Buckled Hardwood Floors? What to do when your floors buckle

Believe it or not buckled floors are probably more common that you think.  The reason is simple.  Since wood is organic in nature, they respond to weather conditions like dry climates and humid climates by expanding and retracting.  If there is no room for the planks or boards to expand, then buckling occurs.  Provided that the buckled floors weren't the direct cause of a shoddy installation or there isn't any water damage, there are some things that you can do to prevent your floors from buckling which we will get into a little later.  For now, let's examine why hard wood flooring will buckle in the first place.

My hardwood floors buckled right after installation

Typically, if your hardwood floors buckled and there are no signs of flooding, then there are three likely culprits.

  1. Whoever installed your floor didn't allow enough room in the expansion gaps.
  2. High Humidity in the subfloor can also cause the wood to pull away from the subfloor when expanding.  You, or whoever installed the floor didn't use a moisture meter to determine the amount of moisture on the subfloor.  Moisture and water are wood's number one enemy.  In the cases of high humidity, you could simply run an air conditioner in the home for a couple days.  In the case of a dry air, you will risk the wood cracking.  Heat will help.  An insullation layer should be laid between the wood and the subfloor which acts like a vapor retarder
  3. The flooring was installed on a subfloor that is not level.- The subfloor must be level before you install the floors.  If, after you pull up the carpet, the floor has a lot of peaks and valleys, you can add roofing felt to level the floors.  I know of some contractors that will use sand or a self leveling floor flat that will directly over the subfloor.

My house flooded and my wood floors buckled

When water gets on wood flooring what happens is they expand.  When they have no more room to expand, the planks or rows will actually life from the subfloor.  This is otherwise known as "tenting".  In extreme cases, some of the wood planks could separate from the fasteners. 

The wider the planks, the more likely the floors will have cupping problems

Most floors in homes that have solid hardwood use narrow planks.  This is not only an aethetic issue but also the wider that the planks are, the more chances they will have to expand which can cause cupping issues.  Cupping issues are more common with solid wood and less common with engineered.

How do you repair a floor that has buckled or is cupping?

The first thing you need to do is identify why your floors have buckled.  Was it something that could have been prevented before the install?  Barring flooding, it probably is.  If the wood is wet, it should be dried thoroughly and you need to correct whatever problem caused it.

Will I have to start all over?

In most cases, you can usually forgo removing the entire floor and instead rip cut some of the wood planks to make them smaller.  The problem obviously with this is you will likely need to hire a professional to have it done for you as this is not a small job.  Make sure that they do a moisture reading on your floors to prevent your floors from buckling again as a preventative measure.

If you didn't install the floors yourself, typically reputable flooring contractors will give a warranty on their work and you should be able to have them come back and correct the problem for you.

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festersporling1 profile image

festersporling1 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

I put mine in last year and no buckling, but this is solid info.

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