How to Prevent Hardwood Floor Moisture Problems Down the Line

Preventing too much moisture in a hardwood floor

When you’re installing hardwood floors, moisture matters. If there’s too much moisture in a hardwood floor or it hasn’t fully adjusted to its environment, disaster can happen.

Fortunately, hardwood floor contractors have at their disposal two important methods to protect floors from irreversible moisture-related damage: acclimation and moisture readings.

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Method One: Allow hardwood floors to acclimate.

The acclimation process allows a floor to adjust to the moisture, relative humidity, and temperature of its environment, which is crucial for safeguarding against problems later on.

The end goal of acclimating floors is to strike a balance between the wood’s moisture content and the moisture content of its environment. Allowing floors to go through this process does a lot to prevent problematic cupping, gapping, and bowing.

In order to acclimate hardwood floors, place the wood in the room where it will be installed open and leave it there for several days. It’s advised to keep the packaging raised off the floor by a few feet and to cross-stack the floors with spacers between each layer to allow for proper air circulation.

Method Two: Take moisture readings often.

Taking moisture measurements of a concrete subfloor

Hardwood floors constantly react to the conditions of their environment, so in addition to allowing floors to acclimate it’s crucial to take moisture content readings with a reliable moisture meter. Taking accurate and frequent measurements during and after the installation process will help protect the floor’s integrity.

Perhaps the most vital reading to take is when the wood is first acquired. Doing this will help you make sure that the wood is acceptable for installation.

If the moisture content of the floor isn’t right, make it right before you start the installation. For example, if its optimal moisture content for the species is 8 to 9 percent for your region of the country but your moisture meter shows a reading of 11 percent, the product should not be installed until the material reaches the optimal moisture content. If you install the flooring when the moisture content isn’t right, excessive gapping will likely occur later.

Another thing to consider is the moisture content of the subfloor. You should take continual moisture readings of the sub floor as well. The National Wood Floor Association (NWFA) specifies that there should only be a 2-3 percent difference in the sub floor and the hardwood floor product.

Moisture measurements should also be taken directly before and after the acclimation process to gauge the wood’s reaction to its environment.

Floors continue adjusting to relative humidity, temperature, and other environmental conditions well after they’re installed and finished, so it’s also recommended that homeowners take periodic moisture measurements.

For example, when relative humidity drops during the winter months, floor planks may shrink in size, causing gaps to appear. This isn’t usually a cause for alarm, as the gaps should fill out once humidity rises again. But regularly measuring the moisture content of hardwood floors will give homeowners a chance to spot huge changes that might indicate problems with the floor or subfloor.

A great rule to follow is to maintain your home between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 35 to 55 percent relative humidity.

There are two main types of meters you can use for measuring the moisture content in a hardwood floor:

Delmhorst J-2000 hardwood floor moisture meter

Pin models like the Delmhorst J-2000 feature small pins that are inserted into the wood and send resistance signals back and forth to measure moisture content.

Wagner MMC 200 pinless moisture meter for hardwood floors

Pinless models like the Wagner MMC 200 sit on top of the wood and send a signal down to a certain depth which measures the floor’s moisture content.

Read about the pros and cons of each model type.

The PFS Moisture Reading Advantage

The Philly Floor team understands how important initial conditions are, so we conduct on-site moisture measurements when making hardwood floor deliveries.

We measure the relative humidity and temperature of the environment, as well as the moisture content of the wood and the subfloor to ensure that conditions are right for a perfect installation.

For more information on protecting hardwood floors from moisture damage, call 610-940-5757 or email info@phillyfloor.com.

2 thoughts on “How to Prevent Hardwood Floor Moisture Problems Down the Line

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