Wood is a hygroscopic material. This means that it is prone to absorbing moisture from the environment and altering in structure as a result.
This can lead to serious problems down the line, which is why acclimating your hardwood flooring is so important.
Acclimatizing your hardwood flooring is absolutely essential to the installation process. It is the process where you allow your wood to adjust to the environment inside your home.
This allows it time to become accustomed to the temperature and humidity levels in your home, meaning that it will not warp post-installation.
The acclimatization period varies according to the type of wood used for the flooring.[Editor’s Note: We have an extremely in depth guide about oak versus maple floorings; if you are interested in reading specific information, click here].
Solid and engineered wood will need at least 72 hours to acclimatize. Laminate and luxury vinyl flooring needs around 24 hours, and EvoCore flooring requires no acclimatization period.
Acclimatizing your wooden flooring is a very easy process. You should ensure that your home is climate controlled for at least 2 weeks before your wooden flooring is delivered.
Your wooden planks will arrive in boxes that you should place in the room where the flooring will be installed.
Stack the boxes on top of one another and open them at both ends. We advise cross stacking the boxes as this will allow for maximum air circulation.
You will need to cut open the inner plastic wrapping surrounding the wood. The wood will not become acclimated if it is left wrapped in plastic.
This will allow the air to circulate all of the way around the wood. This lets the wood naturally adjust to the temperature and humidity of your home, making the flooring ultimately more stable.
Once it reaches equilibrium with your home, the wood should not change much.
What is the difference between flooring types?
Solid wood flooring
Solid wood flooring is formed of just 2 layers. It is made of a natural material with very few enhancements. This means that they are very susceptible to environmental changes and are prone to warping.
It is very important to allow it to acclimatize to prevent structural issues from being raised down the line. Solid wood flooring is made from a single solid layer of wood, with a finish coating the top. This protects it from mild to moderate damage.
Engineered wood flooring
Engineered wood flooring uses natural materials as the base, but they have been enhanced to improve the quality and durability. The upper part is made of a decorative real wood layer, protected with a finish as with solid wood flooring.
The underside is made from a core board, usually using plywood.
This gives the flooring strength and stability. Plywood tends to be more resistant to temperature and humidity changes, making the overall floor more stable.
Laminate flooring is made of several different layers. The pattern is a digital reproduction of wood coated in a protective layer of UV resin.
This resin layer helps to protect the laminate from daily wear and tear.
There is a backing layer to keep all of the component sections together. The main body of the flooring is an HDF core board to give the flooring structure.
Luxury vinyl tile flooring
This flooring type closely mimics the aesthetics of real wood flooring, but is much more practical for most homes.
Instead of laminate flooring which tends to come in a single sheet of vinyl, luxury vinyl tile flooring comes in multiple pieces which you lay individually for a more refined appearance.
Click LVT flooring needs no adhesive to install. This kind of flooring can be fitted over all existing hard floors, provided they are clean and level.
Glue-down LVT flooring does need adhesive to attach to the floor, but they are very customizable.
EvoCore flooring is new and incredibly versatile. They incorporate 7 different layers to create a premium appearance and a durable finish.
What happens if you don’t acclimate hardwood floors?
Failing to acclimatize your hardwood flooring can lead to serious problems down the line. If the wood is not acclimatized it will change in shape and size as the seasons, temperatures, and humidity levels adjust.
This can lead to the wood warping, buckling, or cupping. It can also cause your floor to develop gaps in between the planks of wood.
This can leave areas under your flooring exposed to dirt, debris, and moisture. These can lead to mouse infestations, mold, and other costly damages.
Warping is where the wood has become misshapen as a result of moisture getting into the wood fibers. Different areas will dry at different rates, meaning that parts shrink and pull on the rest of the fibers. This causes the wood to bend and change in shape.
Buckling is where the floorboards rise off the base layer (the subfloor), creating lumps and bumps in the flooring. This is often as a result of environmental changes that force the wood to expand and contract excessively.
Cupping is when excess water is left to pool on the surface of wooden flooring. It can then seep through the gaps in between the floorboards and settle underneath.
This exposes both the upper and lower sides of the floorboards to 2 different environments. As a reaction, the wood raises up at the joints between planks, giving the floorboards a concave shape.
The floorboards can also crown. This is the exact opposite of cupping, and the center of the board becomes raised higher than the outer edges.
To ensure your flooring acclimates correctly, you should take a baseline reading of the moisture content of the wood when it is delivered.
You should also measure the moisture content of the concrete or subfloor layer. Continue to take readings of the wood as it is allowed to acclimate to the room.
There should not be more than a 4% moisture content difference between the flooring and the subfloor. If you are using flooring that is more than 76mm wide, the moisture content difference should be under 2%.