A Guide to Wood Floor Acclimation
New solid or engineered wood flooring gives a beautiful look to a new home or office space. In your excitement, you want to get the flooring installed as soon as the planks are delivered to move the remodeling or new construction process towards completion. But that can be a mistake.
Prior to installation, wood flooring needs to acclimate to the environment. Depending on air temperature, humidity levels, and moisture content in the environment, wood flooring is subject to dimensional change. Basically, this means that the wood can swell or shrink. When wood flooring swells, it buckles, creating an uneven surface. When wood flooring shrinks, it creates gaps between the planks, and you don’t have a smooth surface. For this reason, before hardwood floor installation, wood flooring materials should sit for several days to acclimate to both moisture content and relative humidity in the air.
Wood Floor Moisture Content
The perfect situation is that the solid or engineered wood is dried prior to delivery for the climate in which it is installed. But perfection is nearly impossible because the mill where the flooring is manufactured is most likely in another region of the country with different dryness or humidity levels. For example, a home in Tucson, AZ, is drier than a home in Stamford, CT, where there is high humidity. For this reason, an industry standard for allowable moisture content was established. The standard is to dry wood to the point where the moisture content is between 6 to 9 percent as it leaves the mill. This way, the sold or engineered wood performs well in both dry and humid regions if it is acclimated per manufacturer’s instructions before installation.
Installation in New Construction
The moisture content on a new home under construction can be affected by certain building materials. When sheetrock is taped and mudded, the moisture in the mud rises the moisture level in the air. The moisture levels in the space rise even higher during painting. A new home requires lots of paint. By installing solid or engineered flooring at these times, you run the risk of the flooring planks shrinking once the mud and paint have dried, and the house falls back to lower moisture levels. This could leave gaps between the planks. Most manufacturers recommend waiting a week after mudding and painting so that the moisture content resumes to normal levels before installation.
Most wood flooring materials are covered for defects under a manufacturer’s warranty. Wood is a natural product and, therefore, prone to warping and swelling. During manufacturing, and by drying to the 6 to 9 moisture content, it is hoped that warping and swelling won’t occur. But on the off chance that this happens, the manufacturer’s warranty covers these unexpected problems. But the manufacturer’s installation guidelines must be followed.
Each box of wood flooring comes with installation directions. Depending on the type of wood, there are acclimation guidelines that must be followed for the warranty to be valid. If these directions are not followed, the manufacturer’s warranty will be voided. If you have a problem with the flooring, a manufacturers’ rep will come and inspect the flooring. They will check how the flooring was installed. If they see gaps or buckling, they will question if you followed the proper guidelines for acclimation before installation. If there are excessive gaps or buckling, they could say that you clearly did not follow the guidelines for acclimation and void the warranty.
Wood flooring is a major investment that will last years and years with occasion hardwood floor refinishing. For the best hardwood floor refinishing in Alpharetta, the flooring needs to be acclimated and installed right in the first place.