Acclimating Hardwood Floors: How and Why?

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Impressions Hardwood Floors

June 1, 2015

Installing hardwood floors is one of the most exciting things that can happen in your home. More than likely you have spent hours doing research, asking questions, looking at samples, talking to your retailer or contractor, and finally, you have decided on the perfect floors for your home. After all that work, we’re sure you are more than ready to get your floors installed and enjoy them! But before you do, there is one very important thing you need to do first- acclimate your hardwood to the environment in your home.

You may not realize that even though the hardwood planks you have purchased have been kiln-dried, cut, and in some cases sealed, weeks or months before they make it to your home, they will still expand or shrink slightly based on the moisture content in the air around them. In humid climates, they will expand, and in dry climates, they will shrink. These changes happen because hardwood is a natural material that comes from a living organism, and it is just the nature of wood to respond to moisture around it.

Why should I allow my hardwood to acclimate?

If hardwood planks are not allowed to acclimate to their environment before installation, issues like cupping, warping, and gapping can arise. But don’t worry! Once your hardwood has fully acclimated to its new environment, and with the proper installation and care over time, you can avoid issues like these.

Impressions Hardwood Floors

How do I acclimate my hardwood floors?

For proper acclimation, it is essential that the wood is stored in a climate-controlled environment very similar to the climate in your home where it will be installed. Generally, the best conditions are 30-50% humidity and 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that garages, porches, or homes under construction without an AC or heater are not good options.

More than likely, your new hardwood flooring will arrive in boxes and might also be wrapped in plastic. Once you find a good location to store them, we recommend opening the boxes and cutting open the ends of the plastic wrapping to allow for as much airflow as possible.

How long should I allow for my floors to acclimate?

Depending on where you live and your local conditions, the amount of time it will take for your floors to fully adjust to their new environment will vary. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, but it really depends on your location (for example, humidity levels are different in Florida than Nevada). The goal is to get your flooring to reach its Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC), which is the point that it is no longer gaining or losing moisture.

This is something that can easily be measured by your flooring installer or with a moisture meter available at your local hardware store. Once your flooring has reached an EMC between 6 and 9 percent it has finished acclimating and ready for installation.
Use the chart below, provided by the US Department of Agriculture Wood Handbook to see what your hardwood’s EMC should be depending on your local temperature and humidity. The ideal EMC levels are in the shaded portion.

Impressions Hardwood Floors

My floors are acclimated. Now what should I do?

Now you are ready to install your floors and enjoy them! As always, we recommend seeking the help of a professional to perform the installation. There are many factors that affect the performance of your flooring and a professional hardwood installer will be able to steer your clear of situations that can endanger your beautiful new hardwood floors!

Want to make sure you have fully prepared your home for hardwood floors? Check out our post Preparing Your Home for Hardwood Floors to find out about a step many people forget about!