With the historic cold temperatures we’ve had this winter, some may also be experiencing some issues with their hardwood floors too. Have you been noticing popping or crackling sounds coming from your floors? Even though wood floors are made from “dead” trees, the flooring reacts to temperature and humidity changes inside your home as if it were alive. These cold days with its low humidity affects most people’s skin some worse than others. Just as your skin reacts to low humidity, so does wood flooring.
It doesn’t matter if your wood floors are solid wood, engineered wood, or laminate. Wood flooring manufacturers specify that wood floors are only to be installed in a stable, maintained 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 continuously within a certain range. This range varies slightly depending on the manufacturer and type of wood flooring. Generally, the required range is between 60-80 degrees with a relative humidity range of 35 percent to 55 percent. Wood floors don’t like sudden indoor changes. So what happens when the humidity level stays below 30% 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 occasionally snap, crackle, and pop at random times. If the dryness continues unchecked, 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.
The 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, because once the boards split or crack that damage is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
At Martin’s Flooring, our sales professionals are trained to advise the customer about the importance of maintaining your home’s temperature and humidity levels when purchasing wood flooring. Unfortunately, with this winter’s cold temperatures, your home’s HVAC system is not designed to help keep your home at that stable humidity level. In fact, most HVAC systems are designed to help maintain humidity during extreme cold weather at 20 to 30%. Do you see the potential problem? Your wood needs 35 to 55%. Your heating system delivers 20 to 30%. This can lead to the noises you may hear from your floors first, but then it can lead to more problems beyond the noises.
What should a homeowner do? Hopefully, we are seeing the last of the extreme temperatures, but it is still a great idea to install a humidifier to get your home’s humidity up to a safe comfortable level for you and your wood flooring.