Wood Floor Cracking – What to do about it

Why is your Wood Floor cracking and what can be done about it?

Article Summary: Wood Floor Cracking. If you are about to fit a new wood floor, before reading this article I recommend you take a look at my article about acclimating timber flooring. If you have already fitted your wood floor and have problems with cracking – read on!
If you fitted the flooring yourself and have noticed cracking of the timber near the edges or joins, this is almost always because the wood has expanded. Unfortunately there isn’t really a cure once this has happened, other than to take a good hard look for any sources of moisture or damp and once fixed, sand, fill and reseal the timber floor surface if necessary. 
In some ways, when you install a hardwood floor, unless you have the perfect conditions in which to install it, after a while you are bound to get some sort of wood floor cracking. This is because of either expansion or contraction of the timber which will always happen, no matter how careful you are when installing. But there are things you can do to keep wood floor cracking to a minimum.

If you had the floor professionally fitted, ask a few pertinent questions. Did they properly acclimatize the timber? Did they take moisture readings of the sub floor? Was the timber dry when installed? What were the weather conditions when the timber was delivered? Were there other building works like concreting, painting or plastering taking place during installation (all these produce sources of moisture)? If you can be sure that at least one of these factors was present, call back your contractor and insist they put matters right.

I had reason to have a laminate floor re-laid recently when I managed to get an admission from the contractor that he “…was just told to fit the floor”. In other words he didn’t make any preliminary checks that the sub floor concrete slab was fit to take the laminate flooring. The contractor didn’t have a leg to stand on – he replaced the entire floor at substantial cost to himself, and I made absolutely sure that the end result was as perfect as possible before I paid him. It pays to keep an eye on your installers!

The reason that wood floors crack is basically either excessive moisture or drying out of the timber, but there is a little more to it than that. Modern planks are made to allow for uneven sub floors, if they weren’t just about every laminate and hardwood floor would creak. Unfortunately contractors these days have time constraints that prevent them from sometimes doing the right thing and leveling the sub floor first. That’s not an excuse – just a fact of life. So when boards expand, there is a lot of pressure built up along the top edge of the boards where they butt together. Eventually the timber has nowhere to go, and they split off.

If you notice your floor beginning to show signs of splitting, go out and buy/hire/borrow a dehumidifier. This will extract moisture from the air (and the floor), and should prevent and further damage while you look for the source of moisture, unless it’s a burst pipe.

When looking for sources of moisture ingress, check out some less obvious reasons. You may have a ducted heating with a split in the duct work. Hot air blowing on one area of flooring will dry it out too much and can cause cracking. If you have a fixed heat source that is underneath your floor, this will have the same effect. For a concrete slab, a moisture meter is indispensable and will track down the locality of moisture. Unfortunately this isn’t much use if the floor is already down.

Once you have found the source of the problem, either moisture or some drying mechanism, your only real alternative is to sand, fill and re-seal the floor. This is really the only alternative.

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