When winter hits customers will start to notice small gaps in their hardwood floor in a few places. It may seem like the floor installation was done wrong, but, the truth is even the tightest floor can potentially gap in Boise, Idaho. A gap that is acceptable to the wood flooring association is about a dime width. The cause for these gaps is the lack of moisture in the air. When the air has such a low moisture content the hardwood’s moisture is sucked out of the flooring. There are many options to control this moisture issue and control the gaps to a minimum.
Since moisture is needed to keep the wood from drying out and contracting one thing to look at is your ventilation in your a house. Currently the code for ventilation is around 1/3 an hour. This means that your house’s air should change 100% every 3 hours. To keep a house moisture controlled and higher during winter your houses must adhere to this code. If your house is a drafty house and the ventilation only takes 30 min to 60 min to ventilate all its air, the moisture will be lower in winter and higher in summer. Since, we can not assess if you have a drafty house or non drafty house there are some good pointers to keep your wood from gapping below.
#1 – The first step in keeping floor gaps to a minimum is to use the right types of hardwood and the right plank size.
- Board Size – The trend right now is large board sizes. The larger the board the worse the stability of the wood. A 2 1/4″ plank will shrink half as much as a 5″ plank board. With more joints you will have more area for the gaps to distribute evenly and be hardly noticeable.
- Hardwood Types – Stability is a major role in the woods gapping. A Red Oak plank will shrink less than hickory for instance. Another option is using a quartersawn plank vs a plainsawn plank, however, quartersawn is more expensive.
#2 – Have the installer only buy wood from a reputable supplier who manages the humidity of where the wood is stored. Often times discount places that sell wood for cheap are not keeping track of humidity and moisture content as well as they should be. In Boise, Idaho some great suppliers such as Intermountain and R & R keep their wood in a controlled environment and have already acclimated to Boise for many weeks even before reaching your house.
#3 – The next step is to make sure the wood is acclimated in your house prior to installation. Acclimating will make sure the wood is use to the moisture content in your house and not the place it came from. This means if your house has less moisture then the warehouse then the wood will shrink during the acclimation period and not after it was installed. This is the #1 step in reducing gapping in Boise. A good time period for acclimation at a house is about 2 weeks but a week is sufficient.
#4 – Once the floor is installed the moisture between summer and winter can be dramatic. The best way to make sure your moisture is not so extreme during winter is to use humidifiers. Humidifiers will put water into the air and raise the moisture reading. By raising the moisture it will put water back into the wood. By putting water into the wood it will help it expand and close the gaps.
What about filling these gaps I see in winter? This is not a good idea since during summer gaps will close and push the fill right out of the cracks. This will leave a mess around the whole house.
Once mid spring or summer comes around the small gaps should be all gone. This is due to the floor expanding with the extra moisture in the air and going into the wood planks. The best way to mitigate the gaps if they are appearing is putting a few humidifiers out in your house. If hairline gapping during winter is something you are not ok with then going with a 3″ quartersawn plank is the best idea as it will have the best stability and show the least amount of gaps. However, by using the 4 steps above the gaps in your hardwood floor should be minimal and are generally not noticeable.