Skip to content

Wet Wood – Water Damage Risks After a Leak

When carrying out local water leak detection services and water damage management services too, we frequently come across wet wood which has been exposed to the water from a leak, or associated damp issues.

In this article we’ll review a test we did which simulated a water leak coming into contact with engineered wood, including Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF), standard chipboard and laminated chipboard. This test was carried out to see how, once they became wet wood, what it did to the materials when wet and dry.

These types of materials are frequently found in modern properties, including in flooring and many types of furniture too – including in bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms. In fact, when people have a leak under kitchen sinks in their property, often visibly wet wood on nearby units alerts them.

Wet Wood - Leak
Wet Wood – Leak or Damp

Wet Wood – Water Damage Tested

In order to carry out this test, we took the three (equally sized) samples of wood and stood them in 1.5cm of water for 24 hours, measuring them before, immediately after when it was wet wood and and after drying. This would allow us to see what water damage was caused by the wet wood from a leak.

Here is the short video explaining the details of the test from our YouTube Channel:

As you can see from the image below, even though they were only in 1.5cm of water and just for 24 hours, all the samples of wet wood absorbed water up to about 5cm or 2 inches. That said, as you will see later, the impact on the dimensions of each sample of wood varied quite significantly.

Wet Wood - Damage
Wet Wood – Water Damage

Water Damage Scale on the Wet Wood

The chart below shows the dimensions of the dry wood, wet wood and dried wood for all 3 types.

Wet Wood - Expansion
Wet Wood – Expansion When Wet

As you can see, the MDF increased in width most significantly by +25%, in comparison the chipboard increased +14% and the laminated chipboard by +20%. That said, the MDF after drying was +8%, the chipboard +10% and laminated chipboard (often seen in flat pack furniture – such as wardrobes, cupboards and cabinets) was +12%

All the samples, even after drying were, on average, 10% larger than before being wet wood.

Water Damage – MDF

You can see below the three dimensions of MDF wood:

  • 18.1mm at the start
  • 22.4mm when wet wood
  • 19.5mm after drying the MDF

MDF Wet Wood
MDF Wet Wood – Expansion

The MDF wood was noticeably water damaged and deformed / expanded when becoming wet wood and, even after drying was misshapen significantly. MDF is often used within properties for flooring and furniture etc and after coming into contact with water, rarely returns to normal.

In the water damage industry this would likely be what we call ‘BER’ which means water damaged Beyond Economic Repair. This means that, most likely, it would cost more to repair than the object is worth. On the topic of repairs, see our guide to water leak repair services and the best steps to repair leaks.

Water Damage – Chipboard

You can see below the three dimensions of chipboard wood:

  • 18.3mm at the start
  • 20.9mm when wet wood
  • 20.1mm after drying the MDF
Chipboard Wet Wood
Chipboard – Wet Wood Expansion

Like the MDF the chipboard (not to be confused with OSB – Oriented Strand Board) was visibly damaged and misshapen. The wet wood became deformed and changed it’s structure as the water caused expansion and movement in the particles / fibres within the wood.

Chipboard is commonly found in flooring and this test helps to show why, when it comes into contact with water from a leak, damp or flood damage, it becomes warped and damaged from the movement. This can almost never be rectified without replacing the floor with new wood.

Water Damage – Laminated Chipboard

You can see below the three dimensions of chipboard wood:

  • 19.6mm at the start
  • 23.6mm when wet wood
  • 21.9mm after drying the MDF
Laminated Chipboard Wet Wood
Laminated Chipboard – Wet Wood Expansion

Interestingly, the laminated chipboard was the one which was deformed the most even after drying. This is not surprising to us, as when we see things like wardrobes, cabinets, chests of drawers etc made from this material that has been on a wet floor – the damage you can see is significant and almost always irreparable.

A good example can be seen in the image below from a wardrobe which was split because of the expansion from absorbing water from wet carpet, this cannot be fixed:

Wardrobe Wet Wood Split
Wardrobe Wet Wood – Split

Wet Engineered Wood Test – Conclusion

There are a number of interesting observations from carrying out this test:

  • Water damage can occur quickly
  • Even engineered wood can get damaged significantly
  • Even after drying, the water damage is still there
  • Especially in the changes to dimensions from expansion
  • Fixing these can be difficult and not really cost effective

We provide a number of water damage services, we can help you deal with this.

Damage to Wet Wood – Top Tip
“If you spot changes to your flooring, furniture or other fixtures and fittings in your house or business, you may have a water leak. This is especially the case when visible water staining, damp, cracks or movement can be seen. If you spot these, get help ASAP as further water damage can be caused. Plus it can be a hazard to safety.”

Leak Detection Team

On the subject of safety, as per our tip above, see our article about water damage safety at Christmas, which is a common time for things like wet wood to happen from winter water damage. Plus, once wood is wet, it can provide a fertile breeding ground for mould as you can see from the image below, so check out our article about Christmas mould where we mention wood.

Wet Wood Mould Growth
Wet Wood – Mould Growing

Wet wood cellulose provides a great environment for mould growth, providing both foot and water that mould requires to grow. Mould can grow very fast on wet wood, the same can be said for wet plaster.

Water Damaged Wet Wood – Other Useful Information

Here are a few similar articles related to this subject which you may find useful too:

If you have a water leak contact our friendly and experienced team for help.

Rainbow Restoration Leak Detection
Rainbow Restoration – Leak Detection

What do you call wood that is wet?

Leak Detection Logo - Small

Wet wood is wood with a higher than normal moisture content, which is often expressed as a percentage of what it is capable of holding. This means that when looking at the mass of the wet wood, the percentage of that made up of water is high vs normal conditions. Wood that measures as 100% basically means it is saturated wood. Wood that is wet, is generally referred to as ‘damp wood’.

How long does wet wood take to dry?

Leak Detection Logo - Small

How long that wet wood takes to dry will depend on a number of factors. Firstly, how wet the wood is – saturated wood will likely take longer to dry than damp wood. Secondly, what type of wood (and the dimensions of it) as some are more porous than others so they get quicker and dry quicker. Finally, the conditions of drying (including assisted drying) or weather conditions. As you would expect, wet wood will dry quicker in a dry summer than a wet winter.

What happens when wood gets wet?

Exactly what happens to wood will depend on the type of wood (for example hardwood and softwood may react differently), the amount of water they are exposed to, the type of water that affects them and how long they are exposed to. However, in a lot of cases when wood gets wet it will likely expand as it absorbs moisture into its fibres. This can cause cracking either at this stage, or as it dries. Wet wood can also be a productive breeding ground for mould to thrive too.

At Rainbow Restoration – York & Yorkshire Coast we are experts in Leak Detection, including business water leaks, so if you need help finding a water leak or getting your property back to normal after a water damage or a flood, get in touch with our friendly local team who will be happy to help you with this. We are based in York and help with water leak detection in York.

Leak Detection Logo
Leak Detection Logo