliances.

Discoloration and Fading

Discoloration and fading are common signs of water damaged hardwood floors, as damaged floors take on a black or dark coloring that wasn’t present before.

This staining is caused by minerals in the water, rust in nails, mildew and mold growth, and can be seen in patches or along cracks between floorboards.


Hardwood floors that are water damaged may become warped, as floorboards that absorb water expand.

Warped boards may “cup” if the planks’ edges rise, or they may crown, buckle or form humps on the floor if multiple boards expand together.


Buckling or crowning occurs when moisture causes planks to pull apart from the subfloor. The subfloor’s separation creates visibly raised planks within the floor, resulting in an uneven flooring surface.

In the early stages, buckling may be subtle and difficult to identify, but the problem worsens over time. In many cases, buckling and cupping occur together.

Repairing Hardwood Floor Water Damage

Water damaged hardwood floors need to be ripped up so repairs can occur from the subflooring upwards.

First, damaged subflooring needs to be removed and repaired. Then the affected hardwood boards need to be sanded down or replaced. Once these repairs are complete, the entire floor should be sanded and refinished to guarantee a uniform appearance.

Homeowners with water damaged hardwood floors have one of two options for these repairs:

  1. DIY the floor repair
  2. Hire a professional to repair the hardwood floor

Which option is best will depend on the extent of the damage, the type of hardwood flooring and your confidence with DIY home renovations. While hiring a professional to repair a hardwood floor can be an expensive and unexpected expense, it’s often the best way to prevent mold, rot and future water damage.

DIY Hardwood Floor Water Damage Repair

Homeowners may opt for a DIY repair of their water damaged flooring to minimize costs or take on a new challenge. A DIY approach can make sense when the damage is minimal and affects only a few boards.

DIY floor repair may also be the ideal solution after a major storm or flood impacts an entire community to ensure the work is completed as quickly as possible. Water damage mitigation and flooring experts are often overwhelmed with work after a natural disaster.

Regardless of the reason for a DIY hardwood flooring repair, homeowners must address the flooring, subflooring and baseboards during their repairs. Water and mold can fester beneath the floors’ surface and will continue to damage the flooring if it isn’t adequately addressed.

Homeowners who repair their floors should take special care to research the hardwood flooring drying process thoroughly, repair techniques, wear adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and preserve the planks whenever possible.

Professional Hardwood Floor Water Damage Repair

The decision to hire a professional hardwood floor repair specialist can be a smart one. Hardwood floors are challenging to repair, especially if there is extensive water damage.

An expert’s specialized equipment, such as industrial dehumidifiers and commercial sanding machines, makes it easy to measure moisture content, remove excess water, dry out the floor, repair any damage and sand and refinish the flooring. Experts can also identify and work within hazardous environments, including areas with toxic mold or sewage leaks and clean up and dispose of damaged boards on your behalf.

Even if you have the expertise and materials to repair your flooring, hiring an expert makes sense if you have limited time or own a rental property. Water damage gets progressively worse the longer it is left unattended, and costs can rise significantly after the first 24 hours. The faster someone can fix the damage, the lower the costs will be.

Hardwood Floor Water Damage Repair Costs

The costs of fixing a damaged hardwood floor can add up quickly, as wood is costly to repair. A small project involving just a few boards may cost a few hundred dollars, while more extensive repairs or replacement projects can cost thousands.

According to HomeAdvisor, typical costs of wood flooring repairs include:

  • Complete wood floor replacement: $2,500-$6,700
  • Hardwood floor water damage repair: $1,000-$2,500
  • Hardwood floor replacement: $2,000-$5,000
  • Wood floorboard repair: $400-$1,400
  • Wood floorboard refinishing: $200-$2,300

Homeowners who do their own hardwood floor repair may also underestimate the price of their project. In addition to the value of their time, DIY enthusiasts typically need to pay for new subflooring and planks, commercial equipment rentals and miscellaneous tools all at retail prices.

Insurance may cover the costs of fixing hardwood floor damage if the damage is unexpected. However, damage caused by flooding and aging pipe infrastructure is often excluded from basic home insurance policies.

Find Water Damage Restoration Professionals Near You

Water damage is overwhelming, and the repairs can be costly, but you will save more of your hard-earned money if you act quickly. Hardwood floor water damage worsens over time, and every hour counts.

You should connect with a water damage restoration professional as soon as you discover water damage in your home. These experts will assess the damage and let you know what your next steps should be.

Water Damage Advisor

The Water Damage Advisor content team is made up of multiple contributors, writers, and editors. We are your resource hub for anything related to water damage, mold and restoration needs that you may be challenged with facing.

4 References
  1. HomeAdvisor. (2020). How Much Do Floor Repairs Cost? https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/flooring/repair-flooring
  2. The Flooring Girl. (2017). How to save your hardwood floors from water damage (or a flood). https://theflooringgirl.com/blog/save-hardwood-floors-water-damage-flood/
  3. SFGate. How To Fix A Water Damaged Floor. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/fix-waterdamaged-wooden-floor-30171.html
  4. The Spruce. (2020). How to Save a Water-Damaged Wood Floor. https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-save-water-damaged-wood-floors-1821661
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