Why Boards Shrink In Winter
Your wood floors react to temperature and humidity changes inside your home. During the winter we crank up the central heating in our homes, this reduces humidity in your home. Low humidity not only dries out your skin and sinuses, just as low humidity affects us, it also affects wood flooring.
It also doesn’t matter if your wood floors are solid wood, engineered wood, or laminate. Wood flooring manufacturers specify that wood floors perform to their specifications when installed in a heat and humidity controlled environment. This means that, in order for the wood flooring to perform as designed, the temperature and humidity conditions inside your home must be kept within a certain range. This range can vary slightly depending on the manufacturer and type of wood flooring. Wood floors don’t like sudden indoor climate changes, and neither do we.
So what happens when the humidity level is low for longer periods when your home’s heating system is running more frequently drying out the air? The floor loses its moisture and shrinks. This can cause your floor to move about a bit. If the dryness continues, you may begin to see gaps starting to appear along the sides or ends of the boards. This may ultimately lead to the boards themselves splitting or cracking in the centers or at the ends, or both, causing permanent damage to your floors. Wood flooring manufacturers make it clear that it is the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure you maintain a stable environment with both temperature and humidity control, because once the boards split or crack that damage is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
Acclimate the boards
Always remember about the need to let hardwood boards acclimate prior to the installation. In order to do so, bring the floorboards into the interior where you are planning to install them. You can either take them out from the boxes in which they were delivered, or leave them there in which case, remember to open the boxes to allow the circulation of fresh air . Store them there for up to 10 days. In this way, the floorboards will adjust to the temperature and humidity levels.
Another important thing that not all of you are aware of is that wood, just like most organic materials, tends to expand when the temperature level is high and contract if it’s low. It also changes depending on the humidity level – expanding when the air is damp and contracting in dry conditions. The reason for that is the fact that the vessels in tree trunks are vertically aligned tubes. They carry water and other nutrients vertically up the trunk, pulling it up from the ground and transporting it throughout the entire tree. The tubes are still there, even if the tree is cut. Therefore, in moist environment, water is absorbed by the wood, filling these tubes, which causes the expansion of the entire hardwood board. Our floor layers will always install to allow for expansion and shrinkage, this normally requires leaving a 10ml gap between boards. Movement in wood boards is completely normal and once your floor have been installed correctly by a professional wood floor installer there should be no reason for any concern.