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Humidity and Hardwood Floors can go together, here’s how:

With the arrival of summer, many homeowners deal with the heat by either turning on their air conditioners or opening their windows. While cool air and a fresh breeze are welcome signs of summer, there are some important issues to note regarding humidity in your home and how it can affect your hardwood flooring. Let’s look at the basics to make sure your floors won’t be negatively impacted by the changing temperature.

Hardwood flooring is sensitive to humidity

As we have discussed before on this blog, hardwood flooring is a natural substance that is sensitive to humidity. While hardwood flooring is more elegant and inviting than vinyl flooring, it can suffer from temperature changes, even with proper finishing and sealing. Solid hardwood can be prone to issues known as cupping (the sides of the plank rise higher than the middle) or crowning (the middle of the plank rises higher than the edges) if the humidity levels are not right in the home or if there is water damage. Always keep the humidity range in your home around 35% to 55%.

How does air conditioning impact hardwood flooring?

Air conditioners remove moisture from the air, although dehumidifiers are more efficient at this task. Air conditioners will take the warm air from the home and cool it and then recirculate it back into the home. The warm air is expelled during this process to the outside of your home. Air conditioning will therefore remove humidity from your home, but only while the unit is running. Remember, most air conditioners will only run during set time periods or in response to temperature changes in the home. This means that moisture is not being pulled out of the home when the unit is off.

Should you use a dehumidifier?

If your home still has moisture or humidity issues in the summer and the AC is not enough to bring the home to the right range, a dehumidifier should be used. These units have as their sole purpose the removal of moisture. Whole home dehumidifiers are available for use, as well as room-specific units. Basements usually can benefit from a dehumidifier as well since they are more prone to moisture.

How do open windows impact hardwood flooring?

If you prefer the fresh air of open windows to the feeling of air conditioning, know that summer humidity will enter the home through the windows and can really raise the levels in your home quite quickly. If you have hardwood floors, summer humidity can possibly lead to issues of cupping or crowning if the levels are not monitored and dealt with. Dehumidifiers are not as effective against humidity from open windows either since the unit would constantly be removing moisture from the outside air coming in, not inside the sealed home.

Always use a hygrometer

So, what is the best way for homeowners to monitor the indoor humidity of the home in order to keep a comfortable interior environment and also protect solid hardwood flooring? The best way to track this is to purchase a digital hygrometer (humidity monitor) and place it in the same room as your flooring, or near your thermostat. This inexpensive device will measure the indoor humidity of your home and let you know if it is within an acceptable range. You can then adjust your approach accordingly, either by running the air conditioner, closing the windows, or using a humidifier.

Take care of your investment

Remember, while solid hardwood flooring is a great investment in your home’s aesthetic appeal and value, it is a natural substance that will see some normal expansion in the summer and contraction in the winter. However, excessive humidity can permanently cause misshapen floors, so keep an eye on the levels in your home.

Image courtesy of Lauzon Flooring