Dr. Frederick M. Hueston

Stone Forensics 

Flooding that accompanies hurricanes and other storms can potentially ruin stone, tile, wood, and other types of flooring. The most pressing concern home and property owners have after a flood is whether the floor can be saved. Answering this question can be tricky, because it depends on a variety of factors, including the source of the water, how long the water remained on the surface, and the environment. Let’s look at each of these factors, as well as actions to take immediately following a flood.
My Stone and Tile Floor Has Flooded. Now What?

Water Source

Is the flood water source fresh water or salt water? If the property is near an ocean or a saltwater source, the salts contained in the water can dry and cause stone, tile, grout, and concrete to pit and fall apart. If the flood water contains sewage, contaminants may be introduced into the pores of the surface material and harbor harmful bacteria. Any type of water can cause a wood floor to warp.

Dwell Time

How long has the water remained on the surface? The longer water sits, the more it can seep into the floor, including the slab or wood substructure under the flooring. The longer water sits, the greater chance for mold and mildew to develop. It only takes 24 to 48 hours after a flood for mold and mildew to start growing. As long as moisture remains, these fungi will continue to grow.


Hot and humid climates can also increase the damage to many flooring types. Without air conditioning, flooring materials can expand, which causes stress to the material. Expansion joints can mitigate this stress, but if the floor was installed without proper expansion joints, stone and tile may tent or crack. Floor types that generally can’t be saved or repaired include wood, certain laminates, vinyl, linoleum, and carpeting. Stone, tile, terrazzo, and other hard surfaces can often be saved.

Preparing for Cleaning Up

Before removing debris, do the following.

  1. Make sure the flood has receded. There is no sense in cleaning up if additional flooding will occur.

  2. Wear protective gloves and goggles. Flood water may contain some nasty contaminants. For anyone concerned about getting sick, consider wearing a Tyvek suit, which provides protection against a wide range of chemical threats and hazards.

  3. Turn off the power. Water can easily seep into outlets and cause electrocution.

  4. Take plenty of photos for the insurance company. This is something that many people forget to do, but documenting the damage can be very helpful, especially if you have expensive furnishings. Call your insurance company to report the damage.

Removing Debris

Next, remove any furniture or other items that may have been soaked. After the area is cleared, remove any mud or muck with a shovel.

Remove the Water

Remove the water with a wet vacuum. If there is a lot of water, rent a commercial wet vac. If the flood is minor, soak up the water with towels or a mop and bucket. Vacuum out floor heating or air conditioning registers, as well.

Sanitize the Floor

After the water is removed, clean the floor with soap water. Mix 1/4 cup mild dish soap and 3 cups warm water for marble and limestone flooring. Mix 1/4 cup dish soap, 2 cups vinegar, 2 cups warm water, and 1/2 cup lemon juice for other types of hard flooring.

In a large bucket, combine 5 gallons of water and 1 cup of bleach. Spread the bleach mixture on the floor with a mop or squeegee to sterilize the area. Do not rinse the floor with water. Allowing the bleach to dwell will help facilitate the sanitization process. 

Here is a bleach-free alternative formula for sanitizing. Fill a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide that has a 3% concentration. Spray the surface until it is completely saturated with the hydrogen peroxide. After the floor surface has dried, clean the area with the previously mentioned dish detergent mixture. A good store-bought, pH-neutral cleaner can also be used in place of the dish detergent formula.

Dry the Floor

Place dehumidifiers in the flooded area or use fans to move the air. This will help accelerate the evaporation of water and moisture. Turn on the air conditioner, as well, because it will function as a dehumidifier. Monitor the moisture of the floor with an inexpensive moisture meter, available at any big box store or online.

Carefully watch the floor for any color changes over the next few days or weeks. Some flooring types can yellow, change color, or fade. Do not apply any sealers to the floor if it is not completely dry.

Call a Professional

If the floor is turning color or appears to be deteriorating, consult with the property’s insurance company and a professional flooring inspector.

It may take months to properly clean and make the required repairs after a flood. If the humidity level in the flood area is high, be prepared to wait at least 6 months after a flood before starting the remodeling process.

Fred Hueston, aka, “Dr Fred” has been a floor professional for over 40 years. To read more about him and his company visit