Flooring should always be acclimated before installing

Q: In January we had the carpet in our home replaced with hardwoods (four rooms). The new and older hardwoods were then all sanded and finished with an oil-based finish. Now, 6 months later, the new woods are cupping, not only in the rooms where there had been carpet but also in the kitchen where new wood was used to patch a small area under a cabinet peninsula that we removed.

Our first thought was that the cupping was caused by a moisture problem in the crawl space (we live in an area that is humid during the summer), but if that were true, wouldn’t all the hardwoods on the first floor be cupping, and not just the new wood? Does this have something to do with the installation? Acclimation? Finishing? What do you suggest we do to fix the floors? And can this be done without re-sanding and refinishing?

A: Flooring should always be acclimated before installing and both the floor and subfloor should be checked with a meter to make sure they are within 4% of each other on the moisture scale. Having said that, it does sound to me that you have a moisture problem that needs to be addressed first in the crawl space.

I have seen floors that had cupped flatten out, so I would suggest you get someone in who has a moisture meter to check the floor. Buying a hygrometer is not a bad idea either. It will tell you the temperature and relative humidity in the air.

How long to acclimate

Related Q: How long does wood have to settle/acclimate in the room before I install? Does it have to be removed from the package?

A: I would open the cartons and let it sit a week, but keep it away from heat sources. It is also a good idea to check both the flooring and subfloor with a moisture meter before proceeding. They should be within 4% of each other. The subfloor should not contain more than 4% moisture above that of the floor.

How long should wood flooring dry before being installed?

Related Q: How long should wood flooring dry before being installed? We live in Colorado, a very dry climate and understand most oak comes from more humid climates. Is there a way to tell if the wood is acclimated to this climate enough to install?

A: I would have the flooring on site, in the rooms it is to be installed in for 5-7 days. If it is boxed, open the boxes. It is still a good idea to test both the hardwood and subfloor with a moisture meter prior to beginning the installation.

Does every species of hardwood flooring need to acclimate?

Another Related Q: If I purchase hardwood flooring from one of the warehouse stores, prior to installation, does it need to sit in the house to assume the climate in the house before installation? If so, how long? I’m considering Mesquite or Brazilian Cherry. Does the type of wood matter? 

A: I would have it sit in the house a week and check it against the subfloor to make sure it’s moisture content is normal.

Rushing an install in a cold house

Related Q: I have 2.25 unfinished red oak. The house is under construction and the back up electric heat is on a constant 55 because it will run the bill up until I get the condenser bought and hooked up. But I need to get the floor laid.

A: I think you should follow the rules and acclimate the floor to the living environment the house will usually be in, before installing it.

Is it not true that the wood should have sat in the house for a week before moving in?

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: We recently purchased a new house about a year ago in Whitby, Ont. We had the builder install our hardwood floors (******** brand). The floor was installed right out of the box the night before we moved into our house? The installation job was absolutely awful. The contractor is now telling us that it does not matter that the floors were installed the night before. Is it not true that the wood (Birch) should have sat in the house for a week?

A: Lately it seems that it is becoming an issue with some customers that I work alone, rather than in a crew, which can fly in, bang down the floor, and fly out, just like that. I try to tell people that success cannot be rushed!

I worked with just such a company years ago. We took the flooring, in this case, oak, into a house on the edge of Scarborough Bluffs. The day we took the wood in, was the day we started installing. The installation rapidly completed, we sanded and stained it. 2 weeks later we were back doing it again because the wood had swelled and cupped from picking up moisture off the lake. We didn’t let the wood acclimatize to the environment. Here is a quote from the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers installation guide. As they say, this applies to most other species as well.

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