How Temperature and Humidity Affect Hardwood Flooring

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If maintained properly, hardwood flooring is durable, strong, and better for people with allergies, as it doesn’t collect dirt, pollen, and dust as readily as carpeting. As you choose your new floors, learn about how temperature and humidity affect hardwood flooring.

How Temperature and Humidity Affect Each Other

You know it when you feel it: stepping outside on a hot summer day, you’re likely to sense the humidity along with the temperature. That’s because warmer air can hold more moisture than cold air. In the winter, you may notice more static electricity in your home, and your skin may feel dry. Since cold air can’t hold much moisture, the air both indoors and outside is drier when it’s cold out.

The Concept of Relative Humidity

When you listen to or read the weather forecast, you’ll see a prediction for humidity levels expressed as a percentage. This number tells you the percentage of the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold at the current temperature. With a measurement of relative humidity, you can tell if the air in your home is too humid or too dry. This is important because of how temperature and humidity affect hardwood flooring.

How To Measure Humidity in Your Home

You can purchase a device for measuring home humidity levels at your local hardware store. Ask for a hygrometer, which measures the amount of water vapor in the air. Don’t confuse this with a hydrometer, which measures the density of liquid.

What Happens to Hardwood Floors in High Humidity

A relative humidity higher than 50% means your home has too much humidity. When humidity levels are high, wood floors absorb moisture and expand. This can cause cupping, in which the centers of the planks curve down and the edges curve up. High humidity can also result in crowning, which is the opposite of cupping: the centers of the planks swell upward, higher than the edges.

In a worst-case scenario, high humidity can cause wood floors to buckle, pulling away from the subfloor and forming a peak.

The Effects of Low Humidity

Humidity below 38% is too dry for hardwood floors. The planks will dry out and possibly crack, and the gaps between planks will expand. Dry air can also cause hardwood flooring to split or crack, requiring replacement.

How To Regulate Humidity in Your Home

A properly installed hardwood floor shouldn’t suffer terribly from variations in temperature and humidity, but keeping an eye on humidity levels in your home is still important. Many home HVAC systems now have whole-house humidifiers and dehumidifiers built in. If yours doesn’t, you can use a ductless heating system’s radiant heat or portable dehumidifiers to maintain the proper humidity levels in summer. Humidifiers are also useful in the winter.

If you’re interested in hardwood flooring in Portland, Oregon, and have questions about how our local climate may affect your floors, contact Portland Floor for answers. We’ll be happy to help.

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