Wood is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs and releases moisture depending on the conditions in its immediate environment. For this reason, an exceptionally dry climate can cause wood floors to split out — but not if you perform the installation correctly.
Jason Elquest owns Blackhawk Floors Inc. in Arizona. Regardless of the state’s exceptionally dry climate, he is able to make his wood floor installs work. He’s handled over 4,000 projects since 2001, and he provided some tips in a recent article for Hardwood Floors Magazine.
Jason says to be careful about recommending that your clients use a humidifier to take care of any potential moisture problems. While a humidifier can help mitigate the effects of humidity fluctuations, you shouldn’t use it as your only line of defense when installing a hardwood floor in a dry climate. Here’s how Jason deals with installing wood floors in Arizona.
As always, moisture measurement and acclimation are keys to successfully installing a hardwood floor in a dry climate.
“We always check RH percent and temperature at the time of our first visit to the home. This starts the acclimation process for us, and we now know what MC percent we have to achieve with the wood floor. The RH percent and temperature is checked again at the time of material delivery, and again before installation. This gives us an accurate picture of the home’s environment. This is the exact same process for engineered, solid, and all of the various species.”
Put the risks down in writing
If your customer is asking for an exceptionally long and unstable species installed, you should tell them that you don’t recommend it, and state your reasoning. Don’t be afraid to say no to a project that you’re uncomfortable doing, especially if you can foresee problems happening down the line.
If the client decides to move forward with the project regardless of the stated risks, make sure to protect yourself from callbacks by putting the risks down in writing, and having them sign off on it.
Educate your customers about aftercare and what to expect
Wood floor maintenance is important. This goes along with taking regular moisture measurements if they live in an area that is especially susceptible to swings in humidity, or if they have exceptionally wide or long floors installed.
Proper maintenance includes not shutting off the air conditioning and heating for cooler weather in the summer.
Again and again, we see the solution to a lot of problems is to properly set customer expectations. If you are honest and upfront with your clients about what to expect from their floors because of the fact that they were installed in an exceptionally dry climate, you should not run into problems.
For example, if they want an especially long or wide floor despite the fact that they live in an environment where the humidity fluctuates a lot, let them know that the flooring might not perform as well as they want it to.
You should also give your clients a floor care guide that specifies what to expect with regard to gaps and humidity, what’s normal and what’s not, and how to ensure that the humidity in the household is properly regulated. You should also give them a copy of the risks statement that they signed.
Be smart about wood and moisture
If you’re in a dry place like Arizona but the wood you’re installing comes from the east coast, you can expect its moisture content to be higher than you need it to be. Prepare for this by allowing the wood enough time to acclimate––don’t make any exceptions, and build this time into your project schedule.
If the moisture content of the wood isn’t where you need it to be after a week of acclimation, let it sit for another week. The key is to give the wood all of the time it needs to release excess moisture.
Click here to read more about preventing moisture problems in hardwood floors.