Just as seasonal changes can affect building materials on the outside of your home, so can they affect materials on the inside of your home, especially when it comes to hardwood floors. One such winter-time challenge is a lack of moisture in the air which causes floor boards to dry out and shrink, thus creating gaps between the boards. With Colorado’s already-low humidity, you can see how even drier air in the winter can lead to this shrinking and gapping problem. However, the good news is that you can take some measures to Prevent Wood Floor Gaps in the Winter
- Install the right flooring – Hardwood flooring made from a wood species that can withstand changes in moisture content—referred to as dimensionally stable—helps to reduce floor gapping. If you’re curious, you can find out more, as well as view charts listing the dimensional stability of various wood species, from the USDA Forest Service. On top of that, narrow boards will shrink less than wider boards, just as quarter-sawn flooring will shrink less than flat-sawn flooring.
- Keep indoor relative humidity within range – Swinging from higher relative humidity in the summer to lower relative humidity in the winter is tough on your hardwoods, so keeping the relative humidity within an acceptable range is the way to go. Here in Colorado, this can mean a range of 20 to 40 percent relative humidity—driest to wettest. Relative humidity can be maintained by either increasing ventilation to dry out the indoor air, or by adding moisture back into the indoor air through normal household use—such as bathing, cooking, and growing household plants—or with a humidifier.
- Consider engineered flooring carefully – While some manufacturers make the claim that engineered flooring is more stable than wood, this does not take into account that manufacturers often restrict their engineered flooring products to a specific relative humidity range. This means if the floor is exposed to humidity conditions outside that range, the warranty is then voided. Therefore, engineered flooring—while strong and stable on many fronts—may not be the best option if you are concerned about being unable to maintain a controlled humidity range.
It’s important to understand that winter will dry out wood no matter what, increasing squeaks, opening surface cracks, and creating gaps. Knowing what to expect as the seasons change along with taking some preventative steps will help keep winter gapping to a minimum and go a long way toward maintaining the look and feel of your hardwood floors.
Thinking about having hardwood floors installed, refinished, or repaired? TGB Flooring’s services
can accommodate all of your hardwood flooring needs. Call 303-738-9910 for a free estimate.