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should water damaged paneling be restored or replaced_1

Should Water Damaged Paneling be Restored or Replaced

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Causes for Warped Paneling

When considering to finish a basement homeowners have multiple options for wall coverings. Drywall, Knotty pine, paneling and even basement kits with fabric walls are available. The choice is usually whatever they feel would compliment their décor and be easy to maintain. Interestingly wood paneling is making a comeback whether through nostalgia or the fact that there are many types to consider. Because basements are prone to flood damage it is wise to consider the durability of water damaged paneling, should the unthinkable occur.

Is Wood Paneling a Wise Choice for a Finished Basement?

Wood paneling is no less durable than other wall coverings and in many situations will fare better if water comes into contact with it. Water damaged paneling has just as much a chance to be fully restored as dry wall. In some cases paneling will tolerate moisture better than drywall. 

The Benefits of Using Paneling in a Finished Basement

IT BRINGS THE OUTDOORS INSIDE. Covid trapped people in their homes keeping them from the outdoors. Many work in gloomy offices with few windows and children are at school for most of the year. Paneling is a way to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside. Wood has a universal esthetic appeal and the many designs available can match even the most persnickety taste.

PANELING HAS MULTIPLE COLORS, DESIGNS AND HANGING OPTIONS. There is bead board, wainscoting, multi-color choices and even diversity in hanging options such as installing panels horizontally.

MORE DURABLE THAN DRYWALL. Drywall can easily scratch and dent as anyone careless with a pool que can attest as it can easily penetrate and leave a hole. Paneling being a natural product will preclude mold growth better is high humidity than drywall. Although water damaged paneling can acquire mold in some instances, it is not known to produce black mold as easily as drywall.

Regardless the product you choose to finish your basement, flooding can damage any wall covering, requiring either restoration or replacement of materials. If the source of the water damaged paneling or drywall comes from is sewage, replacement is essential due to irreversible contamination.

That being said, paneling is a good product to consider for a finished basement even though basements are at higher risk for flooding. If water damage occurs the question will become, “should water damaged paneling be restored or replaced?” The answer to this is, depending on whether the paneling has warped or not and if the water contamination level can be mitigated.

What are the Causes of Warped Paneling 

Excessive High Humidity

Basements are known to have higher levels of relative humidity than the main floor. Regular humidity higher than 60% will increase moisture related complications such as mold growth and swelling in wood materials. Paneling has the potential of expanding and warping in these conditions almost looking like water damaged paneling.

Wood will naturally breath and mitigate excessive humidity , however in an environment of excessive water vapor will over time expand, warp and buckle. This condition can lead to a more serious effect like mold growth, as paneling will  trap too much moisture in its fibers. This same environment will cause mold in drywall which places the basement at even greater risk. Drywall is known to be the favorite food source of black mold being found on drywall much more than on wood paneling.

Low Density Wood Paneling

The relative sparsity of mass in a thin sheet of paneling such as .25″ thickness will be more susceptible to warping than a thicker panel. Just as it is easier to bend a thin piece of wood than a thick piece, so .25″ paneling will warp easier than a sheet of ’50” thickness. Try to use a thicker paneling as they will withstand humidity better. In extreme situations even denser materials will take on the look of water damaged paneling. 

Size Matters with Warping in Paneling

Modern paneling comes in all different shapes, grades and sizes. The smaller sections can come in pieces like 4″x6″, where other sections can be the traditional size of 4’x8′ sheets. In a high humidity environment the small pieces are almost indomitable to the potential of warping, making them a great choice. The larger sections must share the force of the swelling making them easier to distort and buckle. In answering the question, “should water damaged paneling be restored or replaced?” the answer may be, depending on the size. Smaller pieces almost never need to be replaced unless there is mold growth on wood.

Is Warped Water Damaged Paneling a Permanent Condition?

By the time you notice water damaged paneling having warped it is too late to remedy in most cases. When it is warped from flooding or so conspicuous that it captures your attention upon entering the room, it may be better to replace. However, if you are not shy from hard work, there are several techniques that could restore water damaged paneling.

How to Fix Water Damaged Paneling?

Detach & Reset the Water Damaged Paneling

Wood paneling can be removed from the studs if your careful and patient using the correct tools. If the paneling also had been glued, the removal can be more complicated, but patience is the virtue to navigate you to success. Once removed the water damaged paneling can be reinstalled using glue and a brad nailer. 

