Hardwood floors are a class apart from their competitors. They bring beauty and sophistication to any room, are relatively easy to care for, and last for ages when properly looked after.
However, these advantages aren’t without their risks and challenges. Installing hardwood flooring, for instance, isn’t easy, whether you’re remodeling your home or building a new one. And many homeowners fail to realize the importance of acclimating their hardwood floors.
What Is Acclimation?
Sometimes referred to as hardwood conditioning, acclimation is the process of allowing wood to attain its equilibrium moisture content (EMC) within ‘normal living conditions’. It’s one of the most crucial preparatory steps of installing a hardwood floor. Without proper acclimation or conditioning, it may experience excessive expansion, shrinkage, dimensional distortion, or even structural damage.
Note that hardwood acclimation isn’t a perfect process and depends on the situation. At times it can cause more harm than good. For instance, unfinished hardwood flooring planks in a new building may absorb the surrounding moisture. (New constructions have a lot of moisture trapped inside which can cause planks to cup or warp). However, each species of wood expands and contracts in different ways.
How Long Do You Need to Acclimate?
Your wooden flooring planks may come from a different climate than yours. They’re also often stored and shipped in environments that are way more extreme or different than that in your climate-controlled home. When they arrive at your house, they’ll obviously have a different moisture density and need a few days to adjust to their new environment.
Many hardwood plank manufacturers recommend an acclimation period of three days or longer. But the actual duration depends on factors like the type of wood, its moisture content at the time of delivery, its dimensions and finishing method.
It’s also important to note that not all wooden planks need to adjust to their environment. For example, engineered and solid factory-finished hardwood flooring doesn’t require acclimation, provided the humidity level is between 30% and 50% and the temperature is between 60°and 80°F. Be sure to also account for regional and seasonal humidity and temperature.
If you’re not sure whether your hardwood flooring needs to acclimatize, let alone how long, contact AA Floors & More Ltd. Our flooring experts will help you make a proper assessment.
Flooring should always be the last job of any construction project. And certain conditions must be met before wood flooring planks are delivered to the job site.
● All doors and windows are installed and closed
● Final grading is done and all drainage runs away from the building
● All wet construction elements like concrete, plastering and drywall are completed and dry
● Basement and crawl space areas are free of moisture
● AC and heating systems are functional and have been running for five days prior to delivery
● Appropriate humidity and temperature inside the building have been achieved
Steps to Successful Acclimation
● Some hardwood flooring manufacturers recommend acclimation; others don’t. This recommendation varies because each manufacturer transports and stores the planks differently. Some planks are already acclimated while others aren’t because they’re stored in a controlled environment. So, , read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before starting the acclimation process.
● Use a reliable acclimation chart to calculate acclimation requirements. This will help you accurately determine the equilibrium climate by average humidity levels and temperature range.
● Make sure that the heating and air conditioning units are in operation at least five days before delivery of the planks, during installation, and afterwards. If it’s not possible for permanent HVAC to be operating for this period, a temporary system that mimics normal living conditions would help. Never attempt to condition wood planks outside or in a garage or basement where the humidity and temperature vary greatly throughout the day.
● Check the subfloor’s moisture content. It should coincide with the jobsite’s temperature and humidity. If it’s too high or low, it could cause the flooring planks to cup, crown, crack or buckle. At AA Floors, we make sure your subfloor’s moisture levels are within 2-4% of the wood’s moisture content to ensure maximum performance and longevity.
● The flooring should be unpacked and the planks stacked on top of each other with small strips of wood between each during the acclimation period. This is necessary to allow the moisture to have access to all sides of the board.
● If the flooring boards cannot be delivered to the jobsite, pre-acclimate the wood in an offsite setting that mimics its conditions. Then deliver the pre-acclimated material to the jobsite once ‘normal conditions’ are established.
● When in doubt, hire a professional to help out. Although acclimation is a simple process, it does require a level of expertise and precision to achieve the best results.
There are a variety of factors to keep in mind when it comes to acclimating hardwood flooring. These include choosing the right species of wood, determining the effect of any seasonal changes, and acclimating the planks to your home. Taking the time and effort to prepare your home hardwood flooring appropriately will reduce your chance of any problem.