How To Tell If Wood Is Badly Damaged By Water: 3 Signs

You don’t have to be an expert to know how to tell if wood is badly damaged by water. There are a few signs that you can watch out for to recognize if you have the said problem. First, let us discuss what happens when wood comes in contact with water.


how to tell if wood is badly damaged by water

What Happens When Wood Gets Wet?

The wood itself is not waterproof, but there are available treatments that can help it withstand elements that can potentially ruin it. As a natural material, wood is highly susceptible to rot if exposed to excessive moisture. It can break down over time, develop molds, and even foster termites in worst cases.


Water Damage On Different Types Of Wood

Depending on the type of wood, water can have different effects on each of them. They have individual characteristics and conditions that influence these variations. Sealing them with proper treatments can prevent such distress.

To understand more about them, here are the distinct reactions of the types of wood when it comes to water:



Water damage in hardwoods often comes off as staining and discoloration. In some cases, you will also notice lifting floorboards and the nails that hold them down. It is not a pretty sight at all and can eventually spread to the nearby planks.

Several kinds of hardwood are often used in house constructions and furniture, such as:


1. Mahogany

Mahogany is a pretty durable wood. It works well against water, which is why this is the kind of wood chosen for most boats.

It does not shrink and swell quickly. However, it tends to be expensive due to its toughness and gorgeous reddish-brown brown color.


2. Maple

Maple is perhaps among the common types of wood used in flooring. When exposed to water, it can have moderate reactions like shrinking and swelling.


3. Teak

Teak is an excellent wood for construction such as indoors, flooring, and shipbuilding. It stands up well from moisture and does not develop cracking, decay, and warping quickly.



Softwood doesn’t have that much difference when it comes to water damage in comparison to hardwood. They are more on the lighter side and also cheaper to use in flooring and other furniture.

Some of the softwoods are:


1. Spruce

Spruce is a solid and durable wood. Although it has excellent resistance from water damage, it can still experience some shrinkage when exposed to water.


2. Cedar

Similar to spruce, cedar can also experience some swelling and moderate shrinking upon constant contact with water. However, this wood is still excellent for fence posts, furniture, and even docks planks.


Recognizing Initial Signs Of Wood Damage Caused By Water

If you suspect that the woodwork in your home might be suffering from water damage, these are the signs that can help you confirm the situation:



Notice if the planks have raised edges. This suggests that there is moisture underneath the surface that might be damaging the wood.


Dark spots

This sign can be tricky. Wood has natural patterns and grains, but watch out for dark spots similar to mildew and mold.

You can easily clean it through wiping, but it is essential to check for deep-seated spotting. It might even require to be resealed so the damage won’t get worse.



If the wood gets wet more than it should be, it can develop warps or bulges that show on the surface. In most cases, this damage needs complete replacement on the affected planks.


How Long Does Water Damage Show On Wood

Within 2 hours to 7 days after the wood comes in contact with water and moisture, the mold will grow and eventually spread to the nearby areas. The flooring can also start to warp and swell, given that the wood has absorbed the water.

In some cases, chemical contamination that can harm people can develop in these situations. It’s necessary to respond immediately because water can retain the material for days through natural drying. You can use dehumidifiers and even a vacuum to promote ventilation.


How To Fix Water Damaged Wood

If you plan to fix your damaged wood boards by yourself, here is a brief guide of what you can do.

Step #1. Make sure to get rid of the water and moisture on the area you wish to fix using a mop and dry cloths. Put away wet rugs and other damp materials that have contact with wood. If there is a leaking pipe, be sure to fix it first before improving the boards.

Step #2. To ensure that the area is not contaminated, use a disinfectant and clean cloth to remove molds and mildew.

Step #3. Dry the wood. There are techniques that you can do to speed up the drying process. You can leave the dears and windows open for the air to circulate well.

Other tools that you can use are a vacuum and dehumidifier to remove the moisture in the room. It can take hours to several days before the wood is completely dry, so you must be patient. Do not use heaters, dryers, or anything that can induce direct heat to the wood because it will only trigger cracking and worsen the situation of the wood.

Step #4. If there are occurrences of cupping and crowning, sand the raised edges until it is level with the rest of the wood board. Reseal it using varnish and treatments with a color that matches the rest of the area.



There are no special tools needed to know how to tell if wood is badly damaged by water. By simply recognizing the initial signs, you can immediately figure out what you can do to save the woods in your homes. Failure to fix the problem as soon as possible can only intensify the existing problem.

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