Dealing With Water Damaged Flooring

In this article we will be covering one of the most common types of property damage that we see; water damaged flooring.

How can flooring get water damaged you may ask?

Well there are countless ways in which water can spill onto your floor but some common ones include; overflows from sinks and toilets, appliance leaks such as dishwashers and washing machines, and of course  broken pipes.

Now, the first thing somebody with water damaged flooring asks me is; can it be restored or does it have to be replaced?

That is what we will aim to answer for you, so whether you have water damaged  carpeting, laminate, engineered hardwood, or even solid hardwood floors, this article will help you understand or at least give you the information you need to better understand your current situation.

Before we get into it we want to quickly address a basic principle, and that is the difference between standing surface water and bound water.  Standing surface water is quite straight forward this is all the water that you clean up with your towels and Shop-Vacs, resulting in a seemingly dry floor. The trickier part is the bound water, which is the water that has been absorbed into the material whether it be carpet fibers, wood etc.

Bound water is what most people do not see and is a main cause for damaging your flooring. For instance your toilet overflowed, you cleaned it up with some towels and everything looks fine so you continue on with your day. A day or two later to begin to notice ripples or dark edges on your hardwood floor, this is what bound water will do to a material if not dried properly and promptly.

Ok, so lets get started:

Wet carpeting for the most part is restorable, you will need to remove all the water you can out of it and dry it as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the carpet underlay (cushion, or carpet pad) will also likely be wet, many people make the mistake of removing the water from the actual carpet yet leave the underlay soaking wet. Days later the carpet starts staining and there is an unpleasant smell coming from the area, this is what will happen if you do not remove all the excess water and dry the areas fast enough. So when it comes to carpet underlay you could try to remove as much water as you can out of it but it may be difficult as the material is like a sponge and loves to soak up water. The other option you have is to simply cut out the wet underlay and dispose of it, replacement of similar carpet underlay will obviously be required once the areas are dry.

Note: If acted upon quickly carpeting can be saved by prompt drying, however if the carpeting is left wet for longer periods of time it can start to de-laminate (break-down). The glue that holds the layers of carpeting will start to dissolve and you will notice a sand like substance falling off the carpeting. Once the carpet is de-laminated it is in theory in its dying days will likely not hold together for much longer, and thus possibly requiring replacement.

Once the carpet is de-laminated you may see the following effects:

  • a wavy or rippling effect to the way the carpeting looks
  • shedding of  fibers
  • carpet seams start to release (seems that connect the carpeting together such as from a hallway to a bedroom door, this is a common place for a carpet seam)

Wet laminate and engineered flooring; although the quality of these two floors can greatly differ we am going to be grouping them into the same category and we will explain why shortly.

Laminate Flooring: Usually the cheapest type of the hard-wood type flooring choices, they are made of lower quality materials, made of thin-medium density and a surface typically made of a plastic/paper type material.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring: Made of medium-thick density and can be made of great quality with real wood layers. Nowadays this is one of the most popular flooring choices and can be found in new condo and apartment buildings.

Both laminate and engineered hardwood flooring can be resistant to surface water spillage if cleaned up quickly enough minimal surface damage will occur. The engineered hardwood will be able to withstand more abuse as it is of better construction.

Now to the answer to your question! Can laminate or engineered flooring be restored if damaged by water?

The answer, for the most part, is, NO (depending on how much water has affected the floor of course)

If enough water has spilled on your floor it will begin to seep through the joints and through the edges of the walls, and thus getting underneath the flooring. If water has gotten underneath the flooring then it will likely not be restorable.

The reason for this is the lack of air-flow or drying that can be applied under the floor and thus it simply will not dry fast enough on its own. The water beneath will soak into the flooring material and you will start to see surface damage such as cupping. (insert image of cupping)

Engineered and laminate flooring is commonly installed with a vapour barrier or cushion underneath it. This vapour barrier is like a plastic sheeting that makes it very difficult for water to evaporate and it ends up just getting trapped. There is little even a professional restorer can do to restore these flooring types, mainly due to the vapour barrier beneath the flooring, as no drying method would be effective on it.

Of course this will depend on how severe your water damage situation is, if its just a small puddle or spillage then there is no need to start ripping up your flooring. However if water is squishing out of the edges of the floor when you walk on it then it is more than likely you will be needing a floor replacement.


When it comes to wet hardwood flooring (solid hardwood) the answer is YES, the flooring can be restored after being water damaged.

Solid hardwood flooring as you may have guessed is made of solid hardwood throughout and is made with a special set of grooves underneath it, called flutes. These grooves allow for the wood to naturally expand and contract, they also enable airflow movement underneath the flooring, which allows for the professional restorer to dry the flooring properly.

Through the use of specialty drying equipment such as the “dri-eaz mat drying system” a property restoration company can save and restore your expensive hardwood floor (as in the example of the image above).

Once the moisture levels in the hardwood have been restored back to acceptable levels you can begin to repair or refinish any surface damages that may have occurred during the flooding.

So there you have it, now you know what to expect when you find yourself with water damaged flooring. The trick is always to act quickly and clean up any water mess as soon as possible so that it doesn’t soak in and spread further than it has to!