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Disclaimer: I'm waiting to get a professional expertise on this topic, but I'd really like some advice/opinions before then.

To make a long story short: clean water from a dehumidifier spilled on my kitchen floor (solid 3/4" hardwood, pre-varnished and nailed in) and leaked to the office below. It was about 6L (the capacity of the tank), and maximum 4 hours elapsed between the leak and it being discovered and mopped up (most of the water was still on the surface). Thermal imaging of the ceiling below showed a fairly large area of cold zones where water spread.

The offending dehumidifier was put downstairs immediately to try and dry the ceiling. A disaster recovery company was sent by my insurer and put commercial dehumidifiers (that turned out to be faulty so it did nothing). About 12 hours after the spill, thermal imaging showed cold spots only along the side of the gypsum board and at a few spots at regular intervals (where they join up maybe?). Within 24 hours we can barely see anything with the thermal camera, just faint lines at the side of the gypsum board, which are gone by the next day. I've been taking humidity measurement starting from about 48 hours after the incident, and the 2x4 are at about 6% humidity, the subfloor was at 8% at its highest, 4% at its lowest. The top of the hardwood is about 5-7% in non affected areas, 9-10% in the vast majority of the affected areas with two small spots at 16-18% and one small one at 26% (this is around 96 hours post incident). These high humidity areas are each about 4 inches square max, at the junction between two boards.

That company my insurance sent says we have to rip out the entire hardwood floor on the whole first story because maybe a dozen planks are slightly damaged (raised wood grain at the ends, no cupping really).

I have replacement planks from when the floor was built, a few years ago. The floor manufacturer has instructions for replacing single boards. The subfloor seems to be in good shape and has been dry for a while now. What could possibly justify ripping out the entire wooden floor on the whole first story of the house? Is there something I'm missing here? I can understand ripping out a small area where it was wetter, replacing some of the sub floor there maybe, and of course replacing the drywall ceiling in the room below, but I can't wrap my head around needing to remove everything and gut my entire first story flooring. I was thinking they could just cut the drywall to one of the walls to access the side of the flooring and remove, replace from there on the affected section.

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  • The problem might be in matching the new to the old. Almost any stuff if patched with the same new stuff will stand out as a patch. If people are lucky, the patch can be hidden under furniture/pictures on a wall or as a design(a hole/mark on a counter changed to a wooden pot holder). Even replacing the damage boards with boards you have left over, there will be a difference, maybe minor enough for you to live with, maybe not.
    – crip659
    Jul 4, 2023 at 17:56
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    Leave it alone for a month, let the wood dry completely. It will take a while so all the trapped moisture between the layers of subfloor and finished floor are dry. Once it returns to its original moisture content it will shrink and flatten out. Patience is important here. The only other thing maybe to concern it the protection of the raised edges of flooring that may wear more quickly, since corner are prone to do so. You floor has the best chance of recovery since it is not the newer floating floors made of MDF centers
    – Jack
    Jul 4, 2023 at 18:20
  • @crip659 That was my concern, but I actually pulled out one of the spare pieces I have and it looks exactly like the installed floor). Assuming no damage was done to the subfloor (to be confirmed by the experts) any other reason we can't use spare boards to replace a limited area?
    – Bee
    Jul 4, 2023 at 18:23
  • If the spares match, then you are lucky. Surface finishes usually do fade/yellow/collect dirt a bit over time which makes matching hard @Jack comment seems to be the best for now.
    – crip659
    Jul 4, 2023 at 18:45
  • I suppose the issue will be whether or not you have enough spares.
    – Huesmann
    Jul 5, 2023 at 13:06

1 Answer 1

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If the company sent to evaluate the project works for the insurer, as in their interests are aligned with those of the insurer, then the decision to change the whole floor probably comes from the experience of customers complaining about the new patch not matching. It's impossible to perfectly match old and new hardwood floors. Even new floors will differ from one batch to the next, so installers will mix several boxes before installing, to make sure the differences are blended into the final install. So the insurance company might have a policy of not patching floors to avoid the callback. In that case, you might get them to do the patching by specifically requesting it and putting it in writing and waiving your right to complain. Because homeowners so often say "I'll be OK with it" and then are not "Ok with it" once they see the results (ask me how I know), the insurance company might insist.

If the company making the evaluation is the one profiting from the install, well, the answer is obvious.

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  • That actually makes a lot of sense that they'd just go with the whole remodel by default because people don't like patched up things and complain, and in 99% of cases I'd be thinking the same thing. But to me the hassle of moving out of the house for god knows how long to change the floors, when I have materials that match seamlessly already, makes no sense. They "might" be profiting from the install as they are on the list of approved disaster rebuilding company of the insurer, but there's no obligation for me to hire them for that portion of the work.
    – Bee
    Jul 4, 2023 at 19:03
  • I'm with you: I'd rather have a patched floor than move out for a week. It could also be that from the experience of the estimator, people prefer the company that suggests replacing the whole floor, since the insurance company is paying anyway.
    – Cheery
    Jul 4, 2023 at 19:07

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