How to Prevent and Fix Buckling Hardwood Flooring

How to Prevent and Fix Buckling Hardwood Flooring

If properly installed, cared for, and restored or refinished, hardwood flooring can last for decades, even a lifetime. Hardwood provides durability, strength, flexibility, and is so aesthetically pleasing that it elevates any space, whether it’s a bedroom in a home or an office in a corporate building. 

However, failing to properly install and care for hardwood flooring can lead to problems, including water damage, scratching, staining, cracking, warping, and buckling. Action must be taken at the first sign of potential damage, to avoid having to replace the hardwood floor due to irreparable damage. Installing and repairing hardwood flooring must always be left to a professional, because otherwise the wood could show signs of damage in the long run. 

Proper installation is key

Hardwood is sensitive to its environment, and that’s why a professional must be consulted to recommend the right type and species of wood for a chosen space. The hardwood planks must also be allowed to acclimate and adapt to the climate of the space they will be installed in, otherwise they could expand over time, becoming warped or even cracked. 

If hardwood is not properly acclimated before installation, or there is significant water damage left unrepaired, the planks can start to show signs. They can show cracks, and the boards might start to separate and turn up at the edges (cupping), they can rise in the middle of the floor (crowning), or they can even detach from the subfloor, which is called buckling. 

Buckling is the most extreme form of damage that hardwood flooring can present with, and also the most challenging to fix. 

What causes hardwood flooring to buckle?

The most common problem that causes hardwood floors to buckle is water damage. When the wood becomes exposed to water, it starts to swell to accommodate the surplus water. For instance, in case of a flood, the hardwood will swell when covered in water, and then it will contract, or shrink, when the water is eliminated. Expanding and contracting can lead the hardwood planks to buckle and warp. 

Hardwood is susceptible to water damage even if it’s not submerged in water. Humidity is another factor that can cause similar problems with warping and buckling, and is a fairly common issue in properties located close to the sea or the ocean. High humidity levels or sudden fluctuations in temperature can have the same effect as water on hardwood flooring. 

Many homeowners nowadays like to go the DIY route and install or repair hardwood floors on their own. But this is something that should always be done by a professional, because the tiniest error can lead to significant damage over time. If the hardwood floor is not properly installed, it could end up with small cracks and openings in the wood that will allow any moisture to infiltrate deep into the boards and cause buckling. Even a wet mop or a small spill from a glass of water can have an impact if there are cracks and openings in the flooring or between the boards. 

How to repair buckling hardwood flooring

Many times, if a space has been flooded or the hardwood floor has suffered extensive water damage to cause the floor to detach and lift from the subfloor, the only solution is to replace the floor entirely. Even if some of the boards can be salvaged, the floor will need to be removed and the subfloor analyzed and repaired, as well. 

If the damage is minimal and the buckling is not too severe, steps can be taken to prevent the issue from getting worse. For instance, if minimal buckling is present, without any signs of deep water infiltration, a heavy weight can be placed on top of the affected area to force the wood back into place. But even in this instance, a professional should check the floor and ensure there is no deeper damage that could affect the integrity of the wood. 

In case buckling is present, moisture needs to be removed as soon as possible to allow the wood to dry and contract back to its original shape. This means removing floor boards, checking the subfloor, and eliminating excess moisture by using ventilation, fans, dehumidifiers, and absorbent materials. 

How to prevent hardwood floors from buckling

The first step to avoid hardwood flooring from buckling is to make sure the boards are properly acclimated before installation. This process can delay the installation process by a few days, but it’s a crucial step that can affect the longevity of the flooring. 

Secondly, water damage should be avoided at all costs. Regular cleaning of the hardwood floors should be done using a soft broom or a damp mop, and any spills should be cleaned immediately and the wood should be allowed to dry completely. Advise your clients to regularly check for any holes or cracks where water could potentially infiltrate the wood boards, and to use the right cleaning products for their type of flooring. 

It’s also important to properly ventilate and regularly check the humidity levels in a space; a humidifier or dehumidifier can be used to adjust the levels. Finally, advise your clients to use carpets or rugs to protect the hardwood floors from damage caused by water, high heels, pets, or furniture. They will thank you in the long run.