When it comes to water damage, flooring can be highly susceptible in multiple ways. 

Whether hardwood, vinyl or carpet, a remediation expert will need to construct a plan to remediate water damaged flooring based on the surfaces affected, the amount of time elapsed and the severity of the event, for a full and complete restoration to take place.

Water Damaged Carpet

Water damaged carpet will likely be handled on the basis of categorical standards as determined by the expertise of a restoration technician. These categorical standards are broken into three main categories, all of which call for different handling of carpet and padding materials. 

If a restorer finds that the carpet and padding within an affected structure have obtained minimal damage, as in a Category 1 situation, then dry-in-place and extraction methods may be considered. 

Before any extraction or dry-in-place methods take place, the following conditions must be met:

  • The situation is a category 1 water loss event
  • Deep extraction tools are available
  • Less than 72 hours have passed since the initial water event
  • LGR or desiccant dehumidification options are available

In more extreme scenarios, such as a Category 2 water loss, dry-in-place methods are no longer an option. Rather, the expectation is that a remediation specialist discards carpet padding, while removing the surface of the carpet for drying and antimicrobial treatment. The carpet surface may then potentially be put back in place, with brand new carpet padding placed beneath. 

In a Category 3 water loss, both the surface carpet and carpet padding will need to be discarded for the safety of both the occupants within the structure and the structure itself. 

Pre-Existing Carpet Conditions

Despite the aforementioned general guidelines for carpet and padding replacement, it is important to bear in mind that the pre-existing condition of the carpet will also play a role in how a water damage situation is to be handled. 

There are many factors that a remediation technician must take into account before making a final plan of action regarding the replacement of carpeting materials. These factors include the cleanliness of the environment, the amount of time elapsed and any pre-existing damage that occurred during, or prior to, the main water event.

Clients are advised to trust the judgement of a remediation technician if he or she believes that it is best to have carpet and padding replaced. This will ensure the safety of the immediate environment and everyone involved. 

Water Damaged Hardwood

Hardwood flooring that becomes waterlogged is a tricky issue that must be handled thoughtfully. 

While hardwood flooring may appear dry on the surface, the truth is that moisture can easily become trapped at the subsurface level and will require the use of specialized moisture meters to determine the location and severity of the water damage incurred.

Oftentimes, hardwood flooring that becomes severely damaged has been involved in a severe water event, such as a Class 4 water loss. In this type of situation, low porosity surfaces will have become deeply saturated and will require creative water extraction methods and drying techniques to rid the floor of excess moisture. 

To effectively dry hardwood flooring, professional remediators will need to access the subfloor, the foundational surface beneath the hardwood itself, by potentially using both invasive and non-invasive tools to monitor moisture levels. 

A hardwood subfloor may also need to be assessed and dried from underneath, if applicable, such as in the event of water damage that has occurred on the second level of a home or commercial business.

Common tools for drying water impaired hardwood flooring include:

  • Tenting
  • Desiccant dehumidifiers
  • LGR dehumidifiers
  • Thermal energy
  • Other drying techniques at the discretion of the restorer

Common Unsightly Physical Effects of Damaged Hardwood

When waterlogged, hardwood flooring can manifest unsightly physical characteristics that will need to be addressed to restore its original aesthetic appearance. 

One of these physical characteristics is known as “cupping”. Cupping occurs when the bottom of hardwood floor boards absorb excess moisture. As the boards expand, they take on a cupped, or C-shaped, appearance. 

This type of occurrence can easily be remediated through the use of proper drying measures, although attempts to refinish hardwood should be delayed until the appropriate amount of time has passed between the moisture removal process. Clients should defer to their specified technician for further instruction regarding this matter.

Another hardwood physical alteration incited by water damage is known as “crowning”. Crowning is different from cupping, in that the top of the floorboard acquires more moisture than the bottom. The result is a board that exhibits a slightly arched appearance, with the edges of the board pointing downward. This can also be fixed through the use of effective professional drying techniques. 

Lastly, if a restoration specialist or client notices “buckling” in the hardwood floor, there is a chance that the floor is beyond repair. Buckling occurs when moisture migrates from the bottom of the board towards the top. Clients should confer with a restoration specialist to explore options for restoration, when possible.

Other Types of Water Damaged Flooring

Aside from carpeting and hardwood flooring, there are several other categories of flooring that can become damaged by a significant water event. 

In the case of vinyl flooring, for example, most of the material will need to be removed and discarded since vinyl is a vapor barrier that will only impede the drying process of a saturated subfloor.

On the flip side, concrete flooring rarely incurs water damage, but should still be dried as a precautionary measure to prevent secondary damages incited by migrating moisture.

There are many other flooring types not covered here that may also become damaged by water loss events. As always, clients should defer to their chosen remediation specialist with specific questions regarding various types of water damaged flooring in their homes, businesses or structures.

Professional Restoration of Water Damaged Floors

Flooring that has been defiled by a significant water loss episode requires professional attention and careful planning for an effective restoration to take place. By following specified guidelines and implementing effectual techniques, a water remediation team may be able to rehabilitate water damaged flooring in any structure.