Hardwood floors can be a real asset for any home, one that may last for years or even decades when properly maintained. Environments that have excess moisture and situations where water may come into direct contact with a wood floor can be a bigger issue than many property owners might realize. From rot and mildew infestations to deformed boards that may require a costly and premature replacement of the entire floor, the potential risks associated with water damage are not issues that homeowners can afford to ignore.
Rot and Mildew
The wood used to construct hardwood flooring is a natural material, one that can breakdown and begin to decompose over time. Natural woods are thoroughly dried, seasoned and typically sealed in order to prevent the damage caused by moisture, although such efforts may not always be enough to protect the wood throughout the lifespan of the installation. Prolonged contact with water can seep in below the surface of the wood, minimizing the protection afforded by a sealant or other types of treatment. Mold and mildew can also be a problem as such infestations can speed up the decomposition of the wood.
Moisture that has worked its way into the wood may cause the surrounding material to swell. Heat and sunlight may then cause the wood to dry out and shrink. Over time, the process of shrinking and expanding can cause the wood to splinter and crack. Cracked flooring is more than just an eyesore as a damaged floorboard exposes more of the wood to the elements and may even place additional strain on surrounding planks. Replacing a single cracked board may be sufficient to repair a wood floor although installations that have been neglected for too long may need to be completely removed.
Cupping and Crowning
Water damage can also cause the wood to bow inwards or to flex outwards. This process causes the edges or the center of the board to protrude upwards, an issue which can lead to additional wear. Floors that have been deformed by water damage or other types of wear and tear can be treacherous to navigate or may detract from the overall appearance of their surroundings. Proper care, routine maintenance and basic upkeep can all help to ensure that flooring installations made from natural wood will continue to look their best and to last as long as possible.
Protecting and Restoring Hardwood Flooring
There are many ways to protect wood surfaces from moisture. Staining and sealing the wood can go a long way towards reducing the risk of water damage. Taking prompt action to clean the floor boards should they come into contact with water can also help to protect the material. Routine mopping or waxing is another undertaking that can make a real difference as such efforts can provide property owners to assess and inspect the state of their flooring and to address any issues that may arise without any undue delay. When properly cared for and maintained, wood flooring can last for decades.
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