An emergency involving excessive water, mold, fire, or smoke can make your wood floors unrepairable. Salvaging what’s left of your wood floors after a fire or flood depends on what type of floor you have, how much and what kind of damage is involved, and how long the damaging substances have been able to penetrate the wood’s pores. Fortunately, hardwood floors are sturdy enough to weather some disasters. But how do you know when you can fix the surface or when it’s time to call a home restoration specialist?
Genuine wood floor has greater chances of recovery than engineered hardwood. Call your homeowners insurance company to figure out what damages may or may not be covered. Depending on your state and particular policy, flood coverage may require a separate policy. Replacement may be necessary depending on:
- the thickness of the floor
- whether the flooring is a harder or softer type of wood
- how porous the wood specie’s grain is
- what type of sub-flooring it’s resting on
When you’re given the “all clear” to return to your home, quick cleanup is vital. If able, you’ll need to soak up all moisture and debris as soon as possible:
- Open the windows.
- Once your electrical outlets and appliances are cleared for use, point fans in the direction of your floor.
- If damage is done to an upper level, get to the lower level and point fans up to the ceiling so the sub-floor gets air, too.
- Turn on the air conditioner or furnace to circulate air throughout your home.
Wood flooring that completely dries out and stays attached to its sub-floor without mold may need sanding and refinishing. When in doubt, call a professional that works with this type of property damage. Be aware that excessive hardwood flooring emergencies may require drying times of up to a month. A professional can moisture test the planks, and let you know if sanding or refinishing is possible. The flooring professional may also advise you on replacing sections or the entire floor.
If you love do-it-yourself projects, sanding and refinishing may be a project worth tackling. If your flooring professional advises that the floor is dried out, not buckled, and free of mold, you’ll merely need some time and elbow grease to rejuvenate it.
- Clean and vacuum floor.
- Fill in imperfections.
- Sand outer edges of the room (4 to 6 inches from baseboards) by hand with 180 grit sandpaper.
- Rent a floor sander and purchase sanding discs.
- Put on a dust mask.
- Attach the sanding disc(s) to the sander, and maneuver it throughout the main area of the flooring. (Some sanders pack hefty horsepower.) The top layer will turn into a powder and appear dull.
- Vacuum and dry mop the sawdust.
- Stain if you wish and let dry.
- Cut in the edges with polyurethane using a 3-inch brush.
- Pour polyurethane in a 1-inch section down a length of the main floor. Apply to the main areas using a roller or pad with 1/4 inch nap. Go with the wood grain, and then go in the other direction to intersect strokes. (Work in small enough sections that you have time to keep a wet edge.)
- Apply more coats after adequate drying time. (The overall finish may take one week to cure.)
Repairs require attention to detail and a cure time. A true professional won’t merely offer you a quick fix. Whether or not you decide to tackle wood repairs yourself, a restoration professional will still be your best adviser during the recovery process.