Of all the potential problems you might face with your hardwood floor, excess moisture is one of the most common and the most troubling. A hardwood floor that has been exposed to too much moisture can cup or crown. In a best case scenario, a few wood planks might just squeak. In a worst case scenario, you could have mold, mildew, and pests. Termites and borers love moist wood for food. Avoiding these problems is mostly about prevention.
Prevention at Installation
To prevent a moisture problem, you need to start from the moment you receive the wood. The manufacturer of your hardwood floor will tell you how best to acclimate the wood. Some will tell you that you need only open the box and allow them to sit at room temperature for about a week. Others will recommend that you take the planks out of the box. Finally, if you live somewhere very humid, you might need a dehumidifier to get your home to the proper relative humidity. It’s recommended that you do not install hardwood flooring in the basement or below ground level, if you do to use a liquid moisture barrier and engineered hardwood flooring. That will likely result in too much exposure to moist conditions. If you’re installing solid hardwood planks, you’ll also need a subfloor. Between the subfloor and the floor, you need to install a layer to capture moisture.
The vapor barrier is a layer of absorbent material that will catch moisture rising up through the subfloor and stop it from getting to the hardwood. There are several different options for a vapor barrier. Fifteen pound felt paper is a popular option.
Drying the Floor
Sometimes, prevention isn’t enough and a spill is unavoidable. It’s not recommended that you clean your hardwood floor with water. However, there’s still a chance that you’ll spill something on the floor. If you catch it quickly, you can likely just clean it up with a towel. However, if the moisture has a chance to penetrate between the cracks and into the floor, you’ll need to draw the moisture out and dry the floor. The best way to do that is with a fan that is on the floor. If you have a shop blower that you can aim at the floor, that’s your best option. Otherwise, you could use a fan and a dehumidifier. The object is simply to get dry air moving over the surface of the floor to speed up evaporation.