What to do if your wooden floor is buckling

August 14, 2017

by Don Fogleman

Constructed of organic material, wood flooring routinely absorbs moisture from humid air and releases moisture as the relative humidity of the air decreases. Excessive amounts of moisture can, however, damage your wood flooring. Here are some tips for what to do if your wooden floor is buckling. [Image credit: iStock.com/Halfpoint]

What to do if your wooden floor is buckling

The flooring you choose for your home is one of the first things visitors notice and no other flooring material can match the natural beauty and majesty of wood. Carpet, laminate and tile flooring are attractive and functional choices, but none of them offer the classic beauty, enduring value, ease of maintenance and long term durability of a quality wooden floor.

Some of the advantages of choosing hardwood flooring over other materials include:

  • Durability: With proper care hardwood flooring can last a lifetime.
  • Strength: As the name implies, hardwood floors are hard and better able to withstand the force of a falling object than laminate.
  • Health: Naturally non-electromagnetic and hypoallergenic, hardwood floors do not attract or trap dust, allergens and moulds.
  • Convenience: Hardwood flooring is relatively easy to install and maintain.
  • Appearance: Hardwood flooring provides traditional and contemporary interiors an elegance that becomes even more attractive with the passage of time, if proper care is taken.

What is buckling and why does it happen?

Buckling is your hardwood floor’s reaction to excessive moisture. It occurs when moisture causes the flooring to actually pull up from the subfloor. The flooring in your home is surrounded by walls and other adjoining surfaces, so when excessive moisture builds up and the wood expands, the floor has nowhere to go but up. The center of the plank separates from the substrate and “buckles,” resulting in an uneven surface. Excessive moisture can be caused by a flood or a broken pipe, an open window during a rainstorm, or even ongoing high humidity.

How can wood floor buckling be repaired?

If your wooden floor is buckling, start repairs as soon as possible to prevent additional damage and avoid a major repair. Before starting repairs on a buckled floor, the source of the excess moisture must be identified and corrected. If the floor can be accessed from below, you may be able to repair the damage without removing any boards; however, in most cases the damaged area will need to be replaced.

Repairing wood floors with access from below

Place a weight, such as a cement block onto the affected area of the floor. From below, drive a short screw, no longer than 1¼ inches, through the subfloor and into the buckled floorboard. Make sure the screw does not go all the way through the hardwood. Once the screw has engaged it will pull the flooring down and eliminate the buckle.

Repairing wood floors without access from below

Use a pencil to mark the boards that are to be replaced where a new joint is to be cut. Set a circular saw to cut no deeper than the thickness of the flooring. Make two parallel cuts that extend the full length of the board, ½ inch from the long edges and cross cut the center on an angle. Use a sharp chisel to break the kerfs at the ends and chisel through the crosscut.

Remove the center piece of the board and the grooved edge piece. Chisel out the tongue edge and remove any remaining nails. Cut the felt paper out of the exposed area and use a vacuum to remove dust and debris. Select replacement boards that are similar in color and grain pattern, and that have approximately the same moisture content as the existing flooring. Fit the piece in the open space on edge and mark the exact length with a utility knife.

Using a mitre saw, cut the piece to length. Cut off the bottom lip on the groove edge and groove end and then block plane the lower edge of the top groove lip on a slight angle. Try fitting the piece into place. Continue planing until you get a perfect fit.

Apply epoxy glue to the existing exposed tongue, into the groove of the opening in the floor, and to the subfloor. Roll the tongue edge into the groove and tap it with a scrap piece of flooring. Remove excess glue from the face of the wood. Place a weight on the new flooring for at least 45 minutes and avoid walking on the surface for 12 hours.

Whether you choose to repair your wood flooring yourself or hire a professional, it is critical to match the new pieces to the existing floor. If extra pieces of your existing flooring are not available, take a sample of the flooring to a supplier and find the wood that matches most closely. If unfinished wood is used in the repair, choose wood of the same species and stain it to match the surrounding surface. If a large area of your floor is damaged, it may be more cost-effective to replace it entirely rather than making repairs.

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