Hardwood Floor Buckling

wood_floor_bucklingWith hardwood flooring being the fastest growing segment in the flooring industry, problems also increase in number. One of these problems is the floor lifting from the sub-floor surface and is commonly called buckling.

Buckling is defined as lifting off the sub-floor surface and can be found on concrete sub floors and wood sub-floors. All flooring can buckle even carpet and stone floors, given the needed conditions to expand in size. Wood, by its nature, swells with the increase of moisture content and shrinks with the loss of moisture content.

Buckling is the result of wood floors swelling and having no place to go but up and off the sub-floor. The condition needed to result in buckling is the addition of moisture or water to the flooring. Flooding is the obvious, with increase in moisture the most difficult to detect.

Flooding from broken pipes, appliances or water overflowing the bathtub or sinks are common sources of water flooding hardwood flooring. These conditions are easily detected because they are visible and easily seen. Flooded floors may not buckle if the water is removed soon after the event and dried using fans and de-humidifiers. But allowing water to remain in the wood flooring will most likely result in the floor swelling and buckling.

The addition of moisture, from environmental vapor, is difficult to identify and may require a certified professional or inspector to determine. This condition stems from installing dry wood in a damp environment or the environment changing after the installation.

In southern states we see this condition after hurricanes and the resulting power failures. The interior of the home increases in relative humidity and wood moisture content causing the boards to swell and lift off the sub-floor. The buckling condition allows movement of the flooring boards causing a “popping” sound and sometimes a “squeaking” noise caused by two boards rubbing together.

Buckling may not be a repairable condition and may require removal and re-installation.

Find the Problem
Before you consider repairing buckled flooring at all, you must find the source of the problem. If the cause is moisture related, finding the source and fixing it may cure the buckling without having to replace anything.

Start by hiring a Certified Wood Flooring Inspector to take moisture readings of the home and the floor. A qualified wood flooring inspector can measure moisture of the installed wood flooring and the sub-floor. In some cases, the source of moisture can be traced to an exterior wall, or an appliance in the house, like a leaking dishwasher or a broken pipe. If this happens to be the issue, a simple fix of the appliance may be all that is needed.

If a water leak is not the issue, you may need to manage the humidity and moisture content in your home. This can be caused by a lack of proper ventilation. Again, a certified hardwood-flooring inspector can determine how to adjust excess humidity in the home. Most of the time, managing moisture content in the home is an easy fix.

Fixes for Minor Buckling

Once the source of the moisture has been found and fixed, there are a few simple remedies that could save your flooring. For starters, your flooring inspector should thoroughly test the buckled area to make sure the sub-floor is not saturated with water. If this is the case, soak up the excess moisture with towels or a vacuum. Additionally, you can also bring in fans or space heaters to dry out the moisture more quickly.

Once the excess water has been abated, minor buckled planks should return to normal. For planks that have cupped or crowned, there is also a simple home fix. Place a few larger, heavy boxes or other materials on top of the wood flooring where the cupping has occurred and use the weight to level out the planks. It sounds silly and simple, but for minor buckling and cupping, adding weight to the planks may actually correct the issue.

For serious buckling of planks, you may need to consider replacing the buckled area with new wood.