Drying Wood Floors

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A major priority in the aftermath of a flood or burst pipe disaster is drying the wood floors in the home. Wood is extremely susceptible to water damage, even when it is finished with a seal that is supposed to keep the water out. Over time, this finish will lose its potency, and water will eventually find its way through. But because so many homeowners believe their hardwood floors are capable of taking extended exposure to water, they end up in a tricky situation. Wait too long, and the floors will be beyond saving. That will mean a nightmarish scenario of ripping out all the boards and fasteners, and spending thousands on replacing them. Clearly, the better option is to dry out the floors before the water is allowed to cause extensive damage.

The Dos and Don’ts of Drying Wood Floors

It’s best to assume that whenever a home is wracked by a flood or other water-based disaster, any hardwood floors will need special attention. Within hours of exposure, standing water will penetrate the boards, causing them to swell and warp. Usually, this is more pronounced on the bottom edges of the boards, as they are not protected by the sealant. When this occurs, the resulting effect is known as “cupping,” and it looks like the edges of the boards swelling up over the edges of other boards. If cupping is not stopped in time, the boards will separate from their fasteners, and this can only be solved by replacing the flooring.

Some respond to cupping by sanding the boards down, but this is only a quick fix that may result in total failure of the hardwood over time. If sanded down before water is removed, the floor will experience the opposite of cupping, a process known as crowning. Crowning will also cause the boards to rip from their fasteners, and it may happen without a homeowner realizing what’s going on.

The only real fix, then, is to remove the excess water from the wood, and this is best accomplished with low grain refrigerant (LGR) dehumidifiers. LGR dehumidifiers are more efficient than standard dehumidifiers, which use conventional refrigerants to pull moisture from the air. LGR dehumidifiers are capable of reducing moisture to beyond 55 grains per pound, even achieving conditions of 40 grains per pound or less. This is possible because LGR dehumidifiers are built with efficiency boosting components that precool the air before it passes through the system proper. The precooling components may consist of looped heat pipes, which are built around the colder coils, promoting the transfer of heat into the refrigerant. They may also consist of air to air exchangers, which circulate heated air past cooled air to exchange heat.

Drying wooden floors takes a concentrated effort, and to quickly save the hardwood, make sure to do the following:

  1. Remove all standing water and soaked materials immediately. As long as water is standing on the wood, it will make the situation worse. Before attempting drying efforts, sop up any standing water and remove any rugs or furniture that are also soaked. Preferably into the sun, where they can dry quickly on their own.
  2. Clean the floors a couple times with a cleaner that doesn’t produce suds. Oils, dirt and other residue will hold moisture inside the wood and keep it from escaping. A couple of cleanings will take care of this, ensuring drying efforts can proceed without issue.
  3. Position an LGR dehumidifier in the middle of the floor. An LGR dehumidifier switched to the highest extraction setting will make quick work of moisture locked inside the flooring. For best results, the dehumidifier should be allowed to operate for at least 24 hours, though it may be necessary to run the system longer for particularly bad conditions.
  4. Support the dehumidifier with air movers. Air mover fans can expedite the drying process, especially if conditions are dry outside and windows can be opened. Air movers should be positioned so that there is air circulation over the entire surface of the floor.

Once the floors are dry, they should be checked for any mold or mildew growth. If this is present, then expert assistance may be required. But as long as a homeowner responds quickly with an LGR dehumidifier, then the worst of the damage can be avoided.

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Below is a list of articles with the most recent ones listed first.
Drying Wood Floors with LGR Dehumidifiers
Drying wood floors can be tricky but with LGR dehumidifiers the job can go a lot faster.
Published: Thursday 01 November, 2012
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