Featured image

New Opportunity: Wood Floors and Humidity Control

Originally published
Originally published: 12/1/2014

While wood floors are built to withstand the abuse of foot traffic and furniture, humidity is an invisible enemy that can quickly wreak havoc on even the best surfaces. The amount of moisture in the air has drastic  — and costly — effects on a hardwood floor.

Too little humidity and floors will crack and shrink. Too much, and they will cup and curl.

While wood floors often come with a warranty, damage from improper environmental conditions is not covered. For this reason, homeowners and installers are beginning to understand the importance of maintaining proper humidity levels in the home before, during and after installation.

A Growing Problem

Regardless of where a wood floor is installed, humidity control is necessary. Protecting a wood floor means controlling humidity so that it always stays within the manufacturer’s recommended levels. While individual manufacturers vary slightly on their recommendations, RH levels generally fall between 35 and 50 percent, with temperature ranges of 60F to 80F.

Wood floors have grown in popularity and prevalence in recent years, and unfortunately damage rates have grown in tandem. Poor humidity control is costing the flooring industry and its customers big bucks.

Experts in the flooring industry have stated a billion dollars a year is lost in the industry on failed floors, and 98 to 99 percent of that is because of poor RH control.

And it’s not just traditional wood floors that are at risk. Laminate wood, engineered wood and other flooring options can also buckle, warp, peak, and even become a medium for mold growth. 

Optimum Solutions

Hardwood floors are a major investment and consumers are learning the hard way that moisture control is essential to protecting them. Where they need added direction is in their understanding of what type of indoor RH problems they have and the options available to mitigate them.

Long before owning a wood floor, most people already knew that water and wood don’t mix. What they may not realize is that low RH levels in the air inside can cause just as much destruction. For most homeowners, reducing humidity in the summer will protect against some damage, but issues such as seasonal gaps and dry cupping  — results of RH levels that are too low  — also need to be addressed.

In most cases, damage is a result of too much moisture at one point in the year and too little at another. Flooring retailers, contractors and homeowners don't understand what low RH can do to a wood floor — just like people, wood floors need normal living conditions to function properly.    

Dry-cupping is most common with prefinished and engineered wood floors. Each year the problem begins around October and ramps up in January or February. While many people may believe low RH is only a problem in the desert, it’s a seasonal issue in most of the U.S., with the exception of parts of the Gulf States.

In the arid western states, low RH is the main problem faced by wood floor customers and installers. While evaporative humidifiers are popular across much of the country, they need the air flow from a furnace to distribute moisture throughout the house. Since homeowners in the desert don’t run a furnace, it’s difficult to supply buildings with the immense amount of humidity needed to reach the coveted 35 to 50 percent RH range.

For these areas, the best solution is a steam humidifier. With steam, moisture can be introduced to the air year-round, even when there is a need to cool the home.

Year-Round Humidity Control

Treating only one aspect of poor RH in the home does not solve the problem.  The majority of homeowners will face indoor air conditions that create subpar RH levels at both the high and low end of the acceptable range. The main goal in protecting wood floors is maintaining and controlling RH continually, year-round.

HVACR contractors can now offer their customers whole-home solutions for combating different humidity issues across the country and throughout the year. An important aspect of helping customers protect their floors will be the ability to explain that humidity is a two-headed problem and that they can control it effectively. 

Most contractors talk to homeowners about humidity control from a comfort or health standpoint, and that’s all good. It’s just as important that they provide the proper guidance in terms of protection of their home and furnishings. 

More Articles

article image

New Opportunity: Wood Floors and Humidity Control

The amount of moisture in the air has drastic — and costly — effects on a hardwood floor.

article image

The Advantages of Variable-Speed Technology

The Advantages of Variable-Speed Technology. Variable-speed technology provides contractors with the opportunity to offer superior solutions to their customers. While single- and two-stage HVAC equipment can be effective, variable-speed technology truly presents consumers with more energy-saving potential and significantly improved home comfort. The term “variable-speed technology” simply refers to the ability of a heat pump or furnace to automatically vary its operating speed.

How to Become a Home Performance Superhero

Home Performance Contractors not only can identify and solve comfort problems for homeowners, but they can keep them and their businesses safe from harm.

article image

How to Sell ‘Comfort’ to Customers

How Hartman Brothers successfully presents high-end systems as solutions to homeowners’ health and quality concerns.