Signs of Deterioration in Hardwood Floors

Signs of Deterioration in Hardwood Floors (and How to Turn back the Clock)

October 4, 2021  |  floor maintainence, hardwood floors
on the left is a photo of damaged hardwood floor, on the left is a healthy hardwood floor. Text reads "Signs of wood deterioration and how to turn back the clock."

Hardwood floors are a fine addition to just about any home, however, after years of being walked, spilled, and lived on, they can start to deteriorate. There are numerous signs that your hardwood floor is in a downward spiral, and if you recognize those and signs and take action, you can save your floors before it’s too late.  


This post will go over the signs of deteriorating hardwood as well as some preventative measures and restoration tricks.  


Water Damage 


Water damage is by far the most common way that hardwood is harmed or ruined. It doesn’t necessarily take a spill or a leaky appliance to cause damage.  


The most common way hardwood is damaged is by changes in air humidity. As humidity rises, wood takes on moisture and expands. Then, as humidity falls the wood contracts again.  


All this expanding and contracting causes the wood to push against other planks and crack over time. You have probably observed the same effect in concrete as water freezes to ice in the winter.  


Humidity can also cause floorboards to cup or crown. Cupping is when the sides of the board become higher than the center, and crowning is when the center is higher than the sides.  


Finally, the most severe issue is buckling, when the entire length of the board becomes warped and physically lifts away from the subfloor. Buckling is relatively rare and only occurs when the wood has been flooded for an extended period.  


Any of these issues can become serious if left untreated. However, there are some solutions that can help save your floors (and your wallet). 


  1. Get a humidifier or dehumidifier. One of the easiest ways to prolong the life of your wood floor or to repair the damage is to purchase a humidifier or dehumidifier. Make sure the humidity of your indoor air stays the same throughout the year. This is especially important if you are in a climate that gets especially humid in the summer.  

  1. Know when to sand. One of the most common mistakes people make that ruin their floors is sanding down the boards when they don’t need to. When your floorboards are cupping you should never sand them down, as the boards will return to normal when your humidity issue is fixed. Conversely, when the boards are crowing, you can sand down the center and your floor will be fine. Always consult a professional if you are unsure. 

  1. Cover your subfloor with a moisture retarder. Moisture can come up through your subfloor in several ways. Ranging from groundwater leakage to still-wet concrete, water coming from underneath is not always visible but can cause monumental damage. Ensure that your subfloor and crawlspace are fitted with a moisture retarder to stop subfloor moisture in its tracks.  

  1. Acclimate your wood. If you are installing new hardwood or are purchasing a building with hardwood, make sure the wood has been properly acclimated. Acclimation, a process by which the wood is exposed to the climate in which it will be installed, is key to ensuring your hardwood is prepared for its climate.  


Preventing moisture from corrupting your wood floor is the best way to ensure your hardwood lives a long life. Make sure you are examining your floors regularly. If you notice any signs of water deterioration, it is key that you stop it in its tracks and you can easily return your floor to its optimal beauty and quality.


Discoloration and Scratches 


Discoloration and scratches are some of the most common ways that hardwood floors are turned from beautiful to eyesore.  


The discoloration is marked by floorboards turning gray or black over time. The main culprit of this issue is a thinning polyurethane coating. Polyurethane can be worn away by acids in water, overexposure to sunlight, and the passage of time. Pet stains are another big culprit to discoloration of your floors. 


Another issue is scratches on the surface of the wood. Scratches are often caused by furniture, pets, and other miscellaneous rough surfaces.  


Cosmetic scratches can easily be refinished or fixed by light sanding. However, if the scratches have penetrated through the finish and into the wood, the board needs to be resealed. If not, the exposed wood will become vulnerable to damage from the natural elements.  


Healthy Wood makes a Happy Home 


To keep your house in pristine condition and your home upkeep budget low, make sure you are prioritizing the health of your hardwood floors.  


There is little that makes a house more beautiful than a well-kept hardwood floor, but without proper care or proper hardwood floor cleaners, your hardwood floors will quickly become lackluster. Small preventative steps can help keep your floors looking their best and maintain the value of your home.  


If you are worried about the health of your hardwood floors and aren’t sure which steps to take to keep them healthy, reach out to A Step Above Flooring. Nobody in the Cincinnati area has a better track record of high quality with proper installation techniques.