The Importance of Hardwood Floor Acclimation

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There’s a special thrill that comes from the arrival of your new hardwood flooring. Whether you’re remodeling your home or finalizing the interior décor on a new one, you’ve likely pictured the installation of your elegant natural wood floors for a while.

Once it arrives, there’s one final step that needs to be taken, however, before you can begin installing your new hardwood floors: Acclimation. Skipping this all-important process can lead to floors that don’t live up to your expectations.

What is acclimation, exactly, and why is it important for your hardwood floors? Read on for answers to these questions, as well as some tips for ensuring your acclimation process is done right.

What is Hardwood Floor Acclimation?

Because wood is a hygroscopic material, it naturally absorbs and releases moisture from the air to balance itself with its surrounding environment. This is why water can be harmful to wood after it has been installed.

Acclimation is the process of conditioning your hardwood floor boards to ensure that their naturally occurring moisture content is at or near the moisture content of the environment where they will be installed. Acclimation allows your floors to adjust to the conditions of your living space, ensuring they achieve that state we’re all looking for in life: equilibrium.

Your floor boards are acclimated when the temperature and humidity of the hardwood aligns with the temperature and humidity of the surrounding environment. This means the wood is neither gaining nor losing moisture and has reached its equilibrium moisture content (EMC).

Why is Hardwood Floor Acclimation Important?

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The hardwood you’re planning on installing in your home is, at the moment, being stored in a warehouse somewhere waiting for its forever home. In waiting, it has blissfully adjusted to the temperature and humidity levels of the warehouse, which are almost certainly different from those inside your home.

Acclimation gives your new floor boards time to adjust to the climate conditions of your home before they are installed. As they adjust, the wood will either expand or shrink until it has settled on its EMC. As you might imagine, installing your wood before it has acclimated can lead to problems.

If the wood has too low a moisture content, it will swell as it absorbs moisture, which can leadto cupping or buckling. If it has too high a moisture content, it will shrink as it loses moisture, leading to gaps between the planks.

How Long Does Hardwood Floor Acclimation Take?

The time it takes for your hardwood to acclimate to its new surroundings depends on several factors, including:

  • the geographic location of your property,
  • the current climate conditions of the region, and
  • the moisture content of the subflooring where the floors will be installed.

The fact is, acclimation takes as long as it takes. This isn’t an area where you want to cut corners to save time. Typically, flooring requires a minimum of 72 hours, but this is just a starting point. Time does not determine when your floors have acclimated, only a moisture meter can do that.

A moisture meter is used to compare the moisture content of the wood to that of the subflooring where it will be installed. It is generally safe to move forward with installation when the difference between these levels reaches 2 percent for plank flooring. You should always check with the manufacturer of your hardwood floors, however, for specific recommendations.

Tips for Hardwood Floor Acclimation

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Whether you plan to install your hardwood flooring yourself or leave the job to your contractor, the following tips will help you ensure the job is done right, saving you the headache that comes from improper hardwood acclimation:

  • Research your wood type before it arrives to see how long it takes to acclimate under normal conditions. Different species gain and lose moisture at different rates, especially tropical species shipping from tropical climates.
  • Use a chart from a reliable source to calculate acclimation requirements, making sure to account for how the humidity in your region varies from season to season.
  • Never transport your flooring in rain, snow, or excessively moist conditions.
  • After they arrive, move your hardwood floor boards into a controlled, enclosed environment, preferably the room(s) where they will be installed.
  • Never try to condition your hardwood in an area where varying humidity and temperature will fail to simulate the conditions of the room(s) where the boards will be installed. Unacceptable areas for conditioning include:
    • Patios
    • Yards
    • Garages
    • Basements
  • Upon arrival, use a quality moisture meter to check the moisture content of both the boards and the subflooring where they will be installed. Always check multiple boards.
  • Remove the floor boards from the packaging and arrange them staggered in layers so the surface of the wood is equally exposed on all sides.
  • To ensure the best fit and performance of your wood, the climate in the room(s) during acclimation, installation, and beyond should be maintained at:
    • a temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit
    • a humidity level between 35 and 55 percent
  • When in doubt, seek the help of a professional.

Natural wood flooring is a living, breathing design element offering durable beauty that can last a lifetime. Its natural elegance, though, is the same quality that makes acclimation so important. Taking the time to ensure your hardwood floors are thoroughly acclimated will help you avoid the tragic consequences that come from skipping this critical step.

Contact DuChâteau today to learn more about our many hardwood styles, colors, and finishes 1.888.382.4283