Snow, Ice, and Water Damaged Floors

After a couple of weeks of nasty winter storms, the novelty of snow and ice is quickly wearing off on us born-and-bred Southerners! Yet tonight the temperature is dropping once more and everyone is preparing for several more inches of the white stuff. We've had numerous consultations lately about water damaged floors, which might seem surprising considering Nashville hasn't had any flooding. The culprit has been ice dams, which aren't nearly as obvious as several feet of water coming through your door but can be just as damaging and costly.

To put it very simply, an ice dam forms when snow and ice melt on a roof but has nowhere to escape; the water becomes trapped by ice that has not yet melted and pools, eventually seeping into the ceiling and possibly into the interior walls. It can then spread from there to the floors. Here's a visual for you, which probably explains it much better than I can:

Some homeowners' floors have been damaged this way, but many of them have been damaged by ice dams that form against the bottom of the exterior walls. They form in the same exact way; they simply happen on the ground. The heat from the home warms the snow and ice closest to it, but when it turns into water surrounding ice prevents it from draining.

These ice dams in particular wreak havoc on hardwood floors, because the water reaches them much more easily than those that form on roofs, where ceiling and wall damage is more common.

What Kind of Damage Can Ice Dams Cause to Hardwood Floors?

As you well know, water and wood don't mix. Unless a home is unoccupied, water will usually not sit on a hardwood floor long enough to cause mold or mildew to form. Homeowners will first notice their hardwood floors have cupped or even buckled due to water damage. Cupping occurs when the sides of each floorboard are higher than the middle, as seen in the photo below. Sometimes simply drying the floor thoroughly can return the floorboards to their proper level. If needed, cupped floorboards can also be sanded to make them smooth and even again, depending on their top wear layer. If done when the floors are not completely dry, however, this can cause the opposite problem, where the sides are lower than the middle. That's why it's important to take the time to repair a floor properly! (Or hire Southern Oaks Flooring to do it for you...)

Ice dams can also cause floors to buckle, which occurs when boards completely detach from the subfloor. When a hardwood floor has buckled, water has permanently changed the dimensions of the boards, which means they have to be replaced instead of repaired.

Water damage can come in the form of discoloration, as well. This usually occurs in areas that are less visible, like under furniture or less used areas of a room. If water pools around nails, they can oxidize and increase the rate of discoloration. In this case, the water has permanently stained the wood and, as with buckling, it's necessary to completely replace the floorboards.

How Can I Prevent Ice Dams from Damaging My Hardwood Floors?

Move to the beach.

But then you'd have to deal with hurricanes. As someone who lived an hour from the beach and had to wash my hair in a swimming pool during Hurricane Katrina, I can advise you that those aren't that much fun either.

The best thing to do is to move the ice and snow. If you see piles of it on your roof or on the ground around the exterior of your home, break out the rake, shovel, or whatever else you can find to break it up and allow the snow and ice that melts to be able to drain. If you do notice water on your floors dry it immediately with towels and continue to dry it with fans.

If you see water damage of any kind, notify your insurance company and contact us if you live in Brentwood, Nashville, or the surrounding area. We'll inspect the floor, tell you how it needs to be fixed, and give you an accurate estimate of the cost (all for free.)

So there you have it. Lesson learned? Don't move to Minnesota. ;)

To schedule a free consultation call 615-416-9039 or email

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