How to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture

The WoodWork Zone reviews all products independently. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

If you’re worried about water-damaged swollen wood furniture and are looking for inexpensive solutions to fix them, then you don’t have to worry anymore. We have some amazing tips to fix your damaged furniture and help make it look new again.

Water damage is one of the most common causes of damage to wooden furniture and can be very frustrating to deal with, but this guide will offer you 4 different methods on how to resolve this problem and also help you with tips on how to protect your wooden furniture from future damage.

First, let’s understand what happens when water damage takes place and the reasons why it results in swollen furniture.

What kind of damage does water do to furniture?

– When water soaks into the wooden structure of a piece, it causes swelling due to which the shape changes and these pieces take an unnatural shape.

– If the water remains for long it forms pockets of air beneath the surface which results in molding. This can cause serious damage to your furniture.

– There are some instances when water damage causes the wooden structure to rot, which results in even more serious issues.

Also Read: How to Remove Mold From Rough Cut Wood

Why Does Wood Furniture Bubble Up?

The furniture can bubble up for one or more of the following reasons:

When water seeps into the wood, it doesn’t actually swell the wood. What happens is that as the cell walls soak up water and become saturated, they draw in more water because the sap that is trapped inside cannot escape resulting in an increased volume of liquid.

This liquid-filled swollen wood will then seek an outlet to escape, and since there are no holes in your wooden furniture for it to get rid of the extra water, the only option is for it to push the cells apart resulting in an increase in the overall size of the wood.

Another reason of the bubbles forming could be the glue bond failing. Typically a less-expensive piece of wood furniture is often covered with a very thin layer of hardwood veneer. Placing warm or moist objects on the veneer, as well as placing it under extreme temperatures or humidity, can cause the glue connection to break. This causes bubbles to appear on the surface of the wood. This can make a beautiful piece of furniture seem old and cheap.

Will Swollen Wood Shrink Over Time?

The answer to this question is maybe. Water-saturated wood pieces in humid areas will not return back to their normal state on their own as the weather will reverse the process. In fact, the longer you let it stay that way, the harder it will be to fix the issue.

In other dry areas, the wood might shrink a bit but not completely, and you may end up with even greater damage, resulting in some serious structural issues requiring more extensive repairs.

So instead of waiting for it to shrink on its own over time, you will need to take some steps and help the wood pieces to get rid of all that extra liquid and return back to its normal state.

Can You Fix Swollen Wooden Furniture?

This depends on several factors such as the extent of the damage, the type of wood used and how long the furniture has been wet.

Remember that not all types of furniture can be successfully fixed. If the furniture has suffered major structural damage then it may be time to throw away the old piece and buy a new one rather than invest in an expensive repair that will only give you minimal results.

However, for minor cases of swelling or bubbles, there are some steps that you can take to fix the damage.

How to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture – 4 Methods

1. Let the Furniture Dry

The very first thing you must do when your wooden furniture gets soaked is to let the furniture pieces out. If it still has water present on the surface then you should try to wipe it dry as much as possible using a dry cloth.

Next, if you live where the weather is warm and dry (such as southern California) and the furniture has been wet for a relatively short period of time, we highly recommend trying to place furniture outside under the blazing sun. The sun will warm up the furniture pieces, helping them dry faster.

If you can’t place your furniture outside due to weather conditions or other reasons, then try placing it in a heated room or use a fan to circulate air around your furniture.

The main goal is to accelerate the drying process, but the air should not be too hot or else you will end up drying out the wood pieces too much, making them more susceptible to breaking apart so refrain from using a heater or a hot blow dryer.

This process may take several hours or a day or 2 depending on the extent of the damage.

2. Using an Iron

This is quite a simple method that will help get rid of the bubbles on your furniture in no time, it doesn’t even require you to spend money. All you need is your iron and a rag.

Turn the temperature to a medium-high setting and then place a moist piece of cloth over the bubbles so they are covered, then start ironing with a lot of care. Remember that you are not trying to actually “iron” the cloth, but simply apply some heat that will allow you to gradually massage your furniture back to its normal state. So, press down over it for only a few seconds. Don’t keep it in one spot for long, as it might damage your wood.

Keep checking the wood bubble every few seconds and repeating this step as much as you need.

3. Using a Needle and Wood glue

This method is mostly used for minor cases of swelling. The success rate depends on the type of wood and the extent of damage,

You will need wood glue, a syringe with a thick needle, some wax paper and clamps or something extremely heavy.

First, make a cut into the bubble then take your syringe and fill the tube with wood glue. Next, inject the glue into the bubble from where you made the cut. Make sure to inject glue into all areas, small and large, don’t worry if it gets messy. Now press the loose veneer down and wipe off excess glue that gets pushed out.

