Your Full Guide On How to Repair Water Damaged Wood

When wood gets damaged by water, it can warp, crack, swell, rot, and grow mold if not addressed promptly and properly. Repairing water damaged wood takes time and care, but is doable in most cases if you follow some key steps. We will walk through the end-to-end process in detail so you can restore your water damaged wood surfaces.

Assessing the Damage

The first step is to fully assess the extent of the water damage so you understand what needs to be done before attempting repairs.

Types of Damage

Water can damage wood in a few key ways:

  • Warping – When wood absorbs water unevenly, it can warp and twist out of shape as parts expand and contract. This happens most with manufactured wood products like plywood and OSB.
  • Cracks – If water seeps deep into wood, the swollen internal fibers can cause cracks and splits on the surface as they push outward.
  • Rotting – If moisture is allowed to remain in wood over time, it can start rotting from the inside out. This also makes wood very prone to mold growth.
  • Delamination – With manufactured boards like plywood and OSB, moisture can break down interior glues causing plies or layers to separate.

Inspecting the Wood

Thoroughly inspect all water damaged wood to understand the type and extent of the damage:

  • Note any visible mold or rot – these areas will need special treatment.
  • Check if the wood feels unusually soft, punky, or spongy – this indicates rotting.
  • See if layers are separating or can be peeled off – a sign of delamination.
  • Try scraping damaged areas with a knife to test integrity.
  • See if there are cracks, splits, bubbles, or other surface defects.
  • Determine if there is any warping or twisting out of flat.

Documenting the details will help plan the repair approach.

Checking Moisture Levels

It’s critical to see if and how badly the interior of the wood is still soaked. Use a moisture meter to test multiple areas:

  • Ideal moisture for wood is 6-8%.
  • Water damaged wood will read from the mid-teens up past 30%.
  • Mark down highest readings to identify wettest areas for drying priority.

Tracking this also shows if drying efforts are working over time.

Evaluating Damage Severity

With assessment data, determine how severely the wood is damaged:

  • Surface-level only – cracks, warping, and delamination but integrity is still good overall.
  • Partial rotting or mold – deeper damage but still salvageable.
  • Extensive rot and delamination – wood may be too far gone for repair.

This helps formulate the game plan.

Drying Out the Wood

The most important step is thoroughly drying water soaked wood before attempting repairs.

Extract Free Water

First, extract pooled or easily removed water from the wood’s surface and cavities:

  • Wipe wet surfaces with dry cloths.
  • Place wood on edge to let gravity draw out moisture.
  • Use absorbents like paper towels or desiccant packs.
  • Carefully pry apart layered products to remove trapped moisture.

This eliminates free water to help drying.

Accelerate Drying Conditions

To fully dry out the wood’s interior, the right environmental conditions are key:

  • Move wood to a dry, covered area if possible.
  • Use fans, heaters, and dehumidifiers nearby to circulate dry air.
  • Ideally temperature should be between 70-80°F.
  • Humidity should be reduced below 50% if possible.
  • Continue circulating dry air for 1-2+ weeks.
  • Periodically check moisture meter levels until stabilized.

Proper conditions prevent further water damage and mold growth during the drying phase.

Prioritize Severely Soaked Areas

If some areas are extremely wet, take additional steps:

  • Further pry apart layered wood products to expose wet inner areas.
  • Place susceptible wood pieces outdoors on sunny days for quicker solar drying.
  • Use moisture absorbers packed into drilled holes in dense wood.
  • As sections adequately dry, replace absorbers with tight fitting wood plugs.

Targeting drying helps prevent rot and saves the most damaged areas.

Repairing Water Damaged Surfaces

Once thoroughly dried, a variety of repairs can be made depending on the types of defects:

Filling Cracks and Holes

Smaller cracks, checks, holes, and losses in integrity:

  • Fix with flexible epoxy formulated for wood repairs.
  • Remove any rotted wood material first before filling gaps.
  • Ensure areas to fill are cleaned out and fully dry.
  • Inject epoxy into cracks and voids according to product instructions.
  • Make multiple passes allowing each coat to fully cure.
  • Sand flush when fully hard to blend with surrounding surface.

