Remodeling the bathroom may seem like a fun project, a way to finally create the luxury space you’ve always wanted in your home — but what if you find out you need to replace the bathroom sink or uproot the floors due to water damage? Is there anything less exciting than dealing with bathroom floor damage and trying to figure out what to do? While nobody wants to deal with rotted subfloors, the good news is that as long as you have to fix water damage, you may as well take advantage of the opportunity to update your bath. Now is the perfect time to remodel.
Signs You Have Water Damage
Even if you haven’t seen water damage yet, there are several warning signs that could clue you in to a problem. If you’ve noticed any of the following in your bathroom, there’s a good possibility you have water damage lurking somewhere in the space:
- Musty smell
- Recurring mold and mildew
- Warped walls
- Spongy, soft floor
- Gaps in caulk, tile or tub
Whether you’re reaping the consequences of a leaky toilet, a leaky faucet, an overfilled bathtub or whole-house flooding from years ago, when you discover water damage, what do you need to know? How can you tackle the water damage in bathroom spaces in order to handle things properly? To help answer these questions and give you a clear, accurate guide to fixing your floors, here’s a look at tools you’ll need, steps to take, and a few extra tips to keep in mind when you’re tackling water-damaged bathroom flooring.
Tools to Gather
You’re going to need some specific tools to fix your flooring. Before doing anything else, gather the following items:
- Leather gloves, eye protection and a dust mask
- Pry bar
- Pencil and straightedge
- Carpenter’s square
- Repair ring or repair plate for toilet (if applicable)
- Cat’s paw and hammer
- Drill and No. 2 Philips drill bit
- Circular saw
- Galvanized nails
- Replacement wood joists (if applicable)
- Tape measure
- Construction adhesive
- 2-inch wood screws
- 5/8-inch plywood
- Floor leveling compound
- Belt sander
Steps to Take to Fix the Floors
To tackle water-damaged floors, here is what you’ll need to do:
- Turn off the water. Close the main water valve so you can prevent any more water from coming into the room as you work.
- Prep the area. To protect yourself during demolition, put on leather gloves, eye protection and a dust mask. Start by removing anything sitting on top of the damaged floors — cabinets, the toilet, etc. — so you have an open area in which to work. Next, use a pry bar to remove any protruding nails, the floor’s baseboards and as much of the floor area as needs to be replaced. If the damage is in a localized area, you can just remove that flooring; if it’s more widespread, you may need to remove the entire flooring in the room.
- Inspect the area. Take a look at the floor joists and figure out which ones are on either side of the water-damaged area. Use a pencil and a straightedge to draw a line through the middle of each neighboring joist, and use a carpenter’s square to connect those lines, creating a clear, rectangular area of damage. Also take a look at the toilet flange — is it corroded? If so, you’ll need a repair ring before you can reset the toilet. During your repairs, you can just block the flange with a rag.
- Remove damages. Focusing on the rectangle of damage, use a cat’s paw and hammer to pull out fasteners or a drill with a No. 2 Philips bit to remove screws. If the damage is around the toilet area, use a jigsaw to cut a circle around the flange. Use the circular saw to cut along the lines that form the rectangle, overcutting the corners and lift out this area. Use a handsaw to cut the circular section you’ve penciled in.
- Give time for area to dry. If the joists are wet, ventilate the area and give them a few days to dry thoroughly.
- Reinforce the joists. Using wood in similar dimensions to the existing joists, nail new wood over the rotted areas, making sure each end is on top of good wood.
- Cover the gap. Measure the specific dimensions of your rectangular area, and cut plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) to cover it, putting in notches for the flange pipe if needed. Set this new material in place with 2-inch wood screws, leaving a 1/8-inch gap between the new and existing flooring. Use floor compound to fill that gap, level out unevenness, and sand the area with a belt sander if necessary.
Extra Tips to Remember
- For mold: In cases where you encounter mold in the flooring, you’ll need to respond to this before moving forward. Try a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water, bleach, or a combination of borax and water to treat the mold.
- In extreme cases: You may need more extreme responses when damage is especially significant. In these cases, it’s best to speak with a professional.
Is there anything less exciting than dealing with bathroom floor damage and trying to figure out what to do?
While nobody wants to deal with rotted subfloors, the good news is that as long as you have to fix water damage, you may as well take advantage of the opportunity to update your bath. Now is the perfect time to remodel.