Humidity issue

Q: We have recently bought a townhouse in BC, in a forested area. We installed white oak, natural, prefinished wood from China. Everywhere I read, it talks about humidity needing to be around 40-50%! Humidity in our townhouse is never that low!

It is probably closer to 60%, but depends on the time of day. Early morning can be 90% outside. Problem is, we would have to close all our windows, and bake, average humidity in our area is between 68 and 95%. They have only been in for a couple of weeks, and we are seeing some small separation between boards, but not a whole lot – nothing scary!

How seriously do we need to take the humidity issue? (Of course, no-one told us about this when we were looking at hardwood as an option.) We mercifully don’t have a leaky condo. Do we really have to forgo fresh air?

A: The humidity issue seems at times to be impossible to comply with in certain environments. For example, we are told to keep the RH in our homes somewhere in the range of 40-55%. If I did that in winter here in Toronto, I would have rivers of water running down my walls and windows.

I think the main thing you want to do is take the flooring onto the job site a week or so prior to installation. Make sure the flooring and sub floor are within 4% of each other. If you install the flooring at your typical living conditions, you should not have serious issues with either expansion or contraction. If it is typically 70% in your area, then acclimate the wood to that and install it. Try to keep the home within 15 points of that, either way.

I do have misgivings about buying these Asian floors. You never know what you are getting. If the milling is not good, or if they have not dried it properly, who are you going to get to support you? All this, not to mention that since these products are cheaper than what is produced here, in spite of being shipped all the way around the planet, I wonder how much the workers are getting paid at the point of manufacture?

Sorry I had to inject that. Just thinking “out loud”.