Water damaged hardwood flooring ready for a repair

How to Repair Water Damaged Wood Floors

Hardwood is a beautiful and durable flooring option that's a good fit for most homes—but it has one weakness: water. 

Even a small amount of water can damage your wood flooring. That doesn't mean you should tear it out and replace it at the first signs of damage, instead, there may be a few things you can do to save it first.

We've put together this guide to help explain how to recognize when it's time to repair water-damaged hardwood floors and when it's time to call in a professional.

Let's get started below!

How to Spot the Signs of Water Damage

Wood absorbs water, so even a small amount of water can seep through a large portion of your floor if you don't catch it in time. Knowing how to spot the signs of water damage will help you catch the problem before it does too much damage.

Make sure you keep an eye out for the following things:

Warped or Bubbled-Looking Wood

Since wood swells up when it absorbs water, it can warp out of shape. If you notice any bubbling on the surface of the wood, curling at the edges, peeling, or otherwise odd-looking shapes, your wood is very wet (or at least was at one point).


Water can create stains on the surface of your wood if you don't clean it off fast enough. If you can see outlines of a puddle or other types of discoloration, water is gathering on the top of your floor.

A Squishy Feeling When You Step

Your hardwood flooring shouldn't feel squishy when you take a step. If it does, odds are the structure underneath the flooring is rotted or damaged. This might mean you have a leak under your flooring or that it absorbed a lot of water from a spill or a flood. At this point, you may need to pull up the flooring and replace everything underneath it.

Musty Odor

Does something smell like mold when you walk into your home? If you can't figure out the source of the odor, it might be your floor. Moisture in or under the floor can make your hardwood start to mold.

How to Repair Water-Damaged Wood Floors

Is it possible to save water-damaged wood flooring?

Sometimes yes—sometimes no. It depends on how bad the damage is. If your hardwood is too far gone, you may have to hire a professional to replace your flooring. However, if the water damage is minimal, you may be able to save your flooring by following these steps.

Act Fast

If you notice any signs of water damage, you need to take care of the problem as fast as possible. The longer you wait, the worse the damage will get. If you leave it alone for too long, you may end up having to replace the floor.

Wipe Up the Water

Start by cleaning up any water that's still on the surface of your floor. You can do this with towels or a mop (or any other method you have in mind). You don't have to worry about drying the floor completely yet, but removing this water will prevent any more of it from getting into your wood.

Give the Floor a Good Scrub

The water that gathered on your floor was likely dirty (especially if this water came from a floor or a leak). To remove any dirt or harmful bacteria, you brush the entire floor with a stiff, scrubbing brush.

Mix a mild detergent (make sure it's safe for hardwood!) with clean water, then use it to wash the affected areas of your flooring.

Don't let your floor get too wet during this process. Instead of dumping the cleaning solution directly onto your floor, dip the brush in every few minutes.

Dry the Floor

Now it's time to dry the floor completely, which can take quite a while.

First, wipe up any remaining water from the surface of the wood. Then, plug in a few floor fans and get them running. Open the windows and doors to allow more airflow through the space.

This drying process may take several hours or, depending on how much water seeped into your flooring, several days.

Sand and Reseal

Once the floor is dry, you can sand away any bubbles, curling, or warping, which will even out your floor again. After this, you can cover the top with a protective sealant. (This job is long and tricky, so you may need a professional to do this for you.)

Call a Professional

If your hardwood flooring is severely warped, moldy, or squishy, you may not be able to save it. You should get in touch with a professional flooring installer to find out what your next steps should be.

Protect Your Hardwood Floor With Proper Prevention

The best way to deal with water damage is to keep it from happening in the first place. Make sure you have the proper sealant to protect your wood, and don't forget to reapply it every few years.

Not sure how to repair water-damaged wood floors on your own?

We can help.

Reach out to us today! We'll do our best to save your water-damaged wood, and if that's not an option, our team at National Floors Direct is here help you through the replacement process.