Many customers who come into our hardwood floors showroom ask about acclimating hardwood flooring to their home. They’ve done some research and have read that it’s important to put wood into a home a few days before installation, so it can acclimate (contract or expand) to the temperature and humidity level of the home.
The theory is that, once acclimated to the home’s conditions, the wood should have most of the expanding or contracting “out of its system,” making for a more-stable floor less likely to cup, crown, buckle, or gap.
We agree that acclimation to a home’s environment can be important, but it’s not the only factor related to wood stability that must be considered during wood floor installation.
Acclimating to the Real Conditions
Oftentimes hardwood floor installation in new construction can be tricky. There tends to be a good deal of moisture due to foundation curing, moisture picked up before the home was fully enclosed, plastering, painting, etc. This requires careful monitoring of conditions, and advising our contractors on acceptable moisture levels and sometimes assisting them to reach approppriate levels to keep the project on schedule. Getting the HVAC running as soon as possible and sometimes even bringing in commercial-grade dehumidifiers is necessary. It stands to reason that acclimating wood in such wet conditions would be a very bad idea.
Installation techniques can be altered to offset humidity levels to some extent. Subfloor and material moisture is checked prior to each installation and if necessary the installation method is adjusted.
Once a home is occupied, temperature and humidity still vary according to the season. Most people keep it a little warmer inside during the summer and a little cooler in the winter to save on their energy bills. That means that in the summer it’s a little more humid also, because the hotter the air is, the more moisture it can hold. Therefore, more moisture is transferred to the wood, causing it to expand. The opposite happens in winter.
When we install hardwood floors, we always take into account the season. Winter installs are adjusted to leave room for some expansion as the weather warms—or vice versa in the summer. The real conditions in the home—and how those conditions will affect the wood—can’t be determined without factoring in seasonal changes.
Making the Right Adjustments
In his free e-book, Dispelling the Myths of Hardwood Flooring, our owner Rod Lorenz tells the story of learning this lesson about seasonal considerations from his father, Ralph, who founded Ralph’s Hardwood Floors. Ralph was installing a wood floor for a gym, and he determined that the wood was too dry and that gaps needed to be left. Several people came to look at the floor right after installation, many of whom were employed by a local hardwood flooring mill so they were very familiar with wood. They were upset about how ugly the floor looked after installation.
But they didn’t know wood as well as Ralph did. A month later, as the wood warmed and picked up moisture, the floor was beautifully perfect. All the gaps had disappeared.
It takes such an understanding of the stability of each type of hardwood—combined with knowledge of how seasonal changes will affect the wood—to properly install wood floors. Rod learned this skill from his father and has passed it on to each of our installers.
And because most of our customers are in Wisconsin (and we live here, too!) we are intimately familiar with the weather patterns that affect our clients. We know just how much of an allowance for the seasons to make.
We take great pride in satisfying our customers with beautiful, correctly installed hardwood floors. But that wouldn’t be possible without the hardwood-stability expertise we’ve picked up through the years.