Did you know that maintaining 30-50% humidity in your home throughout the seasons is the most effective way to protect your wood floors? That’s according to the NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) which says that standard humidity levels should range between 30 percent and 50 percent to ensure that hardwood floors last for a long time.
Given the extreme fluctuation in humidity levels that Michigan experiences, it’s not always easy to stay in that range. For example, last week saw 75 degrees with very high humidity and the A/C running in most homes. A week later and the temperatures were down in the low 50s with the heat turned on. That can be rough on your floors!
Despite the (new) normal of fluctuating humidity levels, you’ll find solutions to help you maintain the right humidity to protect your beautiful hardwood floors detailed in this article.
How Humidity Affects Hardwood Floors
Wood flooring and humidity – how does one affect the other?
In the warm, humid summer months, hardwood floors absorb moisture from the air. When it is excessive, that moisture ends up swelling and expanding the wood, which can create pressure between the boards. Eventually, hardwood floors can crack, cup, buckle, or crown.
During the colder winter months when the relative humidity level is lower, the opposite happens and the wood boards can shrink causing similar cracking, cupping, buckling, and crowning problems.
The best solution is to maintain a humidity level between 30% and 50%.
Maintaining Constant Humidity in the Winter
The most effective way to maintain humidity levels during the winter is by having an in-line humidification system added to your home’s heating system.
(By the way, a humidification system is not only good for your hardwood floors, but it’s also extremely friendly to your nasal passages, and your skin. They react as your floors do to dry air.)
Keep the HVAC Bypass Damper Open
When you switch from A/C to heat, make sure the bypass damper is not in a closed (summer) position. Doing so would prevent any supplemental humidity that your humidification system creates to be introduced into the HVAC system.
One trick is to never close the bypass damper to the “summer” setting—it’s only air passing through the evaporator during the summer months.
Keep your humidifier set to the flooring manufacturer’s minimum standard (often 30% RH).
Invest in Yearly Heating/Cooling Maintenance
The best investment you can make in a home is to commit to yearly heating and cooling maintenance with an HVAC licensed contractor to take care of these things.
This professional will instruct you on how to run your humidifier system to achieve acclimation – i.e., ensuring that your home and everything within becomes accustomed to a standard humidity level and temperature.
EMC (equilibrium moisture content) issues are far too important to neglect; they are a function of moisture content being properly met, and not a function of the time it takes to get there.
Maintaining Humidity in the Summer Months
During the summer when the humidity is intense (and high), it’s important to have a dehumidifier running in the basement, especially in spaces where the moisture levels are particularly high.
Humidity can be even higher if you live close to a lake.
Maintaining 30-50% Humidity When You’re Away
Many Michiganders like to spend their summer time in the Upper North side of the state and/or escape the cold winter months to the Sunshine State. What happens to the hardwood floors in those homes when nobody is there?
You definitely want to ensure that your heating system can maintain proper humidity and temperature levels while you’re away. So, if you’re off to your vacation home Up North or you are getting ready for the warm weather of Florida this winter and you leave your main residence vacant for a couple of months, consider installing a programmable thermostat (some even come with a pre-programmed vacation mode) to keep the house at a constant temperature while it’s vacant.
Remember the Sun!
While you’re away, don’t forget the sun and how it can affect your hardwood floors, too.
Just as the sun can warm you with its rays, it can do the same to your hardwood floors. Leaving your wood parquet floors exposed to the sun for a long period can lighten the finish on your floors. To protect those floors, remember to close the curtains and blinds when you are away.
For glass sliding doors, consider investing in a screen protector for extra protection.
Are You Ready to Maintain 30-50% Humidity Levels to Protect Your Wood Floors?
Sudden seasonal weather changes – especially from hot and humid temperatures to cold ones, and from air conditioning to heating over short periods – can be rough on your hardwood floors. By planning ahead with an in-line humidification system for the winter, dehumidifiers in the summer, and an HVAC professional contract for regular maintenance, you can be ready regardless of the situation.
Don’t hesitate to contact Michigan Hardwood Floor Services with any questions.
Thank you for reading.