Tips for Acclimating Hardwood Flooring

If you’re picking out new hardwood flooring or have already placed an order, you’ve likely imaged how nice your home is going to look once you have them installed. Installing hardwood floors is an exciting project whether you’re remodeling your home or putting the finishing touches on a new one. Hardwood floors bring beauty and sophistication to virtually any room, are relatively easy to care for and will last for generations when properly maintained.

Now image the gorgeous flooring you or your contractor just installed slowly but surely starting to show signs of distortion, buckling or cupping as the boards shrink or swell depending on environmental conditions. What’s going on? You failed to acclimate the wood to its new environment. Don’t let this disturbing vision become your reality. It’s important when installing wood planks to follow manufacturers recommendations for acclimating hardwood flooring.

Read on for a basic overview of the process of acclimation and some smart tips for acclimating hardwood flooring.

What Is Acclimation?

Acclimation describes the process of conditioning hardwood floor planks, so their moisture content is at the optimal level for the environment it is to be installed. For most wood flooring, the wood floor must be within 4% of the moisture content of your subfloor. For solid wood flooring with planks wider than 3 inches, the flooring should be within 2% of the subfloor.

If the wood has a lower content than the acceptable range, it will absorb moisture and swell up. Too high a content causes it to lose moisture, resulting in shrinkage. What you should strive for is referred to as equilibrium moisture content, or the point where the wood will not gain or lose moisture.

When Does Wood Need Acclimation?

Wood flooring typically comes from a region with a different climate than where you live. Furthermore, it’s frequently stored and shipped in environments that are far more extreme than those within the comfort of your climate controlled home. When it arrives for installation, it naturally has a different moisture content and requires a few days to adjust to its new environment.

While most manufacturers recommend a minimum of three days or longer for acclimation, the actual duration depends on factors such as moisture content at the time of delivery, the type of wood, its dimensions and its finishing method. It’s important to note that not all wood needs to acclimate to its environment — for instance, it could arrive at equilibrium moisture content. Engineered and solid factory-finished flooring often doesn’t require acclimation, provided the environment is within what’s considered average humidity and temperature levels.

If you’re not sure whether your hardwood flooring needs to go through the acclimation process, contact Superior Hardwoods of Montana — our experienced representatives will help you make an assessment.

How-To Tips for Acclimating Hardwood Flooring

So, you’ve determined your gorgeous new hardwood floor planks need time to acclimate to your home. To avoid distortion of shape and dimension that can eventually lead to structural damage, consider the following tips for acclimating hardwood flooring like a pro:

  • Know the type of wood flooring you’re working with before it arrives and how long it takes to acclimate under normal circumstances. Some species of wood can lose and gain moisture faster than others. Factor in if it’s an exotic species shipping from a tropical climate. Taking these steps will help keep your projects moving on schedule without waiting for the wood to reach the right moisture level.
  • Use a chart from a reliable source to calculate acclimation requirements. It will help you accurately determine the equilibrium climate by average humidity levels and temperature range. Be sure to account for how regional humidity in your area varies by season.
  • Always acclimate hardwood flooring in a controlled environment that’s completely enclosed. This step may require some planning to ensure you have enough indoor storage space. Never attempt to condition wood planks outside or in a garage or basement where the humidity and temperature vary greatly throughout the day — and don’t simulate conditions inside your home.
  • Use a moisture meter to get an accurate reading of the interior environment you’re measuring. The wood should be checked upon arrival for moisture content to determine how much acclimation is necessary. Always check multiple boards as moisture levels can waver from plank to plank.
  • Do not accept wood flooring that arrives too far beyond the optimal moisture range. As it acclimates, it will inevitably experience bowing, shrinkage, swelling or cupping before or after installation.
  • Don’t store acclimating floor boards inside packaging or stacked one on top of the other in tall piles. Best practice is to arrange boards staggered in layers so the surface of the wood is equally exposed on all sides.
  • When in doubt, seek professional assistance. Acclimation is a straightforward process. However, it does require a level of experience and precision to achieve the best results.

Contact Superior Hardwoods of Montana

Interested in more tips for acclimating hardwood flooring? Let us guide you through the woods! Superior Hardwoods of Montana has been providing customized services to satisfied customers since 1977. We carry a wide selection of unique, reclaimed flooring in addition to engineered flooring, pre-finished flooring and unfinished flooring options.

Contact us online, or give us a call at (406) 251-2272.