Control Humidity to Prevent Flooring Damage.
Article Summary: Control Humidity – Learn why it is important to properly acclimate your new wood floor before fitting. Learn how and why you need to control humidity to give your floor a long and trouble free life.
Anyone who is thinking of buying a wooden floor will need to consider acclimation of the product before fitting. What this means is that the flooring should be left to gradually adjust to its new climate first, control humidity and allow the timber to expand or contract, increase or decrease its natural moisture content before fitting. The reasons are fairly obvious; to stop substantial movement in the timber after fitting and so avoid cracking, creaking and other structural defects. That said, some movement will always occur after fitting, it is simply unavoidable. What we can do is to minimize defects caused by this movement by keeping them as small as possible.Acclimation: the process of an organism being forced to adjust to changes in their environment by artificial means.
Manufacturers all around the world agree on one thing – that your wood floor should be left for a number of days to acclimate before fitting. To not do so will undoubtedly void their warranty and end up being very costly. Although manufacturers do have varying standards when it comes to the process, a basic guideline would be to stack your flooring in the room it will be fitted in and control humidity and temperature for a few days. The temperature should be around 70°F (19°C), and the humidity around 40-50%.
It really depends on where you live as to what variations you will get in the normal humidity and temperature patterns, but most of the time the above guidelines will be sufficient to prevent major structural movement in your wood flooring, but only if reasonable levels are maintained.
All wood flooring will expand and contract depending on its environment. Think of wood as a sponge – when the humidity level is higher than the moisture content of the wood, it will soak up moisture until it reaches its natural level. Likewise, when there is very low humidity, the moisture in the wood will evaporate. Wood has a natural moisture level of around 30% and will remain stable up to about 55%, so between this range there will be very little movement and hence, no cracking. The recommended room controlled humidity levels are based around 40-50% for this very reason.
Having previously said that all wood expand and contracts, there are certain manufactured, or engineered wood flooring products that cope far better with changes in humidity and temperature than natural wood. This is handy for example when fitting under floor heating.
One wood type that copes better than most with varying temperature and humidity is Cork. Although it still expands and contracts, it is essentially water proof and so suffers less than other types of flooring. Also, being softer allows it a greater degree of movement before problems occur.
How do I control humidity?
If you think your home is either too humid or too dry, there are a few things that you can do to limit the effects of these conditions. It is important to control humidity. For high humidity areas, consider dehumidifiers, air conditioners, adequate ventilation and carefully consider your flooring options. Cooking and showers are the main moisture contributors to your home (apart from Humans)!
- If you don’t have an extraction fan in your bathroom, fit one.
- Always, close doors on bathrooms.
- Make sure kitchens are adequately vented.
- Avoid carpet for high humidity areas.
- Correctly size air conditioners/dehumidifiers.
- Open doors last thing at night to let damp air out of the building.
- Humidifiers can easily bring levels up to the desired requirement. All these measures will help maintain your wood flooring and home in good condition, as well as give you a more pleasing environment to live in. It is an ongoing process to keep wood flooring in the correct environment, but having probably spent a substantial amount of money on it, these measures will ensure it has a long life and will look great for years to come.