Are Hardwood Floors Waterproof?

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Are Hardwood Floors Waterproof?

No, they will incur damage if a pipe bursts or if the home is flooded. Most floors will stand up just fine to spills or water tracked in from outside as long as the water is dried up quickly.

Hardwood floors give homeowners a number of advantages over other flooring. They are classically beautiful, amazingly durable and usually quite practical. In some older homes, carpeting hides some outstanding hardwood flooring, which can often be restored to its former glory, even after decades of neglect.

Still, homeowners have a number of questions about wood flooring, including, "Is hardwood waterproof?" The answer is an unequivocal "no," but that doesn't mean that hardwood isn't for you. In many instances, hardwood can survive water as well as other damaging incidents. Before you install these floors, you do need to research multiple wood flooring types to see which one will best meet your needs.

Natural Hardwoods

The most practical hardwoods are species such as oak, maple, and cherry. They are the hardest of the hardwoods and resist everyday wear and tear. More glamorous hardwoods include mahogany and Brazilian cherry, which are visually stunning but less durable. If you have dogs and/or children, you'll want to stick with the harder wood varieties.

While none of these woods are damage-proof, their finish does much to protect them from scratches, fading and other minor injuries. When a hardwood floor is damaged, you can often refinish it so that it looks like new again.

Engineered Versus Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood boards are one piece of wood. Engineered hardwood is made of layers of wood that are bound together using heat, pressure, and adhesives. Solid hardwood can be refinished over and over again, while engineered hardwood can only be refinished a few times. Solid hardwood shrinks and expands more than does engineered hardwood. Both look great but offer different advantages for homeowners. In either case, the flooring generally adds value to your home.

Hardwood Floors and Water

Hardwood floors do have a weakness: water. We aren't talking about the type of water that your kids track in or that you spill from a cup. As long as you promptly wipe up this water, your floors should be fine. Small amounts of water dry quickly and do not penetrate the finish.

Unfortunately, hardwood floors can't handle large amounts of water. If a pipe bursts or water floods in from outside, you must act quickly to save your floors from serious damage such as buckling. Your best course is to call in professionals to quickly dry your floor surface as well as the subfloor to prevent permanent problems.

If your hardwood floors are not completely dried, they become vulnerable to mold, a real health problem. Mold in the home can lead to serious respiratory issues, another reason that wet hardwood needs to have professional drying.

If the floors do not buckle or incur other structural damage, they can be effectively refinished. You must realize that hardwood can take weeks to dry completely, so you should not attempt to refinish them until a professional tells you they are ready for this treatment. Refinishing too soon actually locks in the moisture, causing a myriad of problems.

Protective Steps

Despite the water issues, hardwood floors are not delicate. They just need some common sense attention. Experts recommend that you keep damp items off the floor, quickly wipe up spills and maintain the humidity at a comfortable level -- not too high or too low. Remember that any amount of standing water can cause an issue if left unattended for more than a few minutes. Always use cleaning products that are manufactured for hardwood floors, and reapply sealants as recommended.

Remember that some visible wear and tear can give your floors character. In fact, some hardwood wholesalers and retailers sell already distressed hardwood. If you choose distressed flooring, you won't have to worry about a few pet scratches or shallow dents on the floor's surface. Water, however, will still be an issue.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is not solid wood but a wood composite topped with a surface photo of real wood. The result is flooring that looks like hardwood but is less expensive, with a surface that is harder to damage. People who choose this product may be disappointed to learn that it is not waterproof, either. The top can get wet with no ill effects, but after four hours, the sides and bottom begin to swell. Once that happens, the floor will not return to its original size after drying. To be safe, you need to remove water from laminate floors as soon as possible, just as you do hardwood floors.

If you want wood or wood-like flooring, you will always need to be concerned about standing water. Also, hardwood floors have a greater chance of buckling in geographical areas with high humidity. You should avoid using hardwood in bathrooms and kitchens since water damage is almost inevitable there.

That being said, hardwood floors in the living room, den, and bedrooms are beautiful and easy to clean. They are also a healthy choice for families since they don't trap allergens the way that carpets do. If anyone in your family has a respiratory condition such as asthma, they will benefit from hardwood floors. Hardwoods are also easy to maintain in most instances. You can install a hardwood floor this year that could be around when your grandchildren inherit your house. For many people, the advantages of hardwoods outweigh any water worries.

Want to know what type of hardwood floor is most durable? Check out this post!

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