A genuine hardwood floor does require a certain level of care and commitment from its owner. Since hardwood comes directly from a living tree, it has a tendency to react to changes in temperature and humidity. Therefore, one of the most important things a hardwood floor owner needs to do is maintain the floor’s environment in a zone that is comfortable and conducive to the health of the wood.
Maintaining the proper environment is important before, during and after installation of the floor. A professional installer will take care of the phases before and during installation. However, it’s the after category that seems to cause the most problems. Many customers will complain around six months after the floor has been installed about gapping or cupping of the boards. The majority of the time, this is due to the level of humidity in the home.
At the time of installation, the moisture content (MC) should be between 6-9 percent. If conditions during the installation environment are at the recommended levels (temperature between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit and 30-50 percent humidity), the MC of the wood will remain at that level.
If the humidity is excessively high, the wood flooring will absorb some of the atmospheric moisture and swell, leading to cupping or end lifting. If the humidity is too low, the flooring will release moisture into the air, causing the wood to dry out and shrink. This leads to dry cupping, gapping and face checking.
By maintaining the humidity at the correct level, the MC will remain stable – a state referred to as Equilibrium Moisture Content.
Normally in Minnesota, humidity is low in the winter and higher during the summer. So, homeowners will need to play an active role in controlling the environment inside their home to keep their wood floors in the proper shape and condition.
Most people are familiar with temperature levels and using a thermostat to monitor and control it. Humidity, on the other hand, can be somewhat more abstract and often something we don’t think about measuring. A device that can be used to monitor humidity is called a hygrometer. This can be installed in a home to measure the humidity level.
During the winter, when the air is dryer, a humidifier can be used to release moisture in the air. This not only helps your floor, but the residents in the home as well. Dry air can lead to dry skin and sinus issues, so keeping the environment more humid will help you and your floor breath easier.
In the summer, an air conditioner or dehumidifier can be used to pull moisture from the air, allowing you to keep the humidity at a comfortable level.
The good news is that most humidity problems with hardwood floors tend to fix themselves once the humidity is restored to optimum levels. Once the wood gets back to its Equilibrium Moisture Content, it will usually relax into its proper shape.
If you have hardwood floors or are considering having them installed in your home, be sure you commit to maintaining the right environment to keep them in good shape for years to come. True hardwood is beautiful and timeless, it just takes a little extra care.
If you have more questions about maintaining hardwood flooring, feel free to give us a call at 952-933-6422 or stop in our showroom to visit with one of our flooring experts.