When planning your hardwood flooring project, it is important to make sure that you allow enough time for the wood flooring to properly acclimate in the space prior to the installation. Hardwood flooring expands and contracts based on relative humidity (RH). As a certified wood flooring inspector (CWFI), I commonly see floor failures due to installers not acclimating the flooring prior to installation, either because they are cutting corners, or giving in to customer demands for completion dates. That is really unfortunate, as it is an easily preventable problem.
What is hardwood flooring acclimation?
Acclimation is the process by which the moisture content (MC) of the hardwood flooring is brought to an equilibrium with moisture content of the space it will be installed in. This process requires that the wood flooring materials sit in the space where they will be installed, while the building or home is kept at it’s normal temperature and humidity level. For example, if the location will normally be kept at 70 degrees with a whole house humidifier running, then the house should be heated (or cooled) to about 70 degrees and the humidifier should be running while the wood is acclimating.
Why is hardwood flooring acclimation important?
Hardwood flooring shrinks and contracts based on humidity levels. When temperature and humidity changes, wood moves. In general, wood is most dimensionally stable at around 30% MC. When it’s below or above that, it can fail, causing gaps between boards, or buckling and cracking of the boards. Movement of the boards during expansion and contraction can also cause fasteners to loosen, resulting in squeaks
Essential tools for hardwood flooring acclimation.
The only real way to tell if a wood is properly acclimated is to use a moisture meter. Delmhorst makes a nice digital wood moisture meter, and you can find many other digital and analog moisure meter options on Amazon.