Since wood is a natural material, it reacts to the changing seasons and humidity levels. With high humidity, the wood absorbs the moisture in the air and expands. Likewise, low humidity can leech moisture fromand cause them to shrink.
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Low Humidity in the Winter Causes Contraction
In the winter, it’s normal for there to be slight gaps between. This is because wood loses moisture and contracts in response to low humidity. For example, you may notice that hardwood floor gapping is more pronounced near radiators where dry hot air creates conditions for low humidity. As you move away from the radiators, you may notice that the gaps in your floor close ever so slightly.
Wood floors last longer in humidity levels between 35% and 55%. However, homes can easily drop beneath this range in the winter when dry air is used for heating. Thankfully, there are things you can do to limit how much your natural hardwood floors contract during the winter months. For example, we recommend buying a humidifier to prevent the air in your home from getting too dry.
High Humidity in the Summer Causes Expansion
Hardwood floorboards expand in high humidity because they absorb the moisture in the air. This can cause the gaps between floorboards to close. To keep your hardwood flooring from swelling, we recommend keeping the humidity level in your home between 35% and 55%. Air conditioning not only cools your home but also removes humidity from the air. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, we recommend buying a dehumidifier.
To What Extent is Contraction or Expansion Normal?
You should expect your natural wood floors to expand and contract with the seasons and changing humidity levels. However, extreme movement can damage your hardwood floors. If you are unsure whether your hardwood floors are expanding and contracting too much, we recommend reaching out to a hardwood floor specialist.
To determine the extent of gapping that is normal, you’ll need to consider:
- Wood species
- Width of plank
- Location of hardwood flooring
- Type of hardwood flooring installation
Keep in mind that noticeable cupping or crowning should be addressed by a professional who repairs hardwood floors. Cupping is when the edges of wood floor planks are higher than the center. Crowning, on the other hand, is when the center is higher than the edges of floor planks. Also, keep in mind that differentreact differently to humidity.