buckling cupping gym floor

Gym Floor Buckling and Cupping from Water Damage: How to Fix it

Is your hardwood gym floor bumpy, lumpy, and looking worse for wear? Here’s how to identify gym floor buckling and cupping from water damage and how to fix it.
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Hardwood is a popular choice for both residential and commercial flooring. In gymnasiums, the hardwood floor is usually made out of maple, a hardy and robust wood that’s not only durable but beautiful, too. Unfortunately, though, hardwood floors are sensitive to moisture and humidity. In the Northeastern part of the U.S., 2018 and 2019 were record-breaking summers for heat and high humidity. Excessive humidity, heat, and flooding can do a number on hardwood and gym floors.

If your gym floors are looking a little worse for wear thanks to water damage, we can repair and restore them to their former glory. Contact us at J & J Gym Floors for a free estimate.

What are the most common causes of gym floor buckling and cupping?

Changes in humidity and to a lesser extent, the temperature can cause problems with a hardwood floor’s integrity and appearance. In general, the moisture content of the wood causes it to expand and contract. Wood, including the planks that make up the wood flooring in a gymnasium, absorbs and expels moisture depending on the humidity levels and temperature of the surrounding air. On a hot, humid day, the wood will absorb more moisture and expand. Once the humidity levels off and temperatures cool, moisture in the wood is absorbed into the atmosphere. The wood contracts as it dries. In the wintertime, it’s not uncommon to see tiny spaces between wood planks.

Wild swings in temperature and humidity can cause severe issues with a gym floor. If the floor floods, then it can become warped and cracked. If your gym floors are buckling and cupping, water is usually the culprit. Either a flood, high heat, and humidity, or a drastic swing in temperatures and moisture content in the wood itself are to blame for problems with the wood’s appearance.

What is gym floor buckling, and how does it happen?

Have you noticed that a part of your wood floor is slightly raised? This is called “buckling,” and it happens when part of the wood pulls apart from the subfloor underneath, giving the area a raised, mounded appearance. In severe cases of wood floor buckling, the wood can rise several inches.

Buckling is considered an extreme reaction to moisture. It is unlikely to occur when the humidity is high during the summer months, although in rare cases, humidity and dampness can lead to buckling. Water damage, such as flooding, leaks, and spills, is usually to blame for instances of gym floor buckling. Buckling is far more likely to happen if a wood floor is left submerged in water for an extended period. But in some instances, wood floor buckling occurs because of installation issues, such as:

  • Incorrect nailing practices
  • Using the wrong nails for the floor
  • Improper construction of the subfloor
  • Not using a vapor or moisture barrier during installation
  • Incorrect mastics
  • Incorrect mastic transfer
  • Subfloor separation issues
  • Subfloor contamination

Gymnasium and hardwood floor owners may fear that a buckled floor needs completely replaced. But in many cases, it’s possible to repair a buckled gym floor instead of tearing out the construction and starting anew.

What is gym floor cupping?

Excessive moisture and water can cause another issue with hardwood gym floors – cupping. Cupping happens when the floorboards absorb moisture from the surrounding air, either above the hardwood floor or beneath it in the subfloor. With gymnasium floors, the top part of the wood plank is coated and sealed. So usually, cupping is the result of moisture coming in from the underside of the floor, which causes the bottom part of the plank to expand. In a cupped gym floor, the sides and edges of the boards will curl upwards, while the center of the board will remain at a normal, low level. Cupping gives the board a “U” shaped appearance.

Minor cupping usually isn’t anything to worry about, and it’s common in locations that experience humid summers and dry winters. In these cases, the cupping will go away on its own as the temperature levels off, and humidity goes down. But severe cupping indicates a serious structural problem. It will need to be addressed to keep the wood floor healthy and pristine.

How do you repair a water damaged gym floor?

When it comes to water damage, no matter what type of flooring is in danger, the first step is to dry out the floor completely. Repairs can’t begin until the floor is completely dry, and the source of the water damage has been identified and fixed.

A wet vacuum works wonders for cleaning up large pools of water. The next step after using the wet vac is to put dehumidifiers and fans in the gymnasium for at least a few days. This should help clear up any remaining moisture and help air out the wood planks. Running dehumidifiers will also help to prevent mold from growing.

Damaged Gym Floors: A Takeaway Message

Water and wood floors simply do not mix. When water damage isn’t dealt with right away, a gym floor may need to be replaced entirely, and mold can start to grow. Quickly tending to a flooded basketball court or gym can stop severe damage from occurring. Lucky gym owners may only be left with minor cupping that dissipates on its own after a time. But for severe cases of water damage and flooding, you’ll need to contact an experienced gym floor repairer.

Over the past 20 years, J & J Gym Floors has repaired and replaced hundreds of gym floors. As a full-service gym floor contractor, we specialize in repairing basketball courts that have this very problem—cupping and buckling from water damage and moisture issues.

Gym wood floors require the care and experience you can count on from J&J Gym Floors. We have the know-how and equipment to handle just about any type of basketball court flooring damage. We can turn your damaged hardwood floor into a gym floor your team will be proud to play on. If you have any signs of water damage on your hardwood floor, call us right away before the problem gets worse.