5 Ways Humidity May Damage Your Hardwood Floors
Wood flooring can be affected by the changing seasons, as well as humidity levels. While high humidity causes the wood to absorb moisture and expand, low humidity drains moisture from the floorboards, leading them to become smaller in size. Here are some ways humidity levels can affect your hardwood floorboards.
1. Cracks or Thin Gaps between Planks
Don’t be surprised when your wood flooring contracts when the relative humidity is lower than recommended. This is normal. During this time, the wood floors begin to crack and sometimes thin gaps between the planks become obvious. In dry months, these cracks may expand to be as thick as a dime. This is a common occurrence on a typical solid 2 ¼ inch oak floor.
As stated earlier, it is normal, and you should be prepared for these changes to occur to your wood flooring during the dry months. Since the indoor heating system will not be in use during the spring, the gaps will automatically seal themselves thanks to the rising humidity levels.
Wood flooring cannot withstand harsh humidity changes too well. It weakens the planks, making your wood flooring more brittle and increasing the risk of damage or splintering. In some cases, the floorboards may split in the middle or at the ends. They may split in both these areas as well. This splitting may damage the wood finishing, leaving your floors unprotected.
Cupping occurs when the edges of the wood become higher than the center. This happens when the humidity levels are not evenly distributed in the wood planks. There are many causes of cupping, such as when the relative humidity is higher than recommended, relative humidity migrating from a basement or crawl space, and water infiltration, among other reasons. If you notice any signs of cupping, the first thing to do is identify the root cause of the problem. Once identified, finding a solution will be easier. However, it will take some time for the wood flooring to restore itself to its original state. Alternatively, you can use fans or dehumidifiers to restore the shape.
Unlike cupping, crowning occurs when the board center becomes higher than the edges. It is the opposite of cupping. This happens when the floor surface absorbs too much moisture. Sanding your hardwood floor immediately after cupping increases the likelihood of crowning.
This is one of the most typical problems hardwood flooring faces during the changing seasons or during changing humidity levels. This happens when the floor expands beyond its limit and pulls away from the subfloor. It will feel like a trampoline when you walk on it. As soon as the humidity levels go back to normal, the wood flooring will shrink back, but it is likely that you may not get the original shape as the edges of each board will be damaged. As the planks become smaller in size, you may see cracks between the boards.
Get a hygrometer to measure the humidity levels in your home at any given time. This way, you can protect your wood flooring from damage.