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Do I really need to replace my floor?

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My hardwood floor was flooded for about 18 hours during Hurricane Sandy. It is slightly warped, but if not for mold, I'd never spend the $'s to replace it.

We removed a piece of floor and the board underneath. The latter had some small dark spots on the top which disappeared when sprayed with mold remover.

I'd like to just test the air for mold, and if no mold was present, leave the floor alone. But your forum doesn't seem to think much of these tests.

Must we replace the hardwood floor? What about the tiled bathroom floors?

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We need more info. I imagine this a basement floor or a slab, so the floor is not accessible from below?

You say you removed some of the hardwood and some of the subfloor? What is under the subfloor? Is there a membrane or some other layer between the subfloor and the hardwood? Is it solid hardwood, engineered or laminated?

The challenge will be to dry the floor out completely. If the wood is dry, you will not have any mold growth. Same goes for your tile floor. If the tiles are on a concrete floor, no problem, but if there is wood under there, it needs to be dried out somehow. You may have to remove a tile or two to actually see what's up. A mold sample of the surrounding air tells you nothing.

If the hardwood floor is nailed or glued down, trying to remove it will destroy most of it. But this might be necessary to get the moisture out from under it.

There are engineered flooring products that snap together without glue of nails. If you have that, it can be taken up and relaid, which is something to consider if you end up replacing the wood floor.

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If a hardwood floor was underwater for 18 hours, it's probably hooped.

Mold would be a secondary concern. The primary issue would be compression set. When pieces of wood flooring get wet, they attempt to expand. Since they're restrained in place, they can't expand very much so, instead, the wood fibers crush - becoming compressed. Subsequently, when the floor dries out, the wood tries to shrink back to its former size, but because the fibers were actually crushed, each board ends up being slightly narrower than it was before the flood. This is called "compression set." It results in gaps between the strips of flooring.

If your floor shows evidence of compression set, you really don't want to leave it in place. Without a tight fit at the tongue & groove joints, the boards will loosen, progressively, over time.

The wood is still usable. I've installed two floors with wood from flood-damaged buildings. A little care in the demo process yields perfectly usable flooring - it just has to be reinstalled to account for the compression set issue.

As for the mold, if any of the house's occupants are allergic to mold, it could be a very vexing problem because it's impossible to clean it without removing the floor. Killing the mold will do no good because people who are allergic to mold are just as allergic to it whether it's dead or alive. To fix a possible allergy problem, the mold would have to be removed. Remember that people can develop allergies and that, when you sell the house, buyers might have concerns about allergies.

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I've firsthand knowledge of cabinets, flooring and trim that survived flood waters that reached over the top of the roof. It's confined to components built long ago from old growth wood. If your floor finish is made of solid hardwood and it's old growth, maybe it'll be fine.

As for the mold, whether the immersion was 18 hours or 18 seconds doesn't make much difference. The place needs to be dried out within a matter of hours once the waters recede or mold growth will set in. If mold has already set in then you need to go through a demo/reconstruction cycle to reach places where you can't otherwise get to then remove the growth. If you don't do it, it's likely to always be a problem, one that only worsens with time.

I don't mock mold tests, just the half-twit inspectors who push it when the mold growth is in plain sight.


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