Engineered Wood Flooring – To Dry or Not To Dry
June 14, 2016
We all know there are three main types of wood flooring we are typically faced with in the water mitigation industry:
Real hardwood flooring, which is generally ¾ of an inch thick and is made entirely of real wood. Restorers with good knowledge and equipment can generally save real hardwood planks if they have not buckled or heaved (fasteners came loose from subfloor) and they are only cupped with category 1 or maybe even category 2 water.
Laminate flooring, which is generally made of “fiberboard” with an “image or photo” of the wood on top of it. Much less expensive than real wood, but unfortunately it is not very resistant to moisture and has to be removed almost every time if saturated with water.
And then the one in between those two, engineered wood flooring, which sometimes can be saved and sometimes it can’t. In today’s article I want to give you more information about engineered wood flooring and what criteria needs to met before deciding to try to dry and restore it.
First, engineered wood flooring is comprised of layers of laminated materials, commonly plywood and unfinished white wood, laid out in different directions. Cheap engineered flooring may have as little as three layers, while higher quality products may have as many as 12. These layers are topped with a hardwood veneer and pre-finished with a tough, urethane-like coating. Engineered floorboards with a thick veneer are more water-resistant and more expensive than those with a thin layer. Those with thin veneers are much cheaper and they can’t be refinished when they show signs of wear and tear. In contrast, some thick engineered floorboards can be refinished several times.
The cheaper engineered floors are usually 3/8 IN. thick, have a paper thin wear layer and they are usually made overseas. At the other end of the price point spectrum, you will find very high end engineered floors that have an incredibly thick real wood wear layer that can, later on if ever needed, be sanded and refinished. The problem we have in the flooring and drying industry is that the two different types of quality engineered flooring are often intermingled by retailers and the differences between them are either not known or is not often fully explained to the consumer.
See my checklist below of what you need to ask yourself before attempting to dry and restore engineered wood flooring:
1. Category of water – only attempt if category 1 and it has only been wet for less than 48 hours.
2. Are the planks coming loose from the subfloor (many times glued to concrete)? If so, do NOT attempt to salvage.
3. Has the finish started to “crinkle” or raise at the edges where the planks meet? If so, do NOT attempt to salvage.
4. If the engineered wood floor looks in good condition and is not coming loose from the subfloor then it is important to perform a thorough job of extraction utilizing wood floor mats and good vacuum lift to remove as much water from underneath the floor as possible. Be patient, and keep extracting until you can’t see any more moisture coming through the cracks around the edges of the planks. Reexamine the planks carefully after meticulous extraction to ensure they are still in good condition and firmly adhered to the subfloor.
5. The restorer MUST have a good wood floor mat drying system, like the HP Plus Injectidry, so you can get enough negative air pressure vacuuming any loose moisture from underneath the planks. Generally, you won’t see much cupping, but make sure the edges of the mat are sealed so there is no loss of suction. Since there are not any flutes under the planks the layout of the mats should be close enough to thoroughly cover at least one third to half of the floor and then the mats must be moved every 24 hours to focus on the areas of the floor that were not initially covered with the mats.
6. Finally, use warmer temperatures to direct heated air flow over the mats (stay below 105 degrees F ambient air temperature and 110 degrees F wet surface temperature).
We have found in our test flood house situations, if the above guidelines are followed we can save “good” engineered wood flooring 60%-70% of the time. You should be able to see significant improvement after just 48 hours of drying, if you extracted properly.