Hardwood floors were once the most popular type of flooring used in North American Homes. As we got deeper into the 20th Century, carpets, tile, linoleum and other types of laminate flooring became increasingly popular.
Now in the 21st Century hardwood floors are enjoying a vigorous renaissance. To the point that a lot of people are tearing out old floor coverings to reveal the hardwood floors that have been waiting for them. Not to mention newer homes that had them installed from day one.
Of course, for all their beauty, the cracks, spaces, and underlayment of hardwood floors can be prone to trapping materials. This is especially true of older hardwood floors that might have minor bows or gaps greater than a millimeter between the boards. When water finds its way into the cracks or down to the underlayment of the hardwood floors it can turn into a prime breeding ground for indoor mold spores.
In a case where the mold problem is severe, and the hardwood flooring is badly damaged by water or mold infestation you might have to completely remove the hardwood floor before installing a new one. If you find yourself staring at a problem like this, you can use the following information to help guide you through the process of removing mold from under your hardwood floors.
Step One: Take Safety Precautions
Anytime you disturb a mold colony it increases the risk of releasing additional spores and irritating mycotoxins into the surrounding air. If possible, try to seal off the room with the moldy hardwood floors with plastic and tape. Make sure to also cover or block any vents or heat registers to keep mold spores from migrating through your home to another room.
Also, make sure you are providing personal protection equipment to everyone who will be working in the mold-affected area. This means providing them with:
- A high-quality mask or respirator
- Eye protection
- Overalls and/or long sleeve clothing
- Head protection to help keep mold out of the hair
- Once you have the room seal
You should also offer shoe covers or instruct everyone to bring a separate pair of shoes. They should then change into a clean pair of shoes anytime they exit the room with the moldy hardwood floors.
Step Two: Clear Out The Room
All furnishings should be moved to another location. Preferably outside. Hard surface items can be wiped down with high-quality cleaning solutions to kill any surface mold spores. Throw rugs and upholstery items, as well as mold-affected woodwork, will likely need to be discarded in a commercial-grade dumpster.
Step Three: Remove The Hardwood Flooring
This is where the labor comes in. Start by carefully prying away the baseboards and any wall trim near the floor level. Then, pull up any transitional floor trim in the room.
At that point, you should be able to carefully remove all of the floorings in the room. The goal is to pry up as much hardwood flooring as possible. It is best to start at one edge of the room and pry up hardwood boards. If a section of the room is carpeted, make sure to also tear out the carpeting as well as the padding and any tack boards.
Step Four: Clean & Disinfect The Sub Floor
The mold living on the surface of the subfloor can have very deep microscopic roots. Especially if that mold has been allowed to live unchecked for a long period of time. If water has caused the subfloor to rot, or you are concerned that the mold penetration is too deep, you might need to completely rip out and replace the subfloor as well.
If the subfloor can be salvaged, then you should do your best to thoroughly clean, sanitize, and dry it before you even think about installing new hardwood flooring.
You can create a cleaning solution by carefully mixing 1 cup of borax with 1 gallon of water. Stir it together thoroughly in a large bucket. You can then use this solution to fill a spray bottle with the solution. This will give you the ability to work with small areas at a time.
To scrub the subfloor you can also dip a brush or broom into the borax solution, and then swab the liquid across the subfloor in overlapping circles or passes. You should then wait for at least 10 to 15 minutes to allow the solution time to saturate the mold. This will help kill active mold colonies down to their microscopic roots, while also making it very difficult for a disturbed colony to release spores into the surrounding air.
You can then mop up or absorb any lingering solution, before lightly scrubbing with the brush or broom aga. Then wait another five or ten minutes. By this point, the borax solution will have killed the mold and the scrubbing process will have loosened it for removal.
At this point, you should use a wet/dry shop vac with a HEPA filter to extract the water, borax solution, and the inert mold from the subfloor. You might have to go over the floor twice as it continues to dry.
Step Five: Dry The Cleaned Subfloor
Drying the cleaned and sanitized subfloor is absolutely critical and needs to be done before you even consider installing the new hardwood flooring. This might call for turning up the heat, placing a drying fan, or leaving a high-capacity dehumidifier running in the room for two to three days.
Once the floor is dry, you should consider applying a mold inhibitor to the subfloor. This ensures that any lingering traces of mold that might have escaped your cleaning attempts, won’t be able to spawn a new active colony.
Calling In The Professionals
A professional cleaning and mold remediation company like Building Services can help make the process of removing mold from under your hardwood floors easier. We have access to professional-grade cleaning products and personal protection equipment to do the job safely and effectively. You can trust that all mold-affected materials will be disposed of according to pertinent regulations.
Once the job is done our commercial water extraction and drying equipment can rapidly dry the treated room to help get you back to the job or install the new hardwood floor as soon as possible. If there are any liability or insurance concerns, we can even provide you with documentation to prove that the mold problem was professionally remediated.