Finally, take the wax paper and put it on top of the glue-filled bubble so that the excess glue that will later push out due to pressure, does not end up sticking to any object that is placed above. If you have clamps then place a flat piece of wood on top of the wax paper before clamping it down tightly. If you don’t have clamps then just use some heavy object and place it on top of the wax paper to add pressure on the glued veneer to help it stick back down perfectly.

Leave it to dry and don’t move the furniture for at least 24 hours.

Also Read: Types of Wood Glue

4. Sanding the Wood and Applying Furniture Oil

Unless you plan to paint the entire surface, this method is good for and mostly advised in the case of light-colored or wood furniture without veneer.

First sand the swollen area of the wood down using medium-coarse sandpaper. Make sure to sand down the area until it’s no longer swollen. We recommend starting with low-grade sandpaper and then moving on to a higher grade. Generally using 100- grit sandpaper is a good option that’s versatile and effective.

Keep running your hand on the surface to see whether the wood feels smooth and no longer swollen after you have sanded it. If not, continue with your sandpaper. Remember to keep checking and sanding until everything feels even and smooth.

Once you finish sanding, wipe off the dust and use a tack cloth to remove any leftover particles that might be stuck in the wood.

Now you can apply the furniture oil to finish off your wood piece.

How much to Repair Water Damaged Wood Furniture

Paying a professional to repair your furniture will ensure that it is restored to an excellent level. A professional will have the necessary tools, equipment, and workshop area to guarantee that your repair may be carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible while making sure that it’ll last for a long time.

The average consumer spends around $620 or between $331 and $911 on a piece of furniture to be refinished. That cost will range from $100 to over $1,000, depending on the sort of goods and their condition.

Below is a short list including the average cost of repairing common household furniture items:

Type Price Range

  • Table $150-$450
  • Dining Chair $125-$300
  • Wardrobe or Cupboard $500-$1,200
  • Dining Room Table Set $1,000-$3,000
  • Coffee Table $150-$250
  • Dresser $300-$1,000
  • Bed $350-$900
  • Kitchen Cabinets $1,600-$3,800

How to Protect Wood from Water Damage

Water damage is a real hazard for any piece of wooden furniture. Often the results from water damage are not visible. However, underneath the surface can be a much bigger problem. Even a small amount of water can cause a furniture piece to swell, warp, crack and even rot away from the inside.

Wood is porous and soaks up water like a sponge. When the wood has soaked in too much water, it will expand causing the piece to swell, so it is important and highly beneficial in the long term to take steps to prevent water damage to wood furniture.

There are a number of steps that you can take to prevent water from reaching your wooden furniture. They include:-

Using an Oil Finish

WALRUS OIL - Furniture Finish, Polymerizing Safflower Oil, Tung Oil, and Hemp Seed Oil - for Hardwood Tables, Chairs, and More. 100% Vegan, 32oz Jug

By applying a protective oil finish to your wooden furniture you will ensure that the wood is sealed and therefore protected from damage. This is a great long-term solution as it will moisturize the wood while also making it resistant to water.

Popular oil finishes used are tung oil and linseed oil. There are various ways to apply the finish, but one popular and simple method is to use a fiber-free cloth, dip it in the oil and then rub it over the surface of the wood. Wipe the surface clean with a dry cloth and apply a second coat once your previous coat has dried properly, which will typically take around 10 to 15 minutes. 2 to 3 coats should do the trick.

Also Read: Best Finish for a Workbench

Using a Sealant

TotalBoat-520605 Halcyon Marine Varnish | Water-Based Polyurethane Wood Finish | Clear Satin UV Protection for Interior and Outdoor Use (Clear Satin, Quart)

Sealants will protect your furniture by preventing water from ever reaching the surface. They provide an invisible protective layer over the surface of the wood.

Varnish, polyurethane, and lacquer are all well-known waterproofing sealants. These products can be applied by being brushed or sprayed over clean, sanded wood and then allowed to cure fully before lightly sanding and recoating the piece.

The number of coats needed and their drying time depends on the products you choose, check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance.

Use Stain-Sealant Combos

Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer-1 Gallon can (Natural Cedar 112)

Combining stains with sealants will give you the best of both worlds. They enhance the wood’s color while also providing protection from liquids.

Stain-sealants are composed of color pigments and binders that can be alkyd, water, or oil-based. Depending on the pigment concentration in the product, the result of its finish might be opaque, translucent, or something in between.

Whichever type of stain sealant you choose, make sure to read and follow all manufacturer’s instructions and to use it on properly prepped wood.


Now you are equipped with the knowledge on how to fix water-damaged swollen wood furniture yourself, since, let’s face it, who wants to spend money on repairs? By following the steps described above you can not only repair your furniture without having to empty your wallet, but also protect it from any future damage by liquids.

Other Recommendations:

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment



Subscribe to our weekly newsletter