This returns strength and aesthetic appearance.

Rejoining Separated Layers

For delaminated plywood, OSB, and other layered products:

  • Using waterproof wood glue, rejoin any loose or detached plies.
  • Ensure mating surfaces are flat, clean, and spread with adhesive.
  • Clamp layers for 12-24 hours allowing glue to fully set.
  • Route shallow channels across seams and fill with flexible epoxy.
  • Sand out any protruding glue once dry.

Gluing restores integrity and strength across layers.

Refinishing Exposed Bare Wood

In repaired areas with damaged finish or exposed raw wood:

  • Sand exposed natural wood lightly to remove scratches, mask repairs, and prep for refinishing.
  • Wipe away all sanding dust completely using a tack cloth.
  • Apply new water-resistant finish coat suited to the wood type.
  • Allow full cure time before additional coats.
  • Add protective coats until surface matches sheen of surrounding area.

This brings repaired sections flush with the existing look and feel.

Reinforcing Warped Areas

In sections with deformation, warping, or twisting:

  • Attach bracing boards and struts to flatten boards against true.
  • Use ratchet straps, pipe clamps, or wooden battens to draw wood straight.
  • Apply even clamping pressure across entire board.
  • Leave reinforcement until wood dries and holds restored shape.
  • Remove bracing and finish surface as needed.

Bracing pulls warped wood back into form.

Replacing Rotted or Moldy Sections

For wood too damaged from rot, mold, or delamination to repair:

Cutting Out Bad Sections

First mark boundaries and cut away all decayed and contaminated wood:

  • Trace outline 2″ beyond any rot or mold to ensure full removal.
  • Make precision cuts just inside lines using a jigsaw or circular saw.
  • Remove cutout section completely.
  • Further inspect hidden areas and cut more away if needed.

This eliminates rot and contamination sources.

Fabricating New Sections

To patch openings, fabricate replacement pieces:

  • Trace outline of the opening onto new exterior grade plywood.
  • Cut patch to shape with jigsaw and test fit.
  • Adjust as needed for tight seamless fit when installed.
  • Match thickness or router edge to butt flush against surrounding surface.

Custom fitting maintains structural strength and visual continuity.

Securing Patches

Adhere new sections into the openings:

  • Ensure mating surfaces are clean, dry, and flat.
  • Spread waterproof adhesive evenly on joining faces.
  • Set patches in place pressing firmly for maximum adhesion.
  • Have helper hold or clamp patch tight as glue sets.
  • Use nails or screws for extra hold on some patches if feasible.
  • Route cracks and fill for invisible patch lines when dry.

Proper adhesion makes repairs strong and permanent.

Matching Finishes

To help replacement patches blend better visually:

  • Once glue fully cured, sand patches even with surrounding area.
  • Carefully feather out edges for smooth transitions between old and new wood.
  • Stain patches to approximate color of existing finish. May take more than one application.
  • Apply finish coats to match old for consistent texture and sheen.

This helps patches disappear seamlessly into original surfaces.

Preventing Future Water Damage

After all repairs finally complete, take measures to protect wood from getting water damaged again:

  • On exterior wood, renew protective paints and stains.
  • Improve drainage, grading, gutters to divert rainwater away.
  • Install vapor barriers behind wood in contact with wetness risks.
  • Insulate or ventilate moisture prone areas.
  • Direct splash prone sources like hoses or pipes away from wood.
  • Address leaks promptly and thoroughly without allowing wood to remain wet.

With some planning and care, water damage can often be prevented going forward.

In Closing

Properly drying, repairing, and restoring water damaged wood takes patience but is very doable in most situations. With the above step-by-step guidance, you can tackle the issues methodically. Taking things slow and steady, you can salvage wood back to normal condition or near new again. Just be thorough in assessments and repairs, persistent in drying wood fully, and take measures afterwards to prevent repeats. With this approach, water damaged wood doesn’t have to be the end of the line.

Contact Southeast Water Restoration to help you with your water damage problems!