New wood floor splitting

Q: We moved into a new home. Our oak floors are only 1 year old. In their first year there have been dozens of splits in several areas of the main floor. What causes new wood floor splitting? We have an HRV that runs all the time and the humidity is 40%, constant.

A: I would say your humidity levels are near perfect as can be. However, you say this is a new home. To me this is a clue. I’ve worked in houses being built. It isn’t pretty! The structure is suppose to be dry and the floors acclimated before installation but often that is not the case. And so, everything is rushed and over months the sub floor and finished floor continue to shed moisture and shrink. Certain cuts of flooring are more prone to getting splits such as quartered and rift sawn. It may be the cracks were present in the boards at installation but were not noticed. As the floor dries and shrinks they appear! Ideal at installations is 7-9% moisture in hardwood and not more than 4% difference between it and the sub floor.

Follow-up Q: Thank you for taking the time to respond. That’s what my wife and I thought. It may be because the builder isn’t owning up and said it’s on us. We’re just trying to find as much info as possible. Is there any else that could cause this? Thanks again.

A: Well, wood and wood products will react to environmental conditions. I don’t see a thing wrong with the humidity levels you hold. I live in a fairly cold climate and in winter 40% would be the upper level I would recommend in a house without creating condensation issues. When I lived in —— I was asked to look at pre finished floors in a sub division in Welland. The floors were all cupped. Clearly the structure was not dry when the floors were installed. Terrion, the warranty company and the builder said this condition was acceptable within their standards! It’s a load of crap in my view but how can you fight it without it costing more than the floors and enough stress to bring on cardiac arrest? I suspect the system is set up that way. Kind of like getting a ticket and to fight it will cost more than the price of the ticket. When it comes to new construction, builders usually have different price packages. I would tell someone go for the cheapest and do upgrades with private, personally chosen contractors after you move in. That way you avoid the huge builder mark ups and get personalized service. I know that is too late in this case.

Related Q: Hi. We built a house last year and had wood flooring fitted on top of UFH. Within the last 6 months the solid floor has started to split. We currently have 70-75% of the floor showing cracks, some of the cracks are quite large. The UFH was all fitted correctly with no problems. Any ideas why this might be? I’m not having much luck with the company who fitted it. Thanks.

A: Possibly the flooring or the milled wood used to make the flooring was not properly dried. Are you also getting gaps between boards? I would definitely press the installation company to come back and have a look. I would also find out who the manufacturer of the floor is and contact them.

Follow-up Q: Hi, thanks for getting back to me. I have tried contacting the supplier, but they don’t deal directly with the public. I have got gaps but nothing substantial.

A: Wood will always react to it’s environment. I think your floor is drying and is thus presenting some cracks. Honest business practice would say somebody should come back and at least look at it and take some moisture readings and give advice. I will suggest you contact the National Wood Flooring Association as a last resort. They have a lot of expert advice and have trained people who may be in your area to come in and evaluate this problem.

Q: Our pre-finished floors began splitting shortly after installation. The floor boards are continuing to split with the grain of the wood. We were told the installer used too many nails.

What would be the proper fix for this issue? A complete re-install or just replace the splitting boards?

A: I would replace the splitting boards. I don’t think it is possible to use too many nails.

Have you checked the RH in your home? Perhaps it is too dry. And it could be the boards had hidden fissures directly from the mill that only opened up after they started to adjust to the climate in your home.

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