Be sure to acclimate wood on site

acclimate woodBy Jason Wright Hardwood floors are a great choice that will last a lifetime. But did you know that you can easily lose this lifetime investment if you don’t allow wood to fully acclimate before it’s installed?

Extreme moisture related issues can occur such as warping, cupping, crowns, kinks, mold, mildew or even noticeable gaps between planks. Often problems like these involve expensive repairs.

Failure to acclimate and install the hardwood floor when the moisture content of the wood is too high can generally affect the integrity of the floor. You may run into major problems that you won’t know about until later.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the serious problems that can arise.

warp. This is any deviation from flatness and can be a common problem when wood floors absorb moisture unevenly or dry too slowly or too quickly. Warping can take various forms and can give the floor an undesirable twisted, bent or crooked appearance. If the planks do not return to their original shape, they may become loose, shatter or crack.

Cupping. Wooden floor cupping is a form of warping that occurs when the edges on the sides of each plank protrude higher than the centers. The floor ends up looking a bit like an accordion or a washboard. Any moisture balance, including a change in the environment, can cause the planks to expand beyond the space they were given during installation. The resulting pressure forces the board edges up, creating the washboard effect.

To nod. When a wood floor buckles, this is really an extreme case of “crowning”, where the center of each plank is higher than the edges. But on buckling, dramatic moisture changes will warp the planks to the point where they lose contact with the subfloor.

Abnormal holes. Narrow spaces between shelves are common and are due to seasonal variations as the RV changes in the environment. Please note, however, that if the floor was installed with the moisture content significantly higher than the environmental conditions, the gaps between the planks may become unacceptably large as the planks dry.

Simple solutions

In almost all cases, it is surprisingly easy to avoid these moisture-related problems. Since they are all due to moisture, your best line of defense is to pay attention to the moisture content of the hardwood before installation.

Don’t just assume that the hardwood will acclimate well within a few days of being delivered to the job site. Instead, protect your investment by also investing in a high-quality, non-destructive pine moisture meter that can measure moisture levels up to 5%-6%.

When your hardwood floor arrives on site, immediately use your moisture meter to take measurements and get basic information. Then continue to monitor the moisture content until the wood has reached an equilibrium moisture content. Typically, you’ll be looking for a moisture content between 6% and 9%, but this varies by geographic region and other environmental factors. Remember: Because wood is sensitive to water, you’ll want to measure its moisture content before installing.


Jason Wright has over 30 years of experience in the flooring industry with a specific specialization in hardwood flooring products and installation. Contact him by email at jwright@wagnermeters.com.

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