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Drying Out Water-Damaged Flooring

By House*Tweaking on Jul 18, 2012

I thought of about a dozen other titles for this post:

Water and Wood Don’t Mix

Why Don’t the House Gods Like Us?


My Nightmare Come True

Further Proof That We Live in a Real House

No, HH, You’re Not Lazy or Stupid

Rolling With the Punches

Two-Year Warranty, My Ass

To make a long story short, the pump that pumps condensation from our furnace to a drain pump failed two weekends ago. It was 100+ degrees that weekend and the heat pump was running non-stop. We were home but we didn’t catch the problem right away because we were busy tackling other home projects.

The faulty pump ended up filling with water then overflowing. As you can imagine, water seeped under the floor in the hallway. If you’ll remember, we have engineered hardwoods. Wood + water don’t mix. As soon as we noticed the leak, we started cleaning it up and HH made a mad dash for Home Depot to pick up another pump. The Flotec pump was only a few months old and came with a two-year warranty. {HH has already contacted the manufacturer to put in a damage claim and complaint.}

For now, we’re still using the same Flotec model pump until HH installs another brand of pump that is more highly recommended. To give ourselves more time before water hits the wood should another leak occur, the new pump is sitting in a plastic container with an alarm that detects moisture. When he first detected the leak, HH kept saying he was stupid and lazy for not catching it sooner and for not putting some sort of secondary barrier/alarm around the pump should it fail. Of course, I told him he wasn’t stupid or lazy.

With the mess cleaned up {which included us mopping up excess water with old beach towels and sponges}, we assessed the damage. To the naked eye, everything looked fine. But we know that’s how water works. It can take weeks, sometimes months, for the real damage to pop up. From what we could tell, the water had affected the back half of the hall, the entrance to the boys’ room and about a 4′x4′ area just inside the master bedroom. We were more worried about the water that was between the vapor barrier and the actual flooring as that was what could cause the floor to warp and buckle down the road. The water under the pad had mostly been soaked up by the walls which are easier to dry out. From what we had read, any remaining water under the pad would eventually be absorbed back into the concrete slab.

Surprisingly, I was calm. I think in my sleep deprived state I’m just numb to any and all situations. It’s not that I don’t overreact. I just don’t react. I told HH, “It’s just a floor.” But it was a floor that we had both spent a lot of time installing and while it was a pain to do {because of our concrete slab we had to glue each and every plank of the floating floor to its neighbors}, we were in love with the results. Maybe it would have been easier if we didn’t like it so much.

HH contacted our insurance agent to see what our options were. Under our policy, total replacement of the floor would be covered but only after a restoration company tried drying it out first. We had three different restoration companies come out and assess the damage. The first two told us what we were expecting to hear. ‘Nothing we can do. You’ll have to rip it all up and replace it.’ We had braced ourselves for this but it was still hard to swallow. The third company gave us a different assessment. They said they could dry it out. Their drying method included heating the floor gently to evaporate any water between the vapor barrier and wood then suctioning it up with a high-powered vacuum. To help dry up any water under the pad and vapor barrier, they would run air tubes under the pad. They’d also pop off baseboards on the affected walls, drill holes and blow air into them to dry them out. Since they were the only company that had a plan and our insurance required us to attempt a dry-out, we went with them. They said it would take them 4-7 days.

The restoration company set up the same day of their assessment. Even though nothing they were doing was dangerous in and of itself, we were told it wouldn’t be kid-friendly. We wouldn’t be able to walk easily through the area. The machines would be loud. Oh. And they were going to shut off the A/C to facilitate water evaporation and drying. So, we headed off to my dad’s house for a few days. {My dad has no internet service. That’s why I was MIA last week.} It was a much needed distraction.

The restoration company came out daily to test moisture levels and tweak the dry-out. To me, it looked like our floor was on life support.

And it was hot, hot, HOT inside the house.

Yep. 95 degrees inside and out. There’s no way we would have survived comfortably. I’m so thankful we had somewhere else to stay while all this was going on.

The dry-out is complete. HH had the restoration company go over the results in detail. The wood is dry. There is no moisture between the wood and the vapor barrier. The pad {under the vapor barrier} still shows moisture readings but we were told this would go away slowly as the moisture is absorbed into the slab. The walls are dry. There is no mold or mildew. We submitted a claim to our insurance and they will guarantee the restoration company’s work {since we attempted to dry it out} for three years. So, if any problems arise in the future {say, warping, buckling or mildewing} our insurance would pay for total replacement of the floor. We still have a little while to withdraw our claim if we choose to. HH is leery of our rates rising. We’re just trying to see what all of our options are from here. We’ve even looked into new flooring should we need it later. The only problem we’re seeing with our flooring choice and install is that there is no good way to repair a damaged section. If you pull up one plank, you can’t simply replace it because each plank is glued to the next. Ugh. Theoretically, we could pull up all flooring in the bedrooms and hallway then have a threshold at the great room but we really like the seamless look we have.

Hopefully, we won’t need a total replacement but we want to be prepared if it comes to that. Right now, everything is looking good but you just never know.

I think that gets you up to speed with all the mishaps here. It was definitely a punch to the gut. Especially since we just moved in not even two months ago. I guess that’s just how things go sometimes. We’ll learn from it and move on.

What about you? Any problems with your house recently? Any experience with water under wood floors? Any ideas for us?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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