Water Damage and Laminates, Engineered Wood, and Solid Hardwood Floors
When water damage occurs in your home it can be a very hard thing to go through. You will have to be dealing with your insurance company, mitigation company, flooring company, and possibly other contractors. All this and just a day or two before your house was fine.
One thing that you could have to deal with is a wood floor that got wet. These floors come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and material today. Some of them can be dried and kept in use and some of them will need replacing.
So let’s talk about the different kinds of wood floors that are typically used today and what happens to each one when they get wet. We have three main types: Laminates, Engineered wood, and Solid hardwood.
Laminates are usually a synthetic flooring put together by a laminating process. Some laminates are like particle board, while others are more like medium density fiberboard (mdf), but they all have a photo of wood or sometimes tile on the top to simulate the look of the real thing.
Laminate flooring is quite popular today because it is easy to install, easy to maintain and cost less to purchase than traditional solid hardwood or engineered floors. Laminates are also very durable and do not scratch or scuff easily. However if a laminate floor gets wet it will swell up almost immediately and will need to be replaced. Water is one of the few things that will damage a laminate floor.
Engineered wood floors are often thought of as a true hardwood floor. Unlike laminates these floors are constructed of real wood. They generally consist of thin sheets of wood called plies and are glued together on top of each other in opposite directions. This is called cross-ply construction and is similar to the way plywood is made. This type of construction creates a floor that is not greatly affected by humidity changes within the environment the way a solid hardwood floor is. By this I mean they will not expand and contract like a solid hardwood because the cross-ply construction gives it some dimensional stability.
Engineered floors can be nailed down, stapled down, glued down, or floated. They can also be installed in basements or other below grade areas where it is not recommended to install a solid hardwood floor.
Generally the bottom plies are a softer, faster growing type of wood than the top. Depending on the brand and quality some of the top plies can be thick and stand up to a sand and refinish while some are thin and will not stand up to a sand and refinish.
Engineered wood floors generally stand up to a water intrusion better than laminates. However there are some factors that will determine whether or not the floor could be dried after a water loss and put back into use such as how the floor is installed, whether or not the plies are still “glued” together, and length of time the floor has been wet.
Solid hardwood is manufactured from a single piece of wood. The most common way we see these floors are as tongue and grooved planks that are ¾” thick. Solid hardwood flooring is best used on grade or above grade and is not recommended for installations in basements.
Since solid hardwood floors are a 100% natural product they will be affected by changes in humidity. These floors will expand and contract depending on the humidity or lack of humidity in the air. If the environment is kept at a constant temperature and relative humidity year round then the expansion and contraction of the floor will be minimal.
These floors are the most forgiving and easiest to dry after a water intrusion. Most of the time if it is a clean water loss that is gotten to quickly than the floor can be dried and saved. Of course this depends on the installation of the floor. If the floor is up on sleepers or screeds or affixed directly to the subfloor with no moisture barrier in between then they dry out fine. If they are up on plywood or OSB or if there is a plastic moisture barrier of some kind below the floor then the chances of drying it are greatly reduced