Wood is a porous organic material that “breathes” with the environment. Because of this, wood floor damage due to changes in indoor humidity is possible for all types of wood flooring. It doesn’t matter what kind of wood flooring you have installed – solid wood, laminate, engineered wood, oak, bamboo, mahogany. All wood floors absorb water an expand in high humidity. All wood floors lose water and shrink in low humidity. A little bit of expansion and shrinking is normal and will not damage a wood floor. However, rapid or extreme changes in temperature and humidity can cause irreversible damage to your wood floor.
High Humidity and Wood Floor Damage
Wood floors are installed with gaps around the edges. You don’t see these gaps because they are covered by the baseboards. They are there so that when the floor expands with humidity, it has room to grow. If the humidity gets too high, the floor will try to expand beyond the gap. The edges will get crushed as the floor is pressed up and buckles. When the humidity returns to normal, the buckling may disappear but the crushed edges mean the floor will have gaps between the boards.
Low Humidity and Wood Floor Damage
Similarly, when temperature and humidity drop, wood floors shrink. If this happens too quickly or things get too dry, the floor boards may shrink until they split or crack. You may also see gaps between the floor boards. When the humidity rises again, the gaps will go away but the splits and cracks will not.
How to Keep Your Wood Floors Damage-Free
How do you prevent irreversible damage to your wood floor? Here are some suggestions:
- The ideal temperature range is usually between 60-80 degrees F with a relative humidity of 35% – 55%.
- Your wood flooring manufacturer can provide you with the specifications for your specific type of wood floor.
- As temperatures drop, moisture leaves the air. All modern A/C units have a built-in dehumidifier to collect this moisture so running the A/C can lower the relative humidity of a room.
- A stand-alone dehumidifier will also remove excessive moisture.
- Heating a room will not lower the humidity, but it will lower the relative humidity since hot air can hold more moisture. Relative humidity is the important measure.
- It is important to know that damage due to temperature and humidity fluctuations are not covered by flooring warranties. It is your responsibility to keep the environment stable for your floors.
- Not all wood flooring damage is due to fluctuations in your indoor environment. If your wood floors are damaged, investigate the cause of your flooring damage and your flooring manufacturers warranty.
- As a general rule, if you feel good inside your home, your floors probably do too. If a room feel muggy, damp, or excessively dry, your floors feel it too!