- Posted December 7, 2012 by
Home Tips: How to Protect Your Wood Floors from Winter Damage by Ilana Greene and Ranjit Suresh
As the winter approaches, how can you prevent pesky gaps from forming in your wood floors? The biggest factor that can prevent seasonal floor expansion & contraction is maintaining a certain level of humidity in your home. If you allow your home to become too dry then the wood floors will contract. This will cause the unsightly gaps that everyone complains about. During the dry winter months, the wood cells can shrink through sheer lack of moisture, causing gaps between the boards. So homeowners that do not have a humidistat built into their central heating system can still maintain correct moisture levels by running a humidifier. In fact, not only will a humidifier help maintain your floors but it will make your home more comfortable too. Let’s face it, during the winter many of us suffer from nose bleeds, dry skin, and coughing, all of which are caused by dry air.
It’s not healthy. Our bodies are 70% water, so we depend upon a certain amount of moisture just to stay alive. So why would you want to expose yourself to such extreme conditions?
The lesson is that if you have wood floors and you allow the environment to get outside the recommended 30% to 50% relative humidity range you are going to have problems with your wood floors. If humidity is too low and falls below 30%, the floors are going to contract more than they should causing gaps. Conversely, if you let humidity get too high and rise above 50%, then conditions are going to be too moist and the floors will expand.
If it gets bad enough, they can actually buckle. Imagine you have your wood planks installed, and they are all nice and tight and the floor looks normal. Suddenly the humidity increases rapidly, the wood absorbs the excess moisture, and grows in size. But it doesn't grow nice and evenly. Excessive humidity will cause your floors to appear uneven. High moisture makes them warp, causing them to look distorted by cupping and crowning. When conditions get really wet, your floors can suffer from this water damage. Water damage is the extreme form of excessive humidity. In the worst case scenario, the floors can expand, buckle, and this can cause the growth of mold and mildew.
For measuring the relative humidity in your home, get a Mr. Floor thermo-hygrometer at www.mrfloor.com. Even if you don't have wood floors, it is good to have one to regulate the optimal environment for breathing to stay healthy and moisturized.