Water damage to your hardwood floors can be a quick fix or one heck of a pesky nightmare,
depending on the extent of the damage. The first step is determining just how deep the damage runs and if it will have any lasting effects on your hardwood floors. Below, we talk through the four key factors to consider when deciding whether or not you should replace your water-damaged floors.

1. Amount of water
In the case of water and hardwood, more is definitely not merrier. Typically, larger amounts of
water will have a direct connection to the extent of the damage. This mostly has to do with the potential for water to absorb into the wood. A little glass spill? You’re in the clear as long as you can get everything dried up relatively fast. But when the fish tank breaks and a big spill occurs, that will definitely be cause for concern.

2. Length of time
Time is of the essence here, y’all! The longer water sits on your hardwood, the more damage it
will cause. Typically, if water has sat for more than 24 hours, the chances you’ll need to replace the entire floor are exponentially greater.

3. The source
Clean Water:
Water damage from clean water is the least threatening since it doesn’t contain any harmful bacteria. A common example of a freshwater spill or leak is an overflowing sink or bathtub. If the water hasn’t been contaminated in any way, it should be safe to clean. Depending on the amount of water and how fast you can get cleaning, you shouldn’t expect to make any replacements.

Greywater can be considered dirty water and is most often found in dishwashers and washing machines. Because this water is typically contaminated with cleaning materials like bleach or dishwashing detergent, it can definitely be cause for concern if you have a big spill. Again, timing and amount of water are everything here. Small amounts of greywater that are cleaned up fast shouldn’t result in any permanent damage.

Blackwater is most commonly found in contaminated sewage (typically when a toilet overflows) and is the most dangerous type of water damage. Not only does it carry in bad smells, but it also contains harmful bacteria. If any amount of blackwater sits on your hardwood for a long period of time, you will most likely need to replace the hardwood.

While it’s not dangerous to your health, saltwater can damage your hardwood floors if it’s not immediately taken care of.

4. Visible damage
Before making any decisions, be sure to properly assess your situation to decide what type of damage you have. Here are four signs to look for when evaluating visible physical damage to your hardwood floors:

The build-up of moisture in the hardwood causes the sides or edges of the hardwood floors to expand and eventually become uneven. As a result, the sides stick out and are not even with the center of the wood.

In the case of crowning, the wood boards are being forced together due to the build-up of moisture. This type of physical damage could result in the wooden planks sticking out or the wood shrinking permanently, depending on the amount of moisture present. The quicker you locate the source of the problem and dry out the floors, the less likely it is that the hardwood floors will need to be replaced.

Buckling is a rare instance, when the individual pieces of hardwood wood detach from the subfloor and stick out. Buckling is typically the result of severe water damage, which can occur from severe flooding. Since buckling is one of the most severe types of physical damage, replacing the hardwood floors would be your best option moving forward.

Staining is simply the discoloration on the hardwood floors due to water damage. Staining comes in two forms, white stains and black stains. White stains come in the form of white circles on your hardwood floors. They indicate that the floor’s finish has been mildly damaged, due to the build-up of moisture. White stains can be easily repaired using common household items such as mayonnaise, a mixture of olive oil and vinegar, as well as white toothpaste. Black stains, on the other hand, indicate that the water has absorbed and infiltrated into the actual wood floor and thus requires more extensive repairs. Blackwater stains are not
impossible to remove, as long as you identify them in time and dry the hardwood completely.