How Much Damage Can Flooding Do to Your Furniture?

A small basement leak can leave water in the carpet and get the feet of your couch wet. However, major flooding can leave your furniture loaded with toxic mold. Figuring out the best way to move forward after a flood will require you to consider several factors.

How Long It Soaked

The longer wood furniture stands in the water, the more severe the damage will be. Water will seep into the pores of the wood, causing swelling, discoloration, and warping. If you live in an area that floods often, you can limit this damage by wrapping furniture legs in plastic or setting the piece down in a bucket. Be aware that even metal furniture is susceptible to water damage. Once corrosion starts, it can be hard to beat.

It Depends on the Material

Metal rusts, but luckily most furniture is constructed of wood. Handmade furniture is usually made from specific kinds of wood that all behave differently depending on how it is treated. Softwoods, such as pine, will absorb more water than a harder wood such as oak. Older pieces will likely have a tighter grain, but newer pieces are more likely to have a consistent waterproof seal.

Secondary Damage

As the wood in your furniture sits in the floodwater, it will soak up the moisture. Once loaded with water, the wood may split or warp. Once it dries fully, you may find that the finish is discolored. In addition, physical changes to the size of the wood can cause the glue joints in chair and table legs to break down, so the piece may be wobbly or even fall apart. If the wood is discolored, you can refinish it yourself or have it professionally done. During this time, check out all the joints to make sure the piece is still stable. If you have a lot of wood furniture and you know a big storm is coming in the future, outdoor furniture covers can help prevent this secondary damage in the first place.


Floodwater isn’t clean. Even if your flood is caused by rainwater, you will likely have runoff mixed into the mess. Sewage backups are also common during severe flooding. If upholstered pieces have been standing in dirty water for long periods of time, you will likely have to toss the cushioning and fabric. Even if the structure of the piece is in good shape, make sure to clean it thoroughly. Sewage must be removed immediately. Clean affected areas with a bleach and water mixture of four parts water to one part chlorine bleach. Make sure to glove up and protect your face when scrubbing with bleach.

Mold and Mildew

Mold will happily grow on wet furniture. Mold on particle board and in foam cushions is especially hard to manage because it grows unseen. If you have an upholstered piece that you really want to save, get the cushions out of the fabric. Once you’ve washed everything with antibacterial soap, make sure that both fabric and cushions are thoroughly dry. You want to create a desert inside that couch or chair so that mold simply gives up and dies off. If the cushion has been wet for more than twenty-four hours, be tough about discarding and replacing it to avoid bringing a contaminant back into your home. If a wooden cabinet, chest or trunk smell mildewed, get it outside on a sunny day.

Airing Out and Sunshine

Furniture that can be moved out into the sun should be set out to air. Sunshine is a toxin to molds that create a mildewed odor. After severe storms that cause flooding, you may notice that the next few days are not only sunny but offer strong breezes. Move your water-soaked furniture outside. Open up trunks, cabinets, and chests. Then strip covers off of furniture cushions, wash them separately to remove bacteria from the dirty water, and dry them as thoroughly as possible mechanically. Then let the sunshine continue the drying process. Be aware that pieces made of compressed or particle board may not survive the drying. Particle board is made of cheap wood filler and glue. When that wood gets soaked, it swells and breaks the glue joints. Over time, this compressed wood will fracture, and the piece will break down.

Cleaning up after a flood will take a lot of muscle and elbow grease, but it must be done to avoid the illness that can come from mold and bacterial overgrowth. To keep yourself safe, pump the water out of the flooded portion of your home. Move as much furniture as possible out of the wet space. Strip cushions and get fabrics and foam cleaned. Use bleach water on areas affected by sewage.

If you need extra help cleaning up after a flood, submit a claim with us so we can help!