How to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 04/12/23 • 

Wood is a hygroscopic material. This means it will gain and lose moisture to be in equilibrium with the surrounding environment. If your home has recently flooded or you live in a high-humidity area, the wooded objects will absorb moisture.

As the wood absorbs moisture, you might experience staining, warping, cracking, or swelling. The longer your wooden objects are subject to high humidity/moisture, the more damage there will be.

If you notice your wooden furniture swelling, this is a clear sign of water damage. However, before things go out of hand, let’s see how you can fix swollen wood furniture and prevent it from future water damage.

Fixing Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture

Step 1 – Dry The Furniture

The first step in fixing water-damaged wood furniture is drying it out. Only when your wood furniture is dry can you check and access the damage? This will help you know the next steps to restore it to its former glory.

When drying wood furniture, take your time with the process. Depending on the amount of damage, this can take several weeks to dry out swollen wood completely. If you rush the process, the wood will crack, shrink, or warp, which causes more damage.

Find a dry place with good ventilation, which will allow air to circulate and dry the furniture slowly. Do not try forcing the drawers open if it’s a wooden cabinet. Instead, open the back of the furniture and allow air to circulate.

If the wood is slightly swollen, using an iron box and a dry rag can restore it back. Cover the swollen spot with a dry rag and pass the preheated iron box on the surface until it flattens out. This is a great method for flat surfaces like tables and cabinets.

Step 2 – Removing Water Spots/Rotting Wood

Depending on the extent of the damage, you only need to clean up the furniture after it’s dried or remove/stabilize rotting pieces.

Water Stains On Water Damaged Wood Furniture

Water Stains On Water Damaged Wood Furniture

If the damage on the wood is not severe, water spots can be gently cleaned by rubbing the furniture with a damp cloth dipped in turpentine. This should restore the color of the wood.

Step 3 – Apply Wood Filler

For more severely damaged wood furniture, it will take more effort to restore it back. Remove any loose debris from the furniture and fill it up with a wood patch or a wood filler (like this one) using a putty knife.

Famowood Wood Filler

A wood filler can also be used on deep cracks to fill them up. Once the wood filler has dried out, it’s time to sand down the furniture.

Step 4 – Sanding

Using sandpaper, sand the wood filler down. You can also sand down the whole furniture to remove any rough edges and splinters as a result of swelling. Make sure to clean and sand off fungi and other dark spots for the best results. Using softer sandpaper, like 220-grit, for sanding the furniture.

Once you sand down the furniture, use turpentine to clean it properly or dust it to remove debris before refinishing it.

Step 5 – Refinishing

Once everything looks good, you can refinish your wood furniture to its original look or opt for a different look. There are many ways of finishing wood furniture, like oiling, varnishing, waxing, shellac, or lacquer. You can also create a aged-look by distressing the wood.

Restored Water Damaged Wood Furniture

Restored Water Damaged Wood Furniture

For better protection against water damage in the future, you can also apply a sealant that has proven waterproofing properties. Polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer can all help seal your wood furniture and prevent future damage.

How to Prevent Wood Furniture Water Damage

As you’ve seen, fixing water-damaged wood furniture will take time and resources. However, you can prevent water damage to your furniture. Below are some tips to help you protect the wood from water damage.


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