Gym Floor Water Damage: Explained

Gym floor water damage is one of the many hardwood horrors that causes many headaches if left untreated. Untreated water damage results in poor safety and performance for your athletes. Not to mention the costly repairs hardwood floors require once warped and unusable.

It’s important for gym facility maintenance to understand the causes of gym floor water damage and how to manage it. Otherwise, they will have an expensive nightmare on their hands. In this article, QHF hopes to answer your questions about the causes, signs and management of water damage.

Main Causes of Water Damage

Water damage buckling under threshold.
  • Poor Maintenance
  • High Indoor Relative Humidity (HVAC)
  • Burst Pipes / Leaks
  • Natural Disasters: Floods / Freeze

Signs of Water Damage

Cupping and Crowning

Hardwood gym floor boards absorb and then release moisture naturally as they contract and expand. When boards absorb excessive levels of moisture cupping and/or crowning occurs.

Gym floor boards are unable to expand horizontally when water damage seeps into them. This leads to moisture levels at the bottom of the boards exceeding the top of the board. The board edges are forced upward- this is called “cupping”.  Inversely, “crowning” occurs when the moisture levels in the wood cause the boards to swell in the center.

Gym Floor Water Damage: Buckling
Water damaged racquetball court with extreme buckling.

Take Action Fast

If left unchecked for extended periods to water exposure, the gym wood floor will start to buckle. Buckling causes the hardwood flooring to pull up from the subfloor in big wooden waves.

Within several minutes, water can leak between the boards and spread all over an area under your hardwood floor. Again, water damaged floors will render your gym unsafe for play and in need of replacement.

Compression Set

“Compression set” occurs when cupping sets for a long period of time.  In other words, when flooring dries-out the cupping remains and compression sets in.  It is important to address cupping as soon it is noticed. Depending on the remaining thickness of water remaining, the compression set may not be able to be sanded out or the floor may be severely compromised by sanding.

Did you know?

Protect Your Floors with Annual Refinishing

Annual refinishing helps protect from minor water damage.  Minor spills have a harder time penetrating more layers of gym floor finish. Water can penetrate new floors with fewer coats of finish.

To read more about gym floor finish click here

Water Damage Management

Gym Floor Water Damage Repair Process

What To Do:

Upon finding water or water damage.
  1. Stop source of water
  2. Clean-up standing water
  3. Call professional floor repair company

Several techniques are used in order to effectively dry hardwood flooring. First, accurate monitoring and moisture data analysis determines which technique is best to remedy gym floor water damage. The proper instruments provide important indications of drying progress and equipment operation necessary for complete restoration.

One essential tool is a wood-penetrating moisture meter. This tool measures the moisture content of the wood during, and after restoration. Readings are taken at both the top and bottom portions of the wood planks. Thus, a constant analysis makes it possible to adapt and adjust drying techniques in order to properly restore the wood floor.

Why is drying required?

Wood expands when exposed to water and high levels of humidity and the moisture content of wood increases.  This causes the wood to become wider and possibly cup and buckle. As we stated above, if cupping is not stopped the wood will eventually buckle and raise from the sub-floor. 

A common mistake is to sand the cupping out of a floor. The water-damaged gym floor must be properly dried before sanding and refinishing. Otherwise the raised edges will be removed and the wood will be permanently damaged once it dries.

gym floor water damage cupping
Gym Floor Water Damage: Extreme Cupping

Desiccant Dehumidification

desiccant dehumidification machine
Desiccant Dehumidification System

Sometimes water damage can be removed with desiccant dehumidification. If the gym flooring system involves “sleepers” the desiccant dehumidification process returns wood to a naturally dry state with little to no sanding.

Desiccant dehumidification reduces moisture levels in the air by processing the moisture levels. Air from the water damaged region is passed through a silica gel rotor and then becomes dry. Extremely dry air “pulls” the moisture out of wet wood since it has a 5% relative humidity.

Keep inspecting your water damaged gym floor once excess water has been removed and wet boards are dried.  Water tries to escape and can seep into adjacent wood easily. Thus, continuously reading moisture levels is important throughout the drying process.

Gym Floor Replacement

Gym Floor Water Damage: Subfloor
Cutting away water damaged floor to discover underlying water.

While sanding may be able to address minor water-damage issues, it will not fix the worst damage. Plywood flooring systems will need to be cut out of the floor to be replaced. Usually, professional gym floor specialists will discover a larger spread of the water below the floor. The damage may be further spread than what was seen on the floor surface. This is why you’ll find gym floor repair pros cutting out further than the initial damage.

Gym floor professionals will reinstall subfloor systems and replace floor boards after ensuring proper moisture levels. New boards will be staggered into place to hide the repair lines that were cut out. Then the floor will be sanded, painted and finished to closely match the existing floor. Quality Hardwood Floors aims to return water-damaged gyms quickly so your gym floor is safe and athletes can return to play.

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