The Heat is On – Maintaining Humidity for Hardwood Flooring
Summer was much too short and now fall is in the air. So what does that mean for hardwood floors? It means as installers and retailers we need to make sure to educate our customers on maintaining proper humidity levels in homes. Most areas of the United States go through the four seasons, and that means during the winter months heat is required to maintain a comfort level. What that also means is if forced air heating is utilized, there is a much drier environment. Inspections of gapping (Photo 1), cracks (Photo 2), checking (Photo 3), cupping (Photo 4), bond line failure (delamination) (Photo 5) and shear (Photo 6) start about two months after the heaters get turned on.
It’s our responsibility as professionals to educate the end user in understanding the importance of maintaining a constant environment that the manufacturer and industry recommend.
Inspectors are typically busy from November to April conducting inspections due to dry conditions. So what can we as installers and retailers do? Let our customers know they need to take responsibility in maintaining their environment.
It’s our responsibility as professionals to educate the end user in understanding the importance of maintaining a constant environment that the manufacturer and industry recommend. If you decide not to, be prepared for the famous paper trail of sticky notes (Photo 7)—or worse, monetary losses.
Whether it’s a portable humidifier (Photo 8) or a built-in humidistat system (Photo 9), both will help introduce moisture into the air. If the homeowner/end user decides on a portable system, make sure to discuss placement of the humidifier. Some areas of the country have hard/heavy minerals in their water, and if a humidifier is placed directly on a wood floor or if the mist falls directly onto the wood floor it may display a white haze from the mineral residue. Distilled water will not leave a residue like hard water. Portable systems also require filling on a constant basis.
As an installer, you should be documenting ambient site conditions as well as moisture content of the subfloor and wood to protect your business. If you read the installation guidelines from the manufacturers or the National Wood Flooring Association’s installation guidelines, you’ll find there is a temperature and relative humidity range that should be constantly maintained. One of the first questions an inspector will ask is whether or not the installer has documentation of site conditions and moisture content of the subfloor and wood flooring.
So as the sun sets on summer (Photo 10) and things get cooler outside, remember to address the heat on the inside.