Wood Floors and Humidity in Your Home

Anyone who is thinking about putting hardwood flooring into their home should have a basic understanding of how humidity affects wood flooring. Often the problems that can arise when wood floors come in contact with water or water vapor can be prevented if the flooring contractor properly educates the homeowners. Unfortunately this information isn’t always communicated to the homeowners leaving them feeling frustrated or even feeling like they have been given inferior products or poor craftsmanship.

Kitchen | New Home in Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones HomesFirst of all, wood can easily absorb moisture from the air or atmosphere. When wood absorbs moisture it will also change in size. Before your new flooring is installed, your floor will come in generally around 6% to 9% moisture content. It will need to become accustomed to a new climate when it is delivered to your home. Experienced flooring contractors will measure the moisture content prior to installing it and will also make sure that your home will have stable conditions; i.e.: constant humidity and temperature, before installing the floor. If the floor is 9% moisture content and is installed into an environment that is 20% relative humidity, the floor will begin to shrink in size and you’ll see gaps between the rows.

HumidifierOn the other hand, if the floor is 6% and is installed into an environment that is 50% relative humidity, it will begin to grow in size which will in turn make the floor “cup” or begin to show a washboard appearance. This is a common, unsightly occurrence that many home owners experience with little understanding of what’s going on. This can be caused by homeowners not maintaining stable interior moisture conditions in their home.

Wood flooring has a comfort zone which is generally considered to be between 30% and 50% relative humidity and between 68 and 72 degrees. Homeowners need to understand that this is why you cannot go on vacation and turn off the heat or air conditioning and assume your wood floor will not be affected.

Engineered products made from multiple layers of hardwood with a hardwood veneer will be more stable than solid wood flooring in most conditions. Narrower widths are less affected than wider widths and some species are naturally more stable than others. A 6” wide solid hickory floor will be more likely to move in a higher moisture environment than a 3-1/4” wide engineered red oak floor.

Make sure when getting prices for your floor work that you ask the contractor if he will measure and document the moisture content of the flooring and sub-flooring and the interior relative humidity prior to installation. If he says it’s not important, then beware that he might not be taking all proper precautions to ensure your wood flooring installation will perform up to expectations.

Keeping your home within the proper humidity levels will lower the cost of heating your home in the winter and your physician will tell you that it is much healthier to breathe air with recommended humidity levels than extremely dry or extremely wet conditions.


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