Once you place glue on all the studs, top and bottom plate, you can start nailing to the wood substrates. Be vigilant to notice the areas requiring more attention to get the flush look you are wanting to achieve. You may have to add studs if the spacing is over 16″ as some studs may be spaced every 24″. In this case place a new stud between each existing stud which will allow an attachment point every 12″.

Repairing damaged paneling is more affordable than replacement and following this water damage restoration protocol, you may be pleasantly surprised with the finished product. Should the water damaged paneling be restored through this technique, you will have earned a measure of satisfaction for saving a measure of currency.

Cover the Noticeable Damage of Paneling

Often the warping in paneling has resulted from a basement flood. Water has come into contact with the base of the wood paneling and all noticeable damage is at the base. If you have warping and buckling paneling, but it is only at the base than covering it with a new base molding is ideal and easy. 

Measure the highest point of conspicuous damage and place the same size base molding over it. If the damage is 4″ up, they make a 4.25″ molding that will work efficiently. Even if the damage is as high as 8″ they make wood base in all sizes, making this solution ideal and affordable. Decorative base molding will add beauty to any wall covering while being a great material for covering the blemishes of water damaged paneling.

Cut Out and Remove Water Damaged Wood Paneling

The professionals at Action Extraction restoration have learned how to fix water damaged paneling by building a half wall. Our expert team of restorers, routinely cut the water damaged paneling at a height of 3′ or 3’6″. This allows the warped and noticeably damaged paneling to be removed while saving the top section. 

This has proven to be a cost affective and ideal option, instead of complete removal and replacement. When repairing damaged paneling is not an option, partial removal is a strategy that can add beauty and a new look to an old finished basement. Once damaged paneling is removed there are multiple wall covering that can take its place to complement and accent the existing paneling being saved. Once the new paneling has been securely attached to the wood substrates, add a decorative chair rail molding to hide the seal and you are finished.

It is great to have options to complete replacement of damaged paneling, especially when new paneling can be quite expensive. These alternatives allow the answer to, “should water damaged paneling be restored or replaced?’ to be a resounding, “restore!”

How to Prevent Warped Paneling?

If you have paneling as a wall covering in your finished basement you want to keep it looking good and structurally sound. What are some preventative steps to keep wood paneling from warping or defacing over time? 

Keep Paneling at Least 3″ off the Ground 

Keeping paneling lifted off the ground will keep it free of basement water damage unless the depth of water exceeds 3″. Because most basement water damage is less than 1″ this means you are potentially making the paneling waterproof. 

Although initially the wood paneling will look a bit odd lifted 3″ from the ground, once you place a 3.25″ base molding at the base of the wall, you have a finished look. 

Have Sewer Drains Snaked Every 2 Years

Most all basement flooding is the result of a floor drain backup because a sewer system has a blockage. Having the system snaked out every 2 years will allow any build-ups of grease, paper products and tree roots to be removed, preventing blockages that lead to basement water damage. 

Basement Waterproofing if there are Known Issues

If you are aware of any rod holes, foundation cracks or window seal compromises have them repaired. The cost is minimal but the benefits can keep you from water damaged paneling and from having to determine, should water damaged paneling be restored or replaced?

Reduce Humidity with a Dehumidifier

Remember high humidity is one of the most common ways wood paneling warps and buckles. Water vapor in the air is not something you see with the naked eye, but it can still be excessive. By the time you notice warping or buckling in the paneling, its too late. Placing a dehumidifier in your finished basement will reduce humidity and not only keep the paneling from warping, but reduce the chance for mold growth in the basement. 

Dehumidifiers are relatively affordable and can control the conditions that allow for excessive moisture. Reducing humidity in the basement can improve the air quality of the entire home and decrease air born molds. Keeping temperature and humidity in your home at ideal levels with minimal fluctuation, will allow you to enjoy the beauty of your wood paneling for years to come.

If you have had a basement flood that has badly damaged your wood paneling consider calling the water damage restoration professionals at Action Extraction. We provide a free property inspection that will allow for the correct damage assessment of your paneling. Call today and learn if your damaged wood paneling can be restored or needs replacement.

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