Cupping hardwood floors is a sign of moisture damage, but can cupping hardwood floors be reversed or do those panels need to be replaced?
In non-severe cases, cupping hardwood can be reversed by identifying and eliminating moisture content and sources from the wood. In more severe cases you will need to contact a flooring specialist to have the affected panels replaced.
Let’s take a look at some methods you can use to identify and treat cupped hardwood floors without having your floor replaced.
Identifying Cupped Hardwood Flooring
When your hardwood floor begins to show signs of cupping you will notice it right away.
The first signs of cupping are where the edges of individual panels become raised, creating a U-shape where the middle of the panel is the lowest and the two edges highest. Over time the effect of cupping can become more prominent to the point where it will feel uneven to even walk across your floor.
Cupping is not usually found where there may be scratches to the floor, but sometimes scratched areas can provide easy routes for moisture to enter the panels which does lead to cupping.
What Causes Cupped Hardwood Flooring?
As previously mentioned, cupping is caused by moisture content within hardwood panels.
The presence of moisture within hardwood causes the wood to warp and change shape, leading to cupping. But where exactly does all this moisture come from?
The subfloor that your hardwood is installed on can contain excess moisture for a number of reasons. If there is excess moisture this will be absorbed into the wood leading to cupping.
Subfloor moisture is most commonly an issue in new houses where an HVAC has not been used before the floor was installed. This creates an imbalance of humidity caused by the moisture underneath the floor.
Air humidity changes throughout the year depending on the season, with some climates such as those in places like Florida having very high humidity year-round.
Wood will absorb moisture from humid air to create an equilibrium with its surroundings, which again can cause cupping. This can even happen to properly installed and sealed hardwood floors.
Leaks and Spillages
Accidental spillages can happen all the time, and shouldn’t be an issue if you have a properly sealed floor and manage to clean the spill up quickly.
In some cases, where a spill has been allowed to sit for a while your floor may begin to absorb some moisture. This can be sped up if your floor is not correctly sealed or has gas between panels.
Leaks work in a similar way but can be much more serious due to the potential for much more water to be spilt. Areas around dishwashers, fridges and sinks are prone to leaks and should be checked every so often to spot them before they cause serious damage.
Another common reason why you may encounter cupping is when the subfloor has not been dried correctly or where the floorboards have not reached a moisture equilibrium. An equilibrium cannot be met if the air has not been properly conditioned which should always be done during installation.
When this happens cupping is likely to happen either from moisture in the subfloor or as the moisture content in the air changes, leading to the wood absorbing moisture.
Monitoring Moisture Content in Hardwood
You can use a device called a wood moisture meter to measure how much moisture is present in your wood.
This is a great device that you can use to monitor how much moisture there is in different areas of the house to see how severe your cupping issue is. It can also help flooring specialists with consultations as you can pass them the readings before they are called on-site to get a quick recommendation.
3 Ways To Reverse Cupped Hardwood
So, cupping boils down to moisture content increases within hardwood floor panels – but how can it be reversed?
In non-severe cases removing the source of the moisture will usually reverse the cupping effect. This can be coupled with drying the panels out which can reverse a lot of cases of cupping.
Let’s have a look at a few methods to get this done.
Remove Moisture Source
This method is usually the most impactful and easy to do.
If you have noticed cupping, particularly in a short amount of time, there is a good chance that moisture has suddenly begun to enter your floor from a leak or spillage. Check common areas such as dishwashers and sinks for leaks and get these fixed as soon as you can.
Depending on how much moisture was absorbed you should notice the effects of cupping will start to fade slowly, which can be sped up by tackling the moisture in the wood itself in the next step.
Remove Moisture Content From Wood
If you’ve removed all sources of moisture that you can then the next thing left to do is remove the moisture that has been absorbed into the wood.
The best way to do this is to use a dehumidifier to remove moisture content from the air. This process can be sped up with an air conditioning unit which will increase the drying process.
Once you’ve successfully lowered the humidity you will notice the cupping start to decrease as the floor finds a new equilibrium with the air by losing excess moisture content.
Contact A Professional
If you’ve tried both of the methods above and there is still cupping then it is time to contact a flooring specialist.
In these cases, the cupping is either too severe or the source of the problem cannot be tackled without removing panels of wood. In cases where a professional is called, they will usually suggest replacing the panels that are affected whilst rectifying the underlying cause of cupping.
When you first notice cupping it can be quite worrying and stressful, but in a lot of cases, it can be reversed quite easily without the need for any large costs or repairs.
If you know any other methods to speed up the reverse process then please let us know!