Repair Water Damage On Hardwood Floors

4 Materials
4 Hours

Before we get started, I want to note the difference between surface damage and penetrative damage. Surface damage refers to damage that has occurred only to the finish of the wood finish but has not penetrated the actual wood planks. The most frequent case of this type of damage is condensation from house plants.

THIS METHOD IS NOT RECOMMENDED - AND WILL NOT WORK - FOR WOOD PLANKS THAT HAVE RECEIVED LONG-TERM, PENETRATIVE MOISTURE. Floors that have been submerged in water (such as during flooding) cannot be repaired by a homeowner. They will need to be reviewed by a professional to determine the best methods for repair.

This is also the case for flooring that has received long-term exposure to water from leaking appliances and bathroom fixtures. Do not attempt to repair this damage without first consulting a professional to insure your flooring is thoroughly dry and without rot. Rotting wood cannot be fixed and will need to be replaced. If you move forward with this method on a floor that has not properly dried, you will further damage you floors by trapping the moisture inside the wood.

This tutorial is for pre-finished hardwood floors. On engineered / pre-finished hardwood floors, there is a very thick layer of polyurethane covering the stained wood. This is different from wood floors that have been stained in place (or even refinished). You may have success using some of this method on other types of flooring but I do not recommend moving forward until you have consulted with a professional.

Step One: Confirm your wood flooring plank has not been penetrated. Surface damage will cause the top layers of varnish to peel back. The result will be a flakey appearance that will look white in some spots while darker in others. You may also see a “rippling” effect in the finish.

To confirm that your hardwood was not penetrated by moisture, take a scraper across the surface to gently remove the peeling varnish. If your scraper begins to penetrate or flake off chunks of the wood - no matter how small - stop straight away and call in a professional. This is indicative of wood rot and you cannot use this method to repair your flooring.

Once you’ve confirmed no wood is coming loose, you may continue scraping the varnish until no additional flakes appear.

Step Two: Vacuum the loose varnish, using a detail or upholstery brush and light pressure.

Step Three: Use a coarse brush or paddle to remove any additional flakes.

Step Four: Gently sand with a 120 grit sandpaper. A palm sander can be used, but don’t apply much pressure. Sand only the areas with affected varnish. Don’t sand in a circular pattern. Rather, run your sander lightly with the grain.

Step Five: Vacuum all dust and residue, using your upholstery or crevice detail attachment.

Your surface should now be smooth. If it’s not, repeat steps 1 - 5 until it is smooth to the touch.

Step Six: Using a small detail craft brush or a clean rag, apply your stain + poly in one to the now unfinished flooring spots. Apply in the direction of the grain.

Allow to dry 12 hours. Then repeat process until the refinished spot looks as closely in color to your existing flooring.

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Teri | T. Moore Home

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Lisa West
    on May 7, 2019

    Question, will this method also work on certain types of wood furniture? I have 2 night stands that were given to me. Looks to like a cherry finish. I'm pretty sure they are not cherry wood. Either way, They were a gift. So the top of mine is worse then my fiances. Cats for some reason knock over my soda or any drink I have when I'm not looking. Thank God I catch it quickly. I do have some can rings prior to me getting the tables. I was polish etc, I have even uses coconut or olive oil as I have cats and a grandson at the time. I have use turtle wax to during the summer months which btw works great.

    • Teri | T. Moore Home
      on May 7, 2019

      Probably start with just a light sanding and use a product like linear scratch remover, as the finish won’t be as thick and you don’t want to ruin them.

  • Maria-teresa
    on May 7, 2019

    What about dog urine stains

    • Teri | T. Moore Home
      on May 7, 2019

      I wouldn’t recommend it before consulting with a pro. Urine, unlike water, holds organic bacteria that can continue to grow. I definitely wouldn’t want to accidentally seal that into yourwood.

  • Amy
    on May 7, 2019

    Will this work on laminate flooring

    • Michelle Bellin
      on May 18, 2019

      Laminate is super cheap, less then $1 square foot. Ask the professional at the store to help you find/match color & pull up the damaged ones and replace w glue. Much easier then real wood. My husband owns a hardwood floor business.

Join the conversation

  • Billie
    on May 2, 2019

    Use this for cabinets under the sink where my husband let’s run down onto them. They look like the floor. Still solid.

  • Fundy
    on Apr 30, 2020

    Use this for cabinets under the sink where my husband let’s run down onto them. They look like the floor. Still solid.

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