Flooring 101: Installation Environment & Conditions

Have you heard any of these comments? 

"You can only use engineered wood?"

"Don't go over 5" wide?"

" You can't install wood floors near the water?"

If you have, you are like many of the customers we speak to everyday.  Don't let these comments discourage you! 

The truth is that you can install a variety of wood floors in a variety of installation conditions IF:

  • You have the right combination of quality and craftsmanship
  • Understand what those environmental conditions mean to your floors
  • Understand the proper acclimation process for your floor
  • Set the proper expectations for your floors

QUALITY & CRAFTSMANSHIP

 

Not all wood is created equal.  That is a simple fact.  You can ensure greater performance of your wood floor by taking careful steps to understand the following elements of your wood floor:

  • Where does the wood come from in the country?
  • Where is the wood cut from the tree?
  • How is the wood dried?
  • How and where is the floor made?

Watch this video for a demonstration of the Carlisle Slowcraft manufacturing to understand everything that goes into building a high quality wide plank floor.

ENVIRONMENTS

There are number of different environmental conditions that a wood floor will be exposed to depending on where you live.  When looking at North America you can summarize the environmental conditions in three buckets as they relate to floors - Humid, Dry, and those with Seasonal Changes.  When considering your installation environmental keep in mind that moisture NOT heat determines how your floor is going to perform once installed.

Lets take a moment to understand how these environmental conditions can effect your floor.   Then we will go into some installation methods to prepare your flooring for any environments and minimize problems.

HUMID ENVIRONMENTS

When wood floors are exposed to humid environments the fibers of the wood take on moisture, this causes the boards themselves to get larger, expand and become wider.  When boards become wider it reduces spaces between the boards and in a "worst case scenario" can cause cupping - where the sides of the boards are slightly higher then the center of the board.   It is possible to minimize or prevent this altogether with proper acclimation and humidity control in the home, combined with using higher quality wood floors that have inherant characteristics, that make it more stable, in a more humid environment.

DRY ENVIRONMENTS

Wood floors exposed to dry environments will have less moisture in the air, which means the fibers of the wood will be dry, causing the boards to shrink and become narrower.  When boards become narrower than when they were first installed this can cause spaces or gaps in between the boards.  Drier climates can also cause splits or cracks in the face of the boards.  Proper precautions like extended acclimation, installing humidification systems, combined with investing in higher quality wood floors can help minimize this significantly.

ENVIRONMENTS WITH SEASONAL CHANGES

When wood floors are installed in environments with significant changes from season to season the boards will expand and contract from season to season.  During the drier seasons, your floors may have small spaces between the boards - also known as gaps, while in the more humid months those are minimized or go away completely because the board has more moisture in it, causing it to expand.  There are ways to minimize seasonal movement by first investing in a higher quality wood floor, properly acclimating the wood and understanding what the heating/cooling schedule will be for your home - if you have one at all.

When considering a wood floor for your environment having the floor prefinished can be an advantage, but only if the boards are sealed on all 4 sides.  This will minimize moisture absorption into the wood.  Find out more today about this unique advantage.

ACCLIMATION

No matter where you are in the country, before you install your wood floor you must consider the proper acclimation for your environment. Your install should be able to provide the proper guidlance for acclimation, since the process will vary for different environments.

EXPECTATIONS

Whether you are a homeowner considering hardwood flooring for your own home or a professional trying to provide guidance to a customer to help them make the right decision it is important to set the right expectations for a wood floor. 

There are some customers who are more comfortable with the natural movement of wood floors from season to season.  In this case the design options are endless both for style of flooring and construction - solid or engineered!

There are some customers who are less tolerant of seasonal changes and want to control the "look" of the floor no matter what season it is.  These customers will install high-tech humidity systems to regulate temperature and humidity throughout the year creating the most consistent environment that a wood floor could ever dream of.  These customer may also benefit from considering Engineered wood flooring which may expand and contract less from season to season.


Filed Under: Do-It-Yourself | Home Building & Contracting | Planning for your New Floors | Pre-Finished Wood Flooring |

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