|Solid wood flooring is no doubt a beautiful addition to your property, they not only look and feel great, but did you know it can raise its value too? They do require a bit more care than engineered boards or other forms of flooring, and you need to be particularly aware of the seasonal changes in temperature and humidity which can affect solid wood flooring. There are a number of ways to ensure that any potential problems caused are kept to a minimum.
The different seasons bring various challenges for solid wood flooring. In the winter, the weather is colder and wetter. You are more likely to struggle with mud being brought into the house and problems associated with rainwater being carried in on shoes and boots. This can scratch and discolour the floor. In warmer months the weather tends to be drier, which means less dirt is brought into the house and boards are less likely to get scuffed and scratched. But summer raises other problems.
Wood: a natural materialWood is hygroscopic, which means it reacts to changes in temperature and humidity – long after it has been cut, sawn, dried and installed in your home. This is simply the natural property of wood and part of what makes your hardwood flooring so special.
Summer or winter, you need to be aware of the ways in which the climate and temperature can affect your flooring. The changing seasons inevitably bring adjustments in air temperature and moisture content. In summer this can lead to small gaps opening up between the boards. Fortunately, you can guard against this in a number of ways. The most important stage is installation itself, and if this is carried out properly then you significantly reduce the problems you are likely to have in the future.
InstallationFirst of all, it’s worth saying that some degree of movement in floorboards is inevitable. If you have solid hardwood boards, there is nothing you can do to stop them expanding and shrinking in different ways and to some extent its part of the unique charm of the material.
Different woods have different properties. The density of the wood and its grain structure means that some are more resistant to certain conditions. When first selecting your flooring, discuss with the vendor the typical climate in your area. If you live in a place that has cool, dry conditions all year round, your choice may be different to if you live somewhere with large ranges of temperature and moisture through the year.
Wide boards look great, but they are more prone to cupping. Narrower boards are more stable.
‘Quarter sawn’ boards are more stable across their width, though plain sawn are more stable along the length. Again, discuss your situation with the vendor and the implications for price, overall look and stability.
The most important factor is to ensure that boards are properly acclimatised to the conditions in your home before they are installed. In practice, this means leaving them for at least two weeks in the room where they will be used. You should also ensure that any screed flooring and plastering has thoroughly dried out and cured before the wood is introduced.
Ongoing summer careThe problems associated with summer are to do with changes in humidity, or the quantity of moisture in the air. Cool air tends to contain more moisture; you can feel it in the air in the early morning, and if the air is saturated (100 percent humidity) you will see it condensing on the ground in the form of dew droplets. As the day grows warmer, the air expands and becomes less humid, because the same amount of moisture is distributed through a larger volume of air.
It is this change in humidity that affects your hardwood floor boards. Consequently, you can reduce any cupping by controlling humidity. Ventilation is one of the easiest ways to do this. Houses are often colder than the outside air, because they rest on a patch of cool earth and the ground beneath them isn’t heated by the sun. Additionally, many run air conditioning. When warm air is introduced to this environment, the changes that result in the levels of internal moisture have obvious implications. You will naturally need to manage airflow and temperature depending on levels of moisture and your comfort, but maintaining a separate climate in your home is asking for trouble.
Cleaning and polishingFinally, although the drier weather means less rain and mud, be sure to sweep clean your boards regularly with a soft brush to remove and dry dust and grit that could damage them. The summer is also a good time to apply wax or polish, as appropriate, when the grain is more open and it’s a more pleasant task!
About the author
Ben Sutton has established himself as independent hardwood timber merchant and supplier with a solid reputation built up over the last 20 years. He is committed to providing a bespoke and professional service to his clients at all times, whilst maintaining the highest quality product. Follow Ben on LinkedIn.