Investing in hardwood flooring for the very first time can be exciting, but it can lead to long-term disappointment if you don't know how to care for it. Wood flooring is susceptible to damage from many sources, including humidity changes. As the owner of new hardwood flooring, it's important to understand what humidity can do to your investment. Here are some common issues to watch for and tips to keep them from happening.
Separation and Cracking
The air in the winter months is typically drier than the humid air of most summers. Home heating systems can often draw moisture out of the air as well, intensifying the problem. As the air in the house dries out, so can your wood flooring. This may cause the wood panels to crack or separate due to contraction. While this is normal and not necessarily cause for panic, it also isn't inevitable.
Invest in humidifiers to place throughout your house. That way, you can put some moisture back into the air, protecting your hardwood floors from the drying effect of too much furnace heat. You can also reap the benefits of your regular household activities. For example, open the bathroom door to allow steam out while you shower and prop the dishwasher door open after the wash cycle so the humidity seeps into the kitchen.
In contrast to the drying effect of the winter climate, when the humidity increases in the summer, your wood floors are likely to expand. This can cause the panels to sink in the center, which is an effect known as cupping. This happens due to the limited space between the wood panels when they expand.
You'll have to eliminate the moisture to fix this. If the problem is solely due to humidity in the air, you'll need to dry things out. A dehumidifier will draw the general humidity out of the air, and then you can keep air moving over the surface of the wood by placing a low oscillating fan in the room, too. If you live in an area with high humidity throughout the summer, you may want to invest in dehumidifiers that you can start running in the early spring to help control the moisture in the air.
Since hardwood is naturally porous, it makes it particularly vulnerable to problems with even minimal environmental changes. If you're installing professional custom home flooring in your house, talk with the flooring contractor about evaluating the humidity levels in the house first. That way, you can be prepared and take steps to prevent damage to your wood floor.