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How to Acclimate Your Hardwood Floor

Some hardwood floors squeak when you walk on them. That can be a function of an old house or an improper installation; more than likely, it’s a product of a hardwood floor that’s not been acclimated properly. The same could be true of a hardwood floor that is cupping or crowning. Cupping is when the sides of a hardwood plank lift up to form a bowl shape. Crowning is the opposite; it’s when the center of the plank raises upward. All of these could be the result of poorly acclimated hardwood flooring.

What Is Acclimating?

Acclimating a hardwood floor is the process of preparing the hardwood floor for the environment in which it will stay. For example, if you live in Nevada and you have hardwood planks shipped from New Orleans, you’ll need to acclimate them. Louisiana is incredibly humid and low-lying. Las Vegas is higher in elevation and very dry. The moisture content of the hardwood will need to be adjusted for your location. Otherwise, the moisture might escape quickly and cause the wood to contract. Inversely, a dry hardwood plank could absorb moisture quickly and expand. Here’s how you acclimate.

How to Acclimate

You need to first set the proper environment. Most experts say that wood should be acclimated at between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 to 50% relative humidity. You should make sure you bring your house to these conditions before you bring in your wood. That means using the HVAC system and a humidifier or dehumidifier if one is not installed in your HVAC system. Then, you need to make sure you bring the wood inside as quickly as possible. Take the wood out of the boxes it came in and form smaller stacks. Stacking them in alternating layers will allow as much air as possible to flow between boards. The idea is to bring them to equilibrium, which is a level of moisture at which the wood is neither gaining nor losing moisture. This can take anywhere between five and 14 days.

Using spacers between the layers of wood will ensure that as much surface area as possible is exposed to the air and the wood acclimates as quickly as possible. Then, once all of that is finished, you’ll be ready to install the wood. This might slow down your installation by as much as a week, but it can save you a lifetime of headaches.

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