The Hardwood Acclimation Process

The Hardwood Acclimation Process

The Hardwood Acclimation Process

Do you ever take on a home improvement project and find you’re so eager to see the final results that you neglect a step or two in the procedure? Don’t let that happen with hardwood flooring installation projects, especially when it comes to hardwood acclimation .

Installing hardwood flooring without taking time to properly acclimate the wood can lead to gapping, cupping and even board width variation. By following a few simple guidelines, you can avoid these issues that can greatly affect the appearance of the floor and lead to costly repairs and replacements.

Acclimating hardwood simply means allowing the moisture content of the wood to adjust to the normal living conditions of the room it will be installed in. Solid wood flooring should always be acclimated because solid products will naturally expand and contract considerably throughout the year due to changes in relative humidity.

In Central Ontario, the average relative humidity is 45 per cent, with spring-winter variations ranging from 35 to 55 per cent. This is why better hardwood flooring manufacturers dry flooring to the midpoint of 45 per cent.

Tip: Offshore hardwood flooring products can be problematic because the product spends up to four months in the hull of a ship, picking up moisture before it gets to the distributor.

Acclimation Guidelines

  • Flooring should be delivered to the job site up to two weeks before installation. Keep in mind that if the flooring is delivered on a damp or rainy day you may need several more days for the floor to acclimatize.
  • The Hardwood Acclimation Process
  • Once the flooring is delivered, open the ends of the packages, but don’t remove the boards. Air needs to circulate around the boards, but removing them from the packaging could lead to warping.
  • Stack the packages in a staggered fashion so air can circulate around them. Bricks or scrap wood work well for this process, but be sure to provide support every couple of feet so the boards don’t bow in the middle.
  • Let the hardwood sit for up to two weeks. If the environment is considerably more or less than 45 per cent humidity, leave the boards to sit for more than two weeks.
  • Use a moisture tester to check the water content of the boards and the subfloor. The difference between the two should not be greater than 2 per cent. Do not proceed with the installation until the two are within 2 per cent of each other.

Tip: It’s best to install hardwood flooring during a season when the humidity level is not too high or too low. Fall and spring are generally better times to install than in the winter or summer, unless frequent rains are common in your area.

In newly constructed homes wood flooring should be the last item installed.

  • All work involving water or moisture, such as plumbing, plaster/drywall and painting should be finished, and ample time needs to be allowed for complete drying.
  • If new concrete has been poured, it should be cured for at least 60 to 90 days before installing hardwood floors.
  • The structure should be fully enclosed, with all doors and windows in place.
  • Heating and air conditioning systems should be full operating and running for at least seven days before installing hardwood floors.

Each situation is different when it comes to hardwood acclimation. For example, when you install hardwood flooring in a cottage, during acclimation you want the boards to pick up moisture on site because in such situations the boards will always be exposed to high humidity levels.

Before your hardwood flooring is even delivered, talk to the professionals about proper hardwood acclimation for your situation and area. This will help ensure your floors look as beautiful as they should, and avoid future problems.

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