With the winter season almost upon us, it is important to understand the changes that can occur to hardwood floors. Even the most careful installation will not be able to stop the boards from shrinking and drying out, but fear not! Normal gaping usually goes away and your floors return to normal as soon as the Relative Humidity (RH) of your environment is back to acceptable levels. The RH should be set between 33-55% in order to prevent and minimize gapping. This is due to the fact that wood is a hygroscopic material – meaning that is able to respond to its environment by absorbing or releasing its water content. When the heating system goes on, the RH of the air decreases, and that causes your floors to shrink.

Ways to prevent excessive gapping during the winter are the reduction of ventilation or addition of moisture. When your heating system picks up the air to warm it, it reduces the RH of that air – so the more ventilation you have going on, the more dry air is affecting your floors. One way to fix this is to reduce ventilation.

When the temperature drops from the 50s into the 30s, 20s and lowers you will need to up the temperature of your ventilation. When you do that, it is important to keep in mind that the colder the air that is being warmed, the more moisture is necessary. This is why to keep your floors from gapping excessively, you will need to add moisture to your home.

The most efficient way to do this is to have humidifiers and de-humidifiers installed, which is a job best done by a professional Heating and Air conditioning Professional. While you work on a professional system you can always use portable systems to maintain your home. Humidifiers and de-humidifiers can be purchased on most home improvement stores.

If you think your floors have severe gaping, or need professional flooring-related advice please contact us. We would love to clarify any questions you may have!

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