There’s nothing like luxurious hardwood flooring for transforming a home into a spectacular showplace. With all its benefits and allure, there’s no real downside to hardwood flooring; but, as with any type of flooring, it does require a certain amount of maintenance to prevent damage.
The worst enemy of hardwood flooring is excess moisture; and unfortunately, too much water accumulation can lead to that worst of all scenarios — buckling. For a proud and happy homeowner, few things are worse than seeing a beautiful hardwood floor start to buckle; but in many cases, buckled hardwood floors can actually be repaired — even as a DIY project — so they’ll look as good as new.
What is Buckled Hardwood?
However, hardwood floorboards can sometimes expand or contract — and when this happens, it almost seems as if your flooring has taken on a life of its own.
Suddenly, you’ll notice areas where the floorboards lift up at the edges — or boards that suddenly have an unsightly hump in the center. In serious cases, your floorboards might look like they’re actually lifting up from the subfloor. All of these scenarios indicate that your hardwood flooring is buckling — and if you notice any of these red flags, it’s time to take action and repair the damage.
Buckled Hardwood Warning Signs
Warning signs of buckled hardwood flooring include:
- Cracks or separations between hardwood boards.
- Cupped edges: “Cupping” is the term used when hardwood boards turn up at the edges.
- Crowning: “Crowning” denotes the puffed-up area that occurs when moisture damage causes hardwood boards to rise in the middle.
- Lifting: “Lifting” refers to damaged areas where the boards actually pull up from the subfloor.
Causes of Buckled Hardwood Floors
Water damage is the primary cause of buckling. This can happen when a floor is suddenly flooded with large amounts of water, but it can also occur when moisture content builds up over time. Moisture build-up can start with something as simple as a series of small spills (especially if they’re not immediately cleaned up), but moisture build-up is also caused by the natural rise and fall of humidity levels. Since excess moisture can accumulate gradually, you might not even realize there’s a moisture problem until you start noticing the damage that’s already occurred from the floorboards expanding, contracting and lifting due to moisture saturation.
Moisture damage and buckling can also affect laminated floors in much the same way. Repair techniques are similar and involve removing excess moisture, drying the area and replacing damaged laminated tiles with new ones.
Buckling (for both laminate and solid hardwood floors) can also occur if your floor has been improperly installed. Inadequate or insufficient glue, incorrect nailing or inferior subfloor construction can all result in buckling, which can start as quickly as a few days after installation. In the end, the best way to ensure you’ll have a properly-installed wood floor is to leave the job to professional installation experts.
One important tip: A good flooring company will provide complete installation services along with your new flooring. For example, Express Flooring always provides its customers with a flooring sale and installation deal that includes professional installation services, all included in one bundled price.
Determining the Extent of Buckling Damage
When it comes to buckled hardwood flooring options, the good news is that your floor might not need a major repair job. A buckled floor with only minor damage can sometimes be repaired simply by removing the excess moisture, but serious buckling will necessitate replacing the hardwood boards.
If you see an area with minor buckling and/or other slight signs of water damage, it won’t hurt to take the easy way out first and try this quick and simple repair.
Minor Buckling Repair
Soak up all the excess moisture on the damaged area with towels, and then clean the area with a good disinfectant cleaner that’s safe for your hardwood floors. This is an important step, because excess moisture can stay trapped in dirt and debris. After cleaning, dry and vacuum the area thoroughly.
You can also speed up the drying process by placing an electric fan on the area after you’ve toweled out the moisture. Next, leave a dehumidifier in place for at least 24 hours. If the buckling is only minor, in many cases the boards might return back to normal.
If the boards are still showing areas of damage and buckling, you’ll need to replace them.
Tools You’ll Need for Fixing Buckled Hardwood Flooring
- Chalk or grease pencil
- Ruler or straight edge
- Circular saw
- Pry bar
- Vacuum cleaner
- Electric fan
- Floor scraper
- Replacement planks: These can be spare planks you saved from when the floor was installed or new ones from a local store that sells hardwood or flooring boards. If you can’t find a match, buy natural wood boards (be sure to choose the same type of wood as your floor) and stain them to match.
- Flooring adhesive or nails (depending on whether your boards are glued-in or nailed in)
- A heavyweight or weights (for placing on the board while the glue is drying)
Note: Repairing hardwood flooring with tongue-and-groove installation requires expert carpentry skills, as well as considerable proficiency with saw and chisel. Repairing tongue-and-groove flooring is not a DIY project, but should only be done by a professional flooring expert.
How to Repair Buckled Hardwood Flooring
- First, take a piece of chalk or a grease pencil and draw a box around the entire damaged area. Use a ruler or straight edge to keep your lines straight and even.
- Set the circular saw according to the board depth, and cut along the square you’ve just drawn.
Here’s a good technique to follow:
- Make two parallel cuts along the length of the damaged board, placing them half an inch from the long board edges.
- Crosscut the center at an angle.
- Repeat this for every board you replace.
- Using the pry bar, or chisel and hammer, remove the damaged board. It helps to hold the chisel at a 45-degree angle against the boards and tap gently with the hammer. You can also break the cutting kerfs at the ends, and then chisel directly through the cross cut you made in the center.
- Using towels, remove all excess moisture, then dry the area thoroughly using a vacuum cleaner. After toweling and vacuuming, if necessary, place an electric fan in the area and leave it there until everything is completely dry.
- If your hardwood boards use adhesive, you can use a floor scraper to remove sticky glue residue from your subfloor. The hand-scraped residue will come up more easily if you attack it at an angle with a forward-downward motion (short, swift strokes will help).
- Fit the new board into the area you’ve just cut. First, cut the board into the right dimensions, then place it in the area and continue to trim until it fits properly.
- Attach the board using glue or adhesive, applying it evenly over the surface. If you have to replace a larger area, or if your flooring was installed with nails, you can also use hammer and nails for your replacement boards, but be sure to use the correct size nails for installation. In larger areas you can also nail all of the boards in, then glue in the final board.
- If you’re using adhesive, place a heavy weight on the board for a minimum of 45 minutes. This will help the board set at an even level while the glue dries.
Tips to Avoid Buckled Hardwood Flooring
Here’s the good news: It’s relatively easy to protect your hardwood floor from buckling. By following these simple tips, you can prevent moisture build-up, as well as other types of damage to your floor.
- Wipe up spills immediately. Wood will quickly absorb spilt water — and instead of drying, the trapped moisture will build up over time. Excess moisture not only causes buckling; it also causes mold to grow between your floorboards and subfloor.
- Always check to make sure there aren’t any leaks saturating your floorboards with moisture. Hot spots include sinks, dishwashers and washing machines. In addition, crawl space areas are notorious for trapping moisture and causing moisture damage. One way to prevent this is to install a sump pump or dehumidifier to keep the area dry.
- Some types of footwear — including certain styles of high heels or shoes with cleats — can wreak havoc on a hardwood floor. Avoid wearing these types of shoes when walking on solid hardwood flooring. For high traffic areas, consider installing a protective felt pad or area rugs.
- Use water sparingly when mopping hardwood floors — and don’t mop them too often. Make sure to dry them thoroughly after mopping.
- There are many types of deep cleaning products available for hardwood floors but check with your manufacturer’s instructions to make sure that the product you’re using is the correct one. Otherwise, you can scratch or damage the finish.
- For quick and easy moisture-free buffing, use a soft, dry buffing pad. Make sure that it’s completely non-abrasive and appropriate for wood flooring. There’s no need to apply water or any type of cleaner — just wipe the dry pad in a circular motion, and your floors will acquire a lovely shine.
Buying the Best Hardwood Flooring
If you want to invest in hardwood flooring, don’t let any of these worst-case scenarios frighten you. Solid hardwood flooring is one of the best investments you can make for your home. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, hardwood flooring is one of the top features that today’s homebuyers look for, and installing hardwood flooring can increase your home’s selling price by 2.5 percent.
If you’re ready to start shopping for hardwood flooring and you live in or near Phoenix or Tucson, Arizona, Express Flooring can help. With a million feet of in-stock flooring inventory, Express Flooring offers the nation’s best brands in hardwood flooring — as well as stone flooring, carpet flooring, tile flooring, vinyl flooring and laminate flooring for your home or your office.
Best of all, Express Flooring brings the entire store to your home, so you don’t have to walk down endless aisles of flooring samples. Just tell us what you’re looking for, and we’ll bring samples, swatches and catalogs right to your doorstep, so you can sit down and choose what you want from the comfort of your living room. Our professional design consultants will give you the help and advice you need to make your home more beautiful, as well as more comfortable.
Plus, we’ll give you a flooring sale and installation estimate that includes a bundled price for flooring and installation. This way, there’s no sticker shock — just one low discount price.
Best of all, we take care of everything, from installing your flooring to moving and replacing your furniture. We use only the best-licensed installation experts to ensure that your flooring is installed properly and professionally — and we back up their work with a lifetime installation warranty.
More Reasons to Buy from Express Flooring
- Next-day installation
- Low discount prices every day
- Fantastic sales all year round
- Hundreds of quality brand names always in stock
- Affordable financing
- Discounts for teachers, seniors, government and public service workers
If you’re ready to invest in beautiful hardwood flooring, be sure to contact Express Flooring to schedule your free in-home estimate and design consultation. We’re available seven days a week, including evenings, so all you have to do is pick up the phone or send an email. Once you do, you can be just days away from having the luxury hardwood flooring of your dreams, at a price you can afford.