Wet Floors and What to Do About Them

If you’ve just experienced a significant water loss in your home, it’s time to take a look at your floors and determine the best steps to getting your home back to normal as quickly as possible. Much of the process depends upon the building materials affected and how long the water was standing on them, and it’s important to know that there are certain guidelines for each type of flooring when it comes to dealing with water damage. These guidelines should never be ignored for the sake of convenience or cost because ultimately, repairing your home will become even more expensive and inconvenient if the right steps aren’t taken as quickly as possible. Let’s begin with tile floors.

Tile Floors
Tile floors are probably the most resistant to water damage and the easiest to deal with, so long as they aren’t vinyl or linoleum, which we’ll get into later. For ceramic tiles, most times water cleanup can occur with little or no damage to your floors because in most cases, this type of flooring does not allow water to seep all the way down and cause significant damage to your subflooring. However, to determine if this is the case you still need to do one of two things right away before further unseen damage is allowed to continue and worsen over time. One option is to carefully remove one or two tiles in the affected area to inspect the subfloor underneath and find out if it has been softened or severely saturated by the water. The other option is to contact your local certified water restoration contractor and schedule an infrared thermographic inspection to assess the subfloor without removing any tiles or disturbing the top layer at all. The choice is yours, and in either case if the subfloor is found to be virtually unaffected you can clean the tile and grout by scrubbing and washing the floor with an approved cleaner. However, if the subfloor has sustained significant damage (as best determined by your water restoration professional), the tiles in that area will need to be removed to allow air to circulate and the subfloor to dry at an accelerated rate to prevent the growth of damaging mold and mildew. Also keep in mind that sometimes the damage to ceramic tile floors is not always immediately apparent, and after the floors are fully dried you may notice some weak spots in the grout’s hold on the tiles, which would necessitate replacing some of these in the future. If you are filing a claim for the loss, you may want to mention this future possibility to your adjustor to be sure that future repairs can be covered if properly documented.
Vinyl and Linoleum
Unfortunately, these types of flooring do not fare as well under water damage events. Most of the time these materials allow water to penetrate and seep into the subfloors underneath, which means they will usually have to be removed to allow for proper drying. Also, if the tiles are attached by glue, you will definitely want to have them removed, as this is a more than adequate food source for mold to grow and continue damaging your home from the inside out. Air needs to circulate freely above and around the subfloor in this case, and the process can be sped up by specialized dry out techniques recommended and performed by your water restoration contractor, to speed up the process of evaporation to the point where mold has no opportunity to take hold in the affected areas. Your water restoration technician will also apply an EPA-registered disinfectant to ensure that the area is dried and cleaned to the safety standards recommended for optimum indoor air quality. Hiring a professional is almost always recommended when large amounts of water have travelled across linoleum and vinyl flooring, and you will always achieve better results when taking advantage of the experience and knowledge of someone who fixes these problems on a daily basis. Keep in mind that the floor will be sticky with the residue of the old floor’s bonding material, and tread carefully until the floor is replaced.
The integrity of your subfloor is top priority, and you shouldn’t let its true health stay hidden in the wake of a water loss simply because you’re attached to the look of your top layer of flooring. The truth is that if your subfloor is saturated, it will lose its attachment to your precious tiles anyway, and you’ll still need to replace them. This is especially important in terms of wooden subfloors, which make up the majority of subfloor types in most home construction. If wood subfloors are not dried out properly and in a timely manner, they will begin to buckle and cause weak spots in your floor that can and will completely fail if left untreated. Air needs to get to and circulate around the subfloor to ensure that your property is kept safe from mold and even more expensive structural problems in the future.
When dealing with water on your floors, make the right decision and consult a water damage restoration professional. This will not only save you money, but it will take the liability of user error off of your shoulders when dealing with your insurance company.