While you may have heard of letting a fish acclimate to its new tank temperature, or of letting yourself get acclimated to a new job, you might not be familiar with this concept in terms of hardwood flooring. After all, what would prefinished hardwood flooring even need to acclimate to—foot traffic? Isn’t it common knowledge that all hardwoods are supremely resistant to that?
While your hardwood flooring won’t need time to acclimate to your family or pets, there is one key factor that you must be aware of when it comes to letting your hardwoods adjust to your home. E Hardwoods & Flooring, where you can buy hardwood flooring online, will explain further below.
Humidity, as you may or may not know, is defined as the concentration of water vapor in the air. If you’ve walked outside on a muggy summer’s day and felt like you were melting, even though the temperature was only in the 70’s, you’ve experienced the effects of high humidity. The air in this situation is highly saturated with water vapor, which means that your sweat had trouble evaporating and cooling you.
This might be a fun science lesson, but what does it have to do with your hardwoods? Quite a bit, actually. The unique humidity level of your household or business is the biggest thing that all wood floors, whether they are engineered hardwood flooring or prefinished solid hardwood flooring, will need to acclimate to, or get used to, before installation. It’s a critical step.
Acclimating hardwood takes time—though timeframes, and even if the process is necessary, will vary depending on your climate and home humidity levels. It’s understandable that you’d want to skip this step entirely and just dive into the installation process without a second thought. As a hardwood and engineered hardwood flooring vendor, we humbly ask you to reconsider. Due to their sensitivity to moisture, you risk your brand new flooring gapping if it’s not allowed to adjust itself and it needs to do so.
According to Wagner Meters, a company that makes measuring tools for flooring moisture content, “If the flooring materials retain too much moisture at the time of installation, the flooring will shrink when equilibrium (EMC) is reached. This can cause wide gaps and spaces in the flooring.” Equilibrium, or EMC, Wagner says, refers to “the point at which wood is at the same moisture level as its environment so that it no longer releases or absorbs moisture.”
In other words: if you don’t let your floors release their excess moisture via acclimation, look forward to a failed flooring installation!
How, you may ask, does one acclimate their hardwood floors to the surrounding humidity? It’s quite simple when you get right down to it.
Put them in the room you plan to install the flooring in. This also gives you the opportunity to check for damaged products and to get a good look at what your brand new floors will look like. Make sure these boxes are laid on a flat surface to prevent material strain and potential warping.
Yes, that’s it. Just leave it there, and the flooring will adjust on its own. However, be aware that in certain climate types, hardwood might require a little more time to adjust to the environment.
How long will it take to reach that aforementioned equilibrium level? Your manufacturer’s instructions will tell you more, in addition to providing more specific instructions, as every brand is different. We also recommend that you closely monitor your flooring’s moisture content levels with a moisture meter. This tool will show you both how your flooring is reacting to its surroundings—whether it’s gaining or losing moisture—and when this process begins to slow down and eventually stop.
Guidelines can range from a minimum of three days to up to two weeks. Again, your manufacturer’s installation directions will guide you.
While you’re waiting for your engineered hardwood flooring or solid hardwood flooring to acclimate, take the opportunity to square away any problems with your subfloor and its moisture content. Your prefinished hardwood flooring isn’t the only thing that requires attention in that respect! For instance, if your subfloor is concrete, you’ll need to make sure its moisture content won’t compromise the integrity of your flooring, as we cover in our blog on the topic.