There are many reasons for water damage inside our homes. Water leaks come from leaking showers, tubs, toilets, sinks and faucets, appliances, your hot water heater and sometimes a water pipe. 14,000 people in the US experience one of these water leaks every day so it's important to know how to dry out kitchen cabinets and more.
Water damage and freezing claims represent slightly more than 20% of homeowner claims (click for more statistics) and this year my flooded house joins those statistics. Quite often homeowners don't even file an insurance claim (88% of Homeowners Haven't Filed a Claim … in 15 years) because repair costs are lower or slightly higher than their deductible. My flooded house is the 15th house I've owned over 40 plus years and only the second claim processed.
- 3rd house in Danbury, CT – the hot water tank flooded our unfinished basement shortly after we moved in. We scrambled to carry moving boxes upstairs, cleaned up and replaced the hot water heater ourselves.
- 4th house in Poughkeepsie, NY – was temporary while building our new home and again we had to carry moving boxes upstairs. The claim was rejected as the leak was due to rising ground water. The septic system backed up through a basement toilet, so we got rid of that toilet!
- 14th house in Hampton, NH – where the hot water tank exploded according to our tenant. This was our first insurance claim and they replaced the drywall, insulation and tile floor. They didn't pay for a new hot water tank as they said this it was normal home maintenance.
- 15th house in Champions Gate, FL – where my flooded house sits, causing me to do lots of research as the damage was extensive, included cabinets in the kitchen, bathrooms, home office and mud room.
My experience with water leaks comes more from running a handyman business for 8 years. In New Hampshire, the most common project we dealt with was wood rot. That's what happens when water leaks aren't found or repaired quickly. So everyone on my team knew how to dry out kitchen cabinets, drywall, wood trim inside … and outside.
How to Dry Out Kitchen Cabinets
With any water leak, the first step is safety – boots if there's any chance of live wires. Then you need to follow a series of steps to dry out kitchen cabinets and anything else that's suffered water damage in your house. In fact, these concepts can be applied to almost any type of home repair. For example, many of these steps can be used to thaw out frozen pipes and if you have pex plumbing, you probably can avoid a leak.
- Identify the source of the water and stop the leak. Many sources of water, like toilets, faucets and your washing machine, have shut-off valves. If you can't find one or it's frozen shut, turn the water off where it enters your home. If you don't know how to do this, stop and read Learning How to Shut Your Water Off now!
- Remove excess water that's sitting inside or under cabinets. Grab whatever is handy, paper towels or bath towels, to remove the water as quickly as possible.
- Remove toe kicks under the cabinets in order to access water underneath them. You'll probably find two layers of toe kick. The outer layer is glued on (squiggle lines above) to match your baseboards. The inside toe kick is part of the cabinet (wood on each end above) and also need to be pulled off to get under the cabinet.
- Open cabinet doors and remove items (or remove drawers) so you can get air circulating inside the cabinet, to speed up the drying process.
- Remove cabinet doors if the wood they're attached to is saturated. This will relieve any stress and related damaged caused by the weight of the doors.
- Use fans to dry out the cabinets, floor and other fixtures quickly. This is when you probably need to hire a water mitigation company if you're trying to try out lots of cabinets. You can buy a reasonably priced fan to dry small problem areas on Amazon.
- Use dehumidifiers to reduce the humidity in the room(s) where you're drying cabinets and other fixtures. These should run continuously and ideally, you can hook up a hose so the extracted water flows outside. Normal house humidity falls between 40 and 60 percent, higher in humid areas like Florida.
- Monitor the moisture content of your cabinets using an inexpensive moisture meter. You should keep drying your cabinets until the wood measures between 6 and 8 percent humidity (read Acceptable Moisture Levels in Wood for more information about wood floors and structural wood).
- Repair or replace cabinets once they're fully dried. Plywood cabinets withstand moisture better unless they're painting and the paint peels (above). Particle board cabinets likely need to be replaced because water dissolves the glue which affects their structural integrity. For tips on cabinet repairs, read Fixing Water Damage to Cabinets.
- Apply a biocide to prevent mold growth once cabinets are fully dried. Research products before you buy as I've seen too many opinions about bleach versus vinegar, and more, to make any recommendations.
Good luck dealing with your wet cabinets.
Ask your questions, share your story and we all learn …
PS We have articles on all sorts of water problems that homeowners have to deal with:
- Water Leaks & Water Hiding Where?
- Basement Waterproofing & Keeping Your Basement Dry
- Water Damage: When Ignorance Is Not Bliss
- Homeowner Water Drainage Problems & Solutions
- Water & Wood Rot: Repairing Rotted Wood Door Bottoms
- … and lots more articles on wood rot caused by water