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Question:

My kitchen has a beautiful red oak floor (toungue and groove I think) alternating 4" and 6" wide boards in varying lengths. Several boards near the appliances show some warping. It's not severe, but you can feel it when you walk on it, and see it in the light reflected on the floor. I would like to repair it, if possible, avoiding replacement cost, and color matching problems. I looked at the area from the crawl space underneath, and saw some minor water stains in a couple of places, also not severe.

I have electronic pictures if you would like to get a better idea of what I am talking about.

Is a repair practical? Should I attempt it myself? Thanks

Steve

Answer:



Dear Steve

This warping of wide plank floor will always occur, mostly because they haven't been installed properly, and also because of the excess moisture they will encounter in the kitchen. Let me explain.

Kitchens are not good places for hardwood floors in general, and plank floor is quite unstable in this environment. You mentioned that the problem is near the appliances. This will happen near and under most frost free refrigerators. They all have a system that draws off excess ice from the freezer, and send it condensed as water down a tube inside the back of the fridge to an evaporator tray under the fridge. A fan blows warm air across the tray, and the water should evaporate at a rate to keep up with the frost removal. Except sometimes the tube in the fridge blocks and overflows out the base of the fridge on to the floor. Or during hot and humid weather the evaporator tray will not keep up and the tray itself will overflow. This will easily warp the wood under and near the fridge.

The very best thing if this is the case is to remove the fridge, and check to see how bad the floor condition is. If the wood is very warped and even a little rotten, it may be best to replace just this small square with a waterproof floor like ceramic. It doesn't even have to be visible when the fridge is moved back into place, but the end edges of the wood where you cut if off neatly has to be sealed with several coats of a oil poly finish.

Wide plank floor will continue to warp when the indoor relative humidity ranges more than 20-30%. If it goes from 35% in winter to 75% in summer this is just too much of a RH range for the wood to remain flat. There is just no stopping this warping. And the floor should have been counterbored screwed and pegged as I describe in my plank floor article on the home page. You could do all this now, but I'm afraid it will be very difficult to get the floor flat again. And sanding it would remove a lot of wood, shorting the life of the wood quite significantly.

So my best advice is to check the fridge and any other water source (oh, and sometimes a ice maker-cold drink copper pipe feed may have a leak, or simply summer time condensation) and fix this first. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation under and around the fridge, and consider replacing this little piece of floor under the fridge with ceramic (at the same level as the hardwood so you can roll the fridge back and forth.

And then see it the wood settle down flatter on it's own over a few months, once the moisture problems are solved. Then recoat the kitchen floor every 2-4 years with the same finish that is on the floor now. Unless this happens to be a factory finished floor. It will be a problem recoating this sort of finish. Let me know if this is the case, that it is a prefinished floor. It's going to be expensive recoating this type of floor.

Resanding should be considered as a last resort, and shouldn't even be considered on a floor unless it is about 10-15 years old. If resanding is done, it might be a good idea, to have it screwed and pegged at that point. All in all this is an expensive job, and one that most amateurs best NOT tackle on their own. Although you could have it professionally sanded, and one of my finishing article would coach you through the finishing process. And like you said repairing in a tight spot like that is tough, and you have to get the exact same wood ro match. Prefinished wood floor repair badly anyway.

Oh, and sure send me some pictures of how the floor looks now, it's always a help.

You may also find these articles helpful:

1. Plank Floor: What Special Considerations This Type Of Floor Raises

2. Installing Hardwood Floors On Concrete Slabs

3. Hydronic heating under your wood floors

4. Parquet Flooring

5. How To Take Care Of Your Health And Safety when Installing, Finishing, Repairing or Cleaning your wood floors