Summer Related Hardwood Floor Problems and Fixes

With summer comes warmer weather and a lot of activities that you just can’t do when the weather is colder, but with it also comes increased humidity. This can sometimes cause problems with hardwood floors.

How are your clients’ floors holding up so far? Do you find that you get more callbacks during the summer than other seasons?

Here are a few things that you and your clients should be aware of during the summer months with regards to potential hardwood floor problems.

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Summer-related hardwood floor issues

A cupped floor is not a great sight to see. Photo Credit: Wagner Meters

Cupping: By far, this is the biggest potential problem during the summer, and it’s one that definitely don’t want to encounter. Cupping happens when the edges of a board are higher than its center, due to moisture which causes the wood to expand. High relative humidity (RH) is typically the culprit. Cupping is caused by a moisture imbalance through the thickness of the wood. The wood is wetter on the bottom of the board than on the top surface, which dries quicker than the bottom. Cupping most often appears after the floor has been installed and in some cases, the floor will cup even if it was installed correctly if there are huge humidity issues within the household or an undetected leak that is affecting the moisture content of the subfloor and/or planks.

Sunlight: Sunlight exposure change the appearance of hardwood floors. Certain species such as American cherry are more susceptible to lightening or experiencing a change in their appearance with sunlight exposure than other species. This phenomenon is known as photosensitivity in hardwood floors. As the sun stays out longer during the summer, this is a potential problem to be aware of. 

How the wood was cut: The way that the log was cut actually matters a lot when it comes to the stability of the planks. There are four ways that a log is typically cut into wood planks: live-sawn, rift-and-quartered, plain-sawn, and quarter-sawn. The cut of the planks will determine how susceptible the floor will be fluctuations in relative humidity. Rift-and-quartered flooring is the most dimensionally stable out of the choices available, but obviously can’t be changed once the floors are installed; this choice has to be made before the installation takes place and should be made wisely. 

Width of the planks: The wider the planks, the more susceptible they are to changing due to fluctuations in moisture content and weather conditions. Wide plank hardwood floors will fluctuate more in response to humidity levels than narrower planks. 

Getting ahead of these issues

Measuring the moisture content of a hardwood floor

Here’s what you should consider to get ahead of potential hardwood floor problems in the summer, so you can minimize the amount of callbacks you get this season:

Be smart about sunlight exposure: If you don’t want one patch of floor to prematurely age under the sun, be sure to move your furniture around during the summer months. Area rugs should also be moved around. Pay special attention to this if they have a species that is more susceptible to this, including American and Brazilian cherry and walnut. 

Measure moisture: The biggest way to prevent cupping and other major hardwood floor issues is for the contractor to measure moisture of the flooring before, during, and after installation. If a floor experiences cupping, a complete reinstallation may be in order.

Think about the cut of the wood: Clients who are concerned about too much moisture in the environment creating issues in their hardwood floors during the summer should most likely choose quarter sawn wood, especially if they choose wide plank floors.

Get humidity under control: Overall, your clients can try to get ahead of potential moisture-related hardwood floor issues during the summer by attempting to control the humidity in their home. You typically want your home’s environment to be between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 30% to 50% RH. However, measures to control humidity can only go so far and can’t be controlled completely.

Consider engineered: Engineered hardwood floors are more dimensionally stable than solid floors, and therefore are more influenced by fluctuations in moisture content than solid floors. We definitely recommend engineered flooring when your clients want wide plank hardwood floors to minimize the amount of moisture-related fluctuations.

With these tips in mind, you can minimize the amount of callbacks you experience from your clients during the summer. Most of all, remember to prioritize the measuring of moisture content when the installation is taking place in order to best prevent huge issues from cropping up.

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