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How to Save Your Flooded Hardwood Floors

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Flooding and hardwood flooring don't mix. No surprise there if you followed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where floodwaters destroyed many historic homes with fine wood flooring.

Is there anything you can do if major amounts of water--floor-related or not--has come into contact with your wood floor? Yes. Not all is lost.

While Floors are Still Wet - Before Mold and Mildew

Tools Needed:
  • Stiff Brush or Broom.
  • Mild Detergeant.
  • Bucket.
  • Disinfectant (like Mr. Clean, etc.)
  • Absorbent Cloth.
Vigorously scrub all floors and related woodwork (baseboards, newel posts, etc.) with the stiff broom or brush. Use copious amounts of water, with detergent and disinfectant added, to remove all of the dirt, mud, silt, and organic material which can later cause mold and mildew.

If Mold and Mildew Have Set In

If the wood is heavily affected by mold and mildew, it may need to be replaced. Otherwise, clean your mold/mildewed flooring like this:

Tools Needed:

  • Stiff Brush or Broom.
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate).
  • Bucket.
  • Absorbent Cloth.
  • Rubber Gloves.
  • Optional: Bleach; Mild Abrasive like Barkeeper's Friend
TSP is a super-cleaning product that comes in the form of a powder that can be added to water (4-6 tablespoons per gallon). You can buy this at your local hardware store. Don't worry: it sounds more harsh than it really is.

Scrub with the water/TSP solution until mold and mildew are removed, then rinse with clear water and allow to dry.

It helps the "healing process" if you can remove any pooled-up water from your cleaning efforts as soon as possible, rather than waiting for evaporation. A rubber push squeegee or Shop-Vac will do the trick.

For Mold on Wood that Has Grown Under Paint

This is a trickier problem, and your only recourse at this point is to remove the finish.

For problem areas, you may want to scrub the wood with an abrasive cleaner like Barkeeper's Friend. Or, to the water/TSP solution listed earlier, you can boost the mold- and mildew-cleaning properties by adding one cup of ordinary laundry bleach per gallon of water.

Drying Water-Damaged Wood Flooring

As you might imagine, the drying of damaged wood flooring must be done slowly. In general, you will want to remove as much standing water as possible, and then accelerate the evaporation process with fans. Do not apply any type of heat to the hardwood flooring, as splitting, cupping, and a host of other problems will result.

Sanding Water-Damaged Wood Flooring

After drying, you may have some concave or convex floorboards; this is called "cupping."

Heavy sanding with a drum or orbital sander can actually "take down" some minor high areas. Heavily cupped wood cannot be sanded down flat.

It is inevitable that some floorboards may lift up completely at the ends. In this case, face-nail the floorboards back down.

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