What Causes Hardwood Floors to Warp, What You Can Do to Avoid It?

hardwood warping

There is nothing like luxurious hardwood flooring that can transform your home into a stunning showplace. It’s versatility, design, and natural charm can give your home a unique personality and style.

Hardwood floors with all its allure and style require a certain amount of care and maintenance. Hardwood floors are very durable, however, excess moisture is their worst enemy. Too much moisture or water accumulation can lead to hardwood warping, buckling, cupping, and crowning. It can be a nightmare for a proud and happy homeowner. However, in many cases, these problems can be resolved even you can manage it by yourself and they will look as good as new.

Here is everything you should know about the problems you can face and how you can handle them.

1. Issues You Can Have With Hardwood Floors

Moisture is the number one reason behind most of the problems with the hardwood floors. Wood expands and contracts naturally in different seasons. However, if this change is causing a change in the appearance of your floor, then it is time to be concerned. Here are some of the problems that can cause your beautiful hardwood floors to become de-shaped.

hardwood warping


Wood being a natural element responds to the changes in humidity and temperature. In humid and warm weather, wood will expand and in cold weather, it will contract. It is completely natural and there is nothing to worry about. However, if the temperature and humidity levels are extremely low and beyond the capability of its natural movement, it will start to crack.


When the edges of the wood become higher than its center, it is called cupping. When the wood absorbs the excess amount of water, it expands. Due to the compression, the boards will crush together causing the edges to deform. Normally, it is due to water, however, it can happen if the floor was not installed correctly.


It is the opposite of cupping. It happens when the center of the board becomes higher than its edges. Reasons are the same, excess moisture. If the floor is exposed to water for an extended period of time, moisture will saturate and cause crowning.


Buckling is the most extreme reaction of hardwood floor to moisture. In this situation, the wood floor pulls up several inches from the subfloor. This happens when the wood floor has been flooded for quite some time. However, it is not a common thing.

2. Causes

Hardwood floors biggest enemy is moisture. It plays a key part in every type of damage to your wood floor. Here are some of the visible and invisible ways moisture can damage your floors.

hardwood warping

Wood Subfloors

Determining moisture content is very critical during the installation of your wood floors. Floor installers must know the MC (moisture content) of the subfloor as well. You should test for moisture in different locations and a subfloor should have MC values less than 12 percent. If the readings are high, do not proceed with the installation. First, detect the source of moisture and rectify it.

Concrete Subfloors

Every flooring material is susceptible to failure if the moisture conditions are not properly maintained. Same goes with the concrete subfloors. If the slab has not been dried properly, moisture problems are almost guaranteed with the wood flooring.

Water Intrusion

Another big cause of hardwood floor damage is water leaks. If the water is able to get between the subfloor and flooring, it will cause serious problems. Leaking appliances, groundwater intrusion, or even condensation can introduce moisture to your flooring equation.

3. How to Fix

Every flooring material has its own setbacks. Problems do occur and there are ways to rectify them. In the case of hardwood flooring, there is a big advantage. You can do a lot of repairs by yourself. Let’s see how you can fix your issues with your hardwood floors.

hardwood warping

Dry the Floor First Completely

Drying the floor before any type of repair is a must. Run a dehumidifier in the room to remove excess humidity. You can run a fan in the basement to ventilate the underside of the floor. The floorboards will shrink as they dry. This is the best thing to happen before you start repairing your damaged floors. Now you can proceed with sanding and if there are only gaps, you can easily refill them with the proper filling material.


Cupping and crowning are natural responses to moisture absorption, and to some extent they are acceptable. However, if the situation is more serious, you can straighten your floors by sanding. Fix 20-grit sandpaper with a drum sander and run it diagonally across the floor. Always run the machine parallel to the grains as it will remove a large amount of material and can cause cross-grain scratches. Then smooth the surface with the finer paper to make it ready for refinishing. Similarly, smooth the edges using the same sandpaper to ensure uniformity in the appearance of the floor.

4. How to Avoid these Issues

Hardwood is a very durable flooring material and with proper maintenance, you can keep it for years. There are simple ways to keep your hardwood floor fresh and shiny.

hardwood warping

Wipe the Spills Immediately

Wood absorbs water quickly. So, it is very important to swipe any type of spills immediately. Excess water causes almost every type of deformity to your wood floors. It can cause mold to grow between the floorboards and subfloors.

Check for Leaks

Always keep an eye on the water leaks. Key spots to keep in check are the sinks, dishwashers, and washing machines. Best way to manage humidity is to install a dehumidifier. It will keep the area dry.

Cleaning Products

There are many cleaning products available for the hardwood floors. However, it is best to check with the manufacturer to decide on the best product. Otherwise, these products can cause scratches which will become a problem in the future.

Use Soft Buffing Pads

For best moisture-free buffing, use a soft dry buffing pad. It should be non-abrasive and suitable for buffing your wood floors. Don’t use water or any other cleaner, rather just wipe the dry pad in a circular motion and your floors will become shiny again.

Hardwood is the crown of flooring materials and it can transform your home entirely. Problems do happen, but you can manage them. A warp hardwood floor can be aggravating, however, you can handle it by following simple ways mentioned above.


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