How to Fix a Swollen Wood Floor

Hardwood floors are high maintenance and are susceptible to water damage. A swollen wood floor is a surefire sign the floor needs fixing. Hiring a flooring expert is advisable but you can fix it and save the high service fees. 

Most swellings on wood floors are caused by high humidity and water damage. The best fix for buckling is getting rid of the excess moisture. Lay thick towels on the swollen area to soak up any moisture then run a dehumidifier. Afterward, run a vacuum cleaner on the swollen spot until the swelling goes down.

If the buckling is widespread on your floor, the best fix is to eliminate the cause and replace the panels as draining the excess moisture or even screwing down the floor may not resolve the problem.

Why is my wood floor swelling and bulging?

Wood floors may swell and bulge because of poor installation, high humidity, or temperature changes. However, water is the main culprit that causes swelling and bulging on wooden floors. 

High moisture content on the subfloor may cause your floor to bulge, swell and appear uneven. Wood is naturally porous and may absorb water from the concrete underneath the flooring or the surrounding air. 

Water leaks from appliances, spills, or highly humid environments can increase the moisture within your flooring. The floor has to accommodate the moisture and may expand unevenly on the affected surface and cause bulging.

Wooden floors may also swell or bulge from improper installation. Sometimes, the damage may develop from the subfloor where a poor choice of material and incorrect installation procedures may cause your floor to lose its original shape. The damage may extend to large sections of your flooring and affect the quality of your living space.

Temperature changes and thermal expansion are natural causes of wood expansion and swelling. Wood expands when exposed to heat. You are more likely to witness bulges and bumps in your wood floors during the summer when temperatures are high.

Some wood types are more susceptible to swelling on continuous exposure to water. Hardwood floors are more prone to swelling because of their higher density compared to similar sizes of softwoods. Denser woods can accommodate more moisture within their cell walls and are more likely to suffer deformities from swelling and shrinkages over time.

How to fix a swollen wood floor

You can fix a swollen wood floor without professional help, especially if the damage is not too extensive or when you want to save on costs. Ideal repair techniques depend on the size of the swelling, the extent of damage, and the primary reason bulges appear on your wooden floor. In extreme cases, some floors might need replacement.

1. Assess the extent of the damage

You first need to inspect your floor to understand the primary cause of the damage and the extent of the swelling and bulging. Bulges from water damage may also have color discolorations and mold appearing between planks.

Other causes of floor damage may lack similar indicators to those caused by water. 

You can mark affected sections using tape or non-permanent markers to help you choose the best repair methods for your floor. Conducting an assessment can also help you identify underlying issues contributing to your floor’s condition. 

For instance, you can tell if a water pipe leakage from underneath your flooring could be the primary reason causing excess moisture to accumulate on your floor despite adhering to proper wood floor maintenance techniques.

Moist concrete might also cause a bulge in your wood floor. Assessment helps you fix the problem and also prevent future damage.

After completing the check, you can repair your floor using the following techniques.

2. Remove excess moisture from your floor surface

High moisture levels commonly cause wood floors to bulge upwards. Drying your wooden floor can reduce the severity of the mounds and restore the wood to its original shape.

You can use several techniques to dry your wooden flooring. Most of these methods are ideal for a DIY setup, practical, and require minimal professional assistance. 

Here are some great ideas.

Use a steam iron to remove swellings.

Steam irons are better suited to fixing unfinished wood. Some instances allow for their use on finished wood floors. The process is ideal for minor repairs.

You’ll need a damp wash cloth and a steam iron. Place the wet washcloth over the bulging surface and position your hot steam iron box over the bulge. 

The idea is to use the heat from the iron to remove moisture from your floor. The damp washcloth is a safety precaution to prevent floor damage as you “iron” the bulge.

Repeat the procedure two or three times until your flooring is completely dry.

Use a vacuum cleaner to dry your floor.

Vacuum cleaners suck out excess water between floor panels and reduce the swelling over time.

Place a wet vacuum over the affected surface and leave it there for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the quantity of moisture you intend to remove. Wet vacuums are ideal against liquid stains on a floor surface. The vacuum sucks up any moisture within the wood pores and fibers and dries it the area.

Pay attention to spaces where moisture is likely to accumulate. Regular wet vacuuming should be part of your floor maintenance routine.

Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture.

A dehumidifier removes excess humidity from the surrounding environment. You can also use a dehumidifier to fix swollen wood flooring. However, it will take a while to see tangible results.

Position your dehumidifier strategically over the affected floor surface, switch it on and wait for the machine to work its magic. The equipment utilizes dry air to replace moist air with dry air, which can be ideal when the swelling affects a large floor area.

Regularly using a dehumidifier can reduce swellings on your wooden floor. Complement its use with other techniques such as heaters for faster results.

3. Turn on your AC and dehumidifier

Climate control measures can help prevent swellings on your flooring. Temperature and moisture variations can cause buckling or swelling on your wooden floors. 

Low winter temperatures can cause wood to shrink. Most hardwood floors start to buckle in winter due to the low temperatures. Proper indoor climate control practices mitigate the damage from environmental extremes and ensure your flooring remains in top-notch condition regardless of the season or prevailing environmental conditions. 

Practical examples of practices for effective climate control include

  • Using an AC 
  • Dehumidifiers 
  • Ensuring room temperatures remain standardized throughout the year.
  • Acclimation.

4. Sand the swollen floor

Sanding can help you fix swollen wood floors, albeit temporarily. You can flatten bulges by sanding the excess grain off the timber, although the damage may continue if you don’t fix the main problem.

Start by preparing your affected surface and removing any finishes on the wood before sanding. Avoid oversanding your floor as it can leave unappealing dents and ruin sections of your flooring. 

Although slightly effective, sanding should be one of your options when dealing with a swollen wood floor. Try out other highly effective options before attempting to reduce swellings through sanding.

5. Replace the swollen floorboard

Some swellings can be too extensive to repair by other means. Floor board replacement is a viable solution in such extremes. However, it might be costly and take more time.

While you can DIY a flood board replacement, you can hire a professional service. Poor installation can worsen the damage and cost you more to fix.

Can you screw down a buckled wood floor?

You can fix a buckled wood floor by using screws. However, you must have some technical know-how or risk ruining your wooden flooring.

Place a weight on the affected section and attach a screw not more than 1 ¼ inches into the floor while taking care not to damage it. 

The idea is to allow the screw to hold down your flooring as the weight flattens the affected surface.

Ways to prevent hardwood floors from swelling

You can adopt a few ideas to keep your hardwood floors from swelling. Most of these methods keep the hardwood floor moisture-free. 

Follow these easy-to-follow methods to prevent hardwood floors from swelling.

  • Wipe water stains as soon as they appear on your floor.
  • Use a wet vacuum to clean hardwood floors. Avoid mopping or cleaning with too much water.
  • Use non-abrasive buffers to wipe hardwood floors.
  • Ensure proper floor installation.
  • Paint the floor.
  • Use a dehumidifier for high humid conditions.
  • Avoid heels and shows with cleats on the hardwood floors. 

References

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