Cracks and boards separating after overheating dried out floor

Q: While away from home recently for an extended period of time, a power surge caused our electronic thermostat to malfunction and the heat stayed on continuously for what may have been as long as 2 weeks. Because of that there was extensive damage throughout our home, especially to our hardwood floors which contracted to a point where walking on them without footwear is painful. The cracks are