A dishwasher or bathroom fixture leaks, a window is left open during torrential rains or the basement floods, and flooring gets very wet. These things happen, and when they do, the flooring can be damaged to the point that it needs to be cleaned, repaired or even replaced.
This guide to flooring water damage costs will help you understand what steps need to be taken to restore your floors, if possible. The most popular types of flooring are covered below individually, and that section is followed by a chart showing your restoration options and the water damage repair cost of each.
Hardwood Floor Water Damage
Flooring contractors discourage homeowners from putting solid wood flooring in wet or humid locations such as bathrooms, laundry area and the basement. When a large amount of water is present or high humidity is persistent, moisture will get into wood and cause it to expand, producing warping, separating and cracking.
Engineered flooring handles humidity better because the attached underlayment is designed to expand and contract with normal changes in humidity without damage to the solid wood layer on top. However, it’s still not a good choice in wet, humid locations. Tile, concrete or vinyl is preferred in such places.
Flooded Hardwood Floor Cleanup & Repair
The first step is to remove water immediately with a mop, sponges, towels or a wet/dry vacuum. Time is of the essence. Get all hands on deck, and remove all the water you can as fast as you can.
When the water you can see is gone, go after the water that has seeped into cracks in the wood. Fans on the floor are excellent. If the humidity outside is low, open doors and windows. Crank up the furnace or radiant floor heating. If the water didn’t sit on the floor for too long, you might not have any damage.
If warping, cupping, buckling or separating occurs in a few boards, the simplest repair is to nail them or screw them back into place. This sometimes works. If it doesn’t, you or a flooring contractor can find suitably matching wood and replace a few boards or a small section.
At some point, it becomes cheaper to remove the entire affected floor and start over rather than attempt the repair of water damaged hardwood floors. This is because it is more time consuming to neatly replace damaged boards than to quickly tear them out a section and start fresh. You should get several estimates from experienced flooring contractors for both repair and replacement to see which one is more cost effective. Balance price with appearance, because even new wood that closely matches might look different than wood that has been in place for years.
Laminate Flooring Water Damage
Laminate flooring is made of layers of material that will readily absorb water and swell causing separation in the layers. This occurs when water penetrates beyond the water-resistant laminate top or the flooring is completely immersed as when a basement floods. There is no cost-effective way to repair water damage to laminate flooring; it can only be replaced. Laminate flooring is not recommended for areas that are often wet or humid. Click here for our full laminate section, including installation, pricing and maintenance.
Flooded Laminate Floor Repair
Treat laminate floor water damage in the same way we described above when talking about water on hardwood flooring. The water needs to be removed with a wet vacuum or mop and the floor dried as quickly as possible. Arid, warm air from a furnace or outside circulated over the floor will help it dry out.
If the floor is damaged, you’ll notice signs within a few days such as swelling, splitting, separating or discoloring. If there is damage, the affected material can be removed or, as with a wood floor, if it is extensive enough, the cost-effective decision is to replace it all.
Water Damage to Carpet
Carpet can tolerate a good soaking as long as it is dried quickly. This is because most carpeting is made from synthetic and inorganic materials. If you’ve got wool carpeting or a rugs, rot can become a problem.
The bigger issue with carpeting is the mold and mildew that can develop if it remains wet.
Carpet Cleaning & Restoration After Water Damage
Your wet/dry vacuum might not have the power to get out water that is down deep in the carpet and padding. Your options include renting a carpet cleaning machine to extract it or hiring a floor care company with the equipment needed to remove large amounts of water quickly and promote drying.
After the carpet is flooded, having it professionally cleaned, sanitized and deodorized is a good idea. Expect to pay $0.40 to $1.25 per square foot depending on the services needed to restore the carpet.
When carpet has been soaked, get dry air circulating over the carpet, and turn up the heat in the house to speed the evaporation of the moisture. Unless it is very humid outside, open the windows to exchange the moist indoor air for drier air. Tell-tale signs of damaged carpeting are discoloration and odor. A small section of carpeting can sometimes be replaced so that it blends well with the rest. More often, however, the damaged carpet in the entire room will have to be removed and replaced. You can learn more in our carpet buying guides.
Read more about drying wet carpet
Water Damage to Tile
Tile and grout are very resistant to water, and that’s one of the reasons tile is a great choice for bathrooms, showers, pool areas and entryways. Your primary concern is the subfloor. Water can get to it through cracks in the grout or around the edges of the tile field. If the subfloor is damaged, it will swell, causing tile and/or grout to crack or the tile field in that area to be raised.
What to Do About Flooded Tile
Similar techniques apply to drying tile flooring as to the other types. Get rid of the water as quickly as possible, and then circulate dry air over it for a few days, especially in locations you believe water may have penetrated to the subfloor. Small areas of damaged tile are fairly easy to replace. Your best choice is to hire an experienced tile contractor who will be able to match the grout color used to install the new tile so that it blends with the existing grout.
Note: If you haven’t bought your tile yet, consider purchasing an extra box or two in order to have extra tile on hand in the future to make repairs.
Water Damage to Vinyl & Linoleum Flooring
Both of these materials stand up to water very well. Mop up water or use a wet vacuum to remove it. Turn up the heat in the house and direct fans to locations where water might have seeped into the subfloor.
What to Do About Flooded Vinyl and Linoleum Flooring
As with tile, your chief concern is the subfloor. It will swell with excess water. Sometimes it will shrink when it dries, but if it doesn’t, you or a flooring contractor might be able to lift the flooring, replace the damaged subfloor and put the flooring back down. Click here to learn more about vinyl and linoleum flooring.
Water Damage to Bamboo Flooring and What to Do About It
Treat a flooded bamboo floor the same way we’ve described above for hardwood flooring. Bamboo will tolerate some water, but excessive water will soon cause swelling, separating and discoloring.
Water Damage to Cork Flooring
Cork is the bark of the cork tree, so it is naturally resistant to water. A flooded cork floor will be okay once the water is removed unless the moisture gets into the subfloor where it can cause swelling, rot and mold. Look for elevated or soft areas in the flooring that indicate damage to the subfloor.
What to Do About Flooded Cork Flooring
The techniques we’ve been describing for other flooring types work well here. Get the water up quickly, and then circulate warm, dry air over the flooring. Pay special attention to seams and edges where water may have penetrated to the subfloor.
Water Damage to the Subfloor
In many instances, your worst problem with flooded flooring will be damage to the plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) beneath it. If the subfloor swells, it will elevate the flooring. It might also feel soft when walked on.
If the flooring itself is not damaged, it might be possible to remove the flooring, replace the damaged subflooring and re-install the vinyl, carpet, wood, laminate, etc.
Even when there is no appearance of damage, you might notice an odor that indicates mold. This might also be discovered by looking at the subflooring from below, such as in a basement. Mold in the subfloor should be eradicated by a professional to prevent those in your home from experience health problems related to mold spores in the air.
Hire Water Damage Restoration & Clean Up Companies for Faster, Effective Drying
There are professional restoration companies that specialize in drying out flooring of all types with vacuums, fans and desiccants. Their costs vary from less than $1 per square foot to more than $2.50 per square foot depending on the services needed to protect your floors from serious damage. Services may include the ability to sanitize and deodorize your flooring to prevent mold, mildew and odor.
Water Damage Repair, Restoration and Replacement Costs
Replacing damaged flooring and integrating it with existing flooring costs more per square foot than installing new flooring in an entire room.
In this chart, the repair (restoration) cost is the cost per square foot to replace only the flooring that is damaged. The replacement cost is the cost of tearing out the damaged floor in an entire room or large area and starting fresh. Note that there is a range of prices for each flooring due to the differences in the costs of the materials available. All prices are in cost per square foot.
|Water Damaged Flooring||Repair||Replacement|
|Hardwood Flooring||$7.50 to $16.00||$6.25 to $15.25|
|Laminate Flooring||$6.25 to $8.75||$5.50 to $8.50|
|Carpet||$4.50 to $7.75||$4.00 to $7.80|
|Tile Flooring||$10.25 to $15.00||$9.00 to $14.25|
|Vinyl & Linoleum||$6.15 to $7.35||$4.85 t $6.50|
|Luxury Vinyl Tile||$6.00 to $11.75||$5.35 to $10.50|
|Bamboo Flooring||$7.65 to $8.50||$5.75 to $8.75|
|Cork Flooring||$7.45 to $8.85||$5.75 to $8.50|
|Subflooring||$1.75 to $3.25||$1.25 to $2.75|
To Get Started
A Note on Homeowners Insurance
Water damage to a home is often covered by the homeowner’s insurance policy, even when caused by human error such as letting a tub overflow, leaving a window open or improperly hooking up a water connection. If a plumber or other contractor is responsible for the damage, contact them first. They should be insured against damage they cause and will usually make or arrange for the needed repairs at their expense, so you won’t have to involve your insurance company at the risk of having your premium costs raised.
If it’s not the fault of a contractor, contact your insurance agent to have the damage evaluated. Good policies will cover removal of the water, replacement of the flooring and/or subflooring and any cleaning such as mold eradication or deodorization that needs to be done.
Keep in mind that if your home is built in a flood plain, you must obtain flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program provided by the federal government. Only then can you be confident of being properly insured against damage caused by weather events.
If you have experienced water damage to your floor we would love to hear what your restoration and repair costs were. Please leave a comment below.