Replace or sand a severely water damaged floor?

Q: Our water dispenser recently spilled on our prefinished Birch hardwood floor and caused damages to a large area of the floor. We have 2 suggestions from the original hardwood company and a contractor from insurance company re: wood floor water damage. The original hardwood company suggested to replace the damaged area and the insurance contractor suggested to resand the whole floor and stain with Bona water product.

Can you please give us an advice of what is good or bad about each choice? What options should we go with for the good long term? Our floor is about 2.5 years old and still looks relatively new.

A: It really depends how serious the damage is. I have seen floors like this flatten out given time. I don’t think the floor area needs to be replaced unless there is severe gaping.

Follow-up Q: The hardwood floor is damaged seriously (i.e., it cups a lot) in a large area. We are going ahead with the fix. My question is that should I sand and restain the whole floor or it is better to replace.

Replace: the prefinished stain is more durable? Is it correct?

Sand and stain: because of the serious damage, does the sand work for a long term? Or will it cause gaping and squeaking later on? Also, how long does the stain stay?

A: As I mentioned, cupping is one thing, but large gaps is another. If there are large gaps between the planks I would replace the floor. A cupped floor can be sanded flat. However, it needs to be verified that the floor is dried out and back to a normal moisture content range before any sanding is attempted. Otherwise the wood will crown, which means it reverse cups. I am not a great fan of pre finished floors. Aluminum oxide and ceramic coatings are more abrasion resistant than any finish currently available to me. However, this can become very problematic down the road when the floor eventually will need to be re-coated. There are finishes on the market, available to professionals that offer excellent durability, so I wouldn’t be concerned about that. To be honest, I am not that big on ******** finishes either. Aside from Traffic which is a 2 part water borne using an iso-cyanate cross linker, their other finishes are for low end use. I have been using Poloplaz Primero oil modified which is the best finish I have ever used. It is very tough. In the water borne line they have a product called 202 which is intended for industrial/commercial applications and is almost half the price of Traffic and safer to use since it doesn’t contain iso-cyanate.

The only way a stain would become damaged is if there was no finish on the floor, exposing the stained wood for a period of time.

Second Follow-up Q: Thanks a lot for your answer. We lean toward replacing the large area with the same material because there is too much disruption if we go with resanding according to the contractor (we’d have to be out of the house for 3-4 days).

Do you see any downside with replacing the large area with the original material?

A: I don’t see any problem provided the colour matches. You will be using a different lot batch to do the repairs and depending how long your floor has been down and amount of direct sunlight it may have changed colour to some degree.

Similar Q: Our contractor decided to replace the floor instead of just the water damaged area, for best possible color match. Is there anything I should watch over when tearing out the floor and reinstalling new flooring to avoid problems (gaps, etc.)?

A: Bring the flooring into the home about 5 days before installing and open the ends of the boxes. Don’t stack it near heat vents. Using a moisture meter, make sure the sub floor is dry and that it is not more than 4% higher in moisture content. (Acceptable is about 7-9%.)