People often choose hardwood floors for the warm, elegant feeling they add to a room. It is important to make sure that they are installed correctly because you want them to last and continue looking great for years to come.
It is important to give hardwood floors time to acclimate to the room where they will be installed, and they do need to settle. Once the wood is acclimated to the environment, it can be installed, and it will calibrate its moisture content to the humidity and temperature where it is installed. If you skip this step, your wood floors may expand or shrink too much, and they can become damaged.
How Do You Acclimate Hardwood Flooring?
You need to acclimate hardwood flooring before it is installed. Wood is impacted by the humidity and temperature, and it will expand and contract. Before it is installed, it needs to get acclimated by sitting in the environment for up to a week.
This process is where the wood is conditioned to its new environment. Wood comes from trees, and it is made to take water in from the roots that travels up through the bark. Wood is hygroscopic because it has the ability to absorb moisture from the air. Even after a tree is cut down, you can see the capillaries in the wood. It continues to adapt to its environment.
The room where the wood will be installed should have a humidity level of 35% to 60%. The HVAC system, doors, and windows should already be in place. It is the last step in the building process so that the environment is as close to what the hardwood flooring will live in as possible.
Different types of hardwood will take different amounts of time to acclimate. Once the wood is delivered, it is important to check the moisture content. Then, it will take at least three days to acclimate it so that the moisture content is similar to that of its environment.
How Does Acclimating Impact Settling?
Allowing the hardwood to acclimate helps ensure that the hardwood floors will settle properly. If you don’t allow the hardwood to acclimate, you can end up with terrible problems as the wood settles. Rather than settling in nicely and maintaining its shape and spacing, the hardwood can warp and twist over time.
If the wood swells, shrinks, or contracts significantly after it is installed, it can create wide spaces between the boards. It can also warp and cup – where the ends twist up. This can actually be quite dangerous. It can lead to permanent damage, and you may end up replacing your floor.
How Long Do Hardwood Floors Take to Settle?
When hardwood floors are first installed, they may feel bouncy. There is a lot of give as they haven’t yet settled into their new environment. However, after a few months, they will feel more solid under your feet.
Over the first year as your floor goes through the different seasons, it will work out the right moisture content. You can help this process by using your HVAC to regulate the humidity in the home. After about a year, most hardwood floors are fully settled.
Does it Matter What Time of Year You Install Hardwood Flooring?
When trees are first cut down, the wood has a moisture content of 100%. Over time and with treatment, this number is reduced. The wood will need to acclimate to the moisture content and temperature in the room where it will be installed.
If the room is too hot or too cold, or if the humidity is too high or too low, the wood will have a strong chance of warping or cupping as it settles. For this reason, people usually recommend installing wood floors in the spring or fall. During these seasons, the temperature and humidity are both milder and make it easier for the wood to acclimate and settle.
If your home has a whole-house humidifier and you can control the moisture content in the air, you can install the wood floors at any time. However, if the external temperatures and humidity come into play, the summer and the winter are more difficult times to get a good installation.
How Long Before You Can Walk on Newly Installed Hardwood Floors?
After at least one day, you can often walk on your hardwood flooring with your socks on. You will want to wait at least a week to bring furniture back into the room so that the wood has time to cure. There are a few different factors that play a role in how long you need to wait.
First of all, the indoor temperature and humidity level play a role. The floor needs time to acclimate so that it expands and contracts without creating gaps between boards or warping. Walking on the floors too soon can actually lead to warping.
Next, the type of wood you use plays a role in how long it takes. Solid hardwood floors take longer than wood that is engineered. Engineered wood flooring is actually made to resist warping when the temperature and humidity levels change.
Finally, the finish on your floor needs some time to cure. Once it is dry, it will continue to cure so that it can protect your floors from scratches and scuffing. The amount of time it needs to cure depends on what type of finish is used. A water-based finish will cure more quickly than an oil-based finish.
Hardwood floors do need time to settle once they are installed. Wood comes from trees, and it is designed to absorb and release moisture content. This is still the case after the wood is cut and turned into wood boards for your floors. It needs to acclimate to its new environment in your home before it is installed, and then it will settle over the next four seasons. After a year, it should be pretty well finished settling. When you have the patience to make sure that the wood floor is installed properly, it can last for many years to come.