Installing a hardwood floor isn’t as easy as it seems. Leaving everything for the hardwood contractor isn’t the solution. Homeowners should know floor maintenance fundamentals because you never know what might come up.
One of those basic rules of hardwood installation is acclimation. Failing to understand the concept of hardwood acclimation can cost you both time and money.
Let’s get into details.
- What Is Acclimation?
Acclimation is the process of adjusting the moisture content of wood flooring to the environment it is being installed in. This process is necessary for the hardwood planks to absorb the daily amount of moisture present in the atmosphere. It will lead to swelling or shrinking of planks before finally reaching a relative equilibrium.
Just know that there’s no hard rule as to how many days the planks need to be acclimated. The acclimation period is not specific because hardwood floors will always perform well when the humidity level is between 30% and 50% and the temperature is between 60°and 80°F.
- Problems with Acclimation
Hardwood flooring acclimation isn’t a perfect process, it depends on the situation. Sometimes it can cause more trouble than good. For example, if you place hardwood flooring planks in a newly constructed home, then the planks will act like a sponge and absorb the surrounding moisture. New homes have a lot of moisture trapped inside and can damage the planks which can cause cupping. That said, not all the planks are made from the same wood. Each piece is different, therefore, all of them will not expand or shrink in the same way.
- Guidelines for Hardwood Acclimation
Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions
Some hardwood flooring manufacturers recommend acclimation, while others don’t. The recommendation varies because each manufacturer transports and stores the planks differently. Some planks are already acclimated while others are not because they are stored in a controlled environment. Therefore, before starting the acclimation process, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Use a Moisture Meter During the Acclimation Period
As mentioned earlier, acclimation period is meaningless. You can’t calculate how the product will perform over 360 days of the year based on its acclimation in 5 days. However, some contractors believe that the product should be acclimated for at least 72 hours. The best way is to use a moisture meter during the conditioning period and at the time of installation to consider how the planks will change in the future.
Acclimation Should Be the Last Project
Hardwood flooring planks should be delivered to the job site after all other projects are completed. Wet paint and masonry work can increase the moisture content in the air which can damage the boards. Therefore, planks should be placed when the house has stabilized around normal occupancy conditions, i.e., paint becomes dry, doors and windows are installed and subfloors are checked.
Unpack the Flooring
The flooring should be unpacked and the planks should be stacked on top of each other with small strips of wood between each plank during the adjusting period. It is necessary to allow the moisture to have access to all sides of the board.
Acclimation of hardwood flooring depends on the place it is expected to be installed. Check the relative humidity level in your house and consult a flooring professional to calculate the right acclimation period for your floors.