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Water Damage in Wooden Floors - Replace or Repair?

If water pipes burst or flooding occurs the question arises, what steps should be taken by the tradesman to renovate the damaged wooden flooring?

First of all, the extent of moisture damage to the wood must be determined. For example, if the flooring is a little swollen and is slightly diminished due to ingress of rain for example, then it can be renovated. After measuring air humidity and temperature in the affected area, ventilation equipment (for example, an air dehumidifier) must be used to quickly dry out the damp wooden flooring.

The moisture content of the wood should then be measured using a hydrometer. Once the moisture content of (maximum) nine percent is reached, sanding of the wood can commence. It should be noted that the maximum material thickness to be removed depends on the thickness of the wood. For 22 millimetre solid parquet, for example, the maximum is eleven millimetres, for pre-finished parquet, no more than the top wear layer can be sanded off. Then the joints are filled with joint filler (for example, with Pall X Kitt from Pallmann) and then two coats of lacquer (PALL-X 96 from Pallmann).

In the case of extensive water damage and the wooden flooring is heavily swollen / warped or is partially detached. Usually in this situation, the only option is to completely remove the wood. For this, the wood must be removed using suitable equipment. Then the substrate must be tested. If there are screed cracks, or if scratch-testing reveals a soft or crumbling surface, then the screed must also be removed. If it is a gypsum-based screed it is recommended that its removed and replaced, since calcium sulphate screeds store moisture for long periods.

If the tests show that the substrate is ok, a moisture measurement must be taken, using appropriate equipment. If the RH values are above 75%, the screed must be dried out. There are various damp proof membranes (DPMs) which can be used such as UZIN PE 414, UZIN PE 480 or UZIN L3 Gold Moisture Control System.

Water damage can also be connected with moisture saturation of the damp-proof membrane under the screed. Water that collects on the membrane following water damage has difficulty in drying out by natural means, most often not drying out at all. From the effects of moisture, insulation materials lose their thermal and acoustic insulation properties. Moisture in the screed means that damage is to be expected. Natural drying of the membrane is not possible. In such cases, DPMs have to be used (as described above).

After the DPM has been installed a coat of UZIN NC 174 Smoothing Compound should be applied. Once dry the wooden floor can be installed using UZIN MK 92 S, wood adhesive. If the wood is not pre-finished, the surface can be treated with lacquer, oil or wax.

Where water damage occurs with floating wood floor systems, the quickest and most economical option is to completely remove the flooring. However, if the floating floor is to be sanded, then wedges must first be fixed along all sides so as to secure the surface for sanding. Sanding of floating floor systems is, however, expensive and the result unsatisfactory, because the wood is weakened and joints cannot be permanently sealed.

Ulrich Weng, Wood Master Craftsman, Uzin Installations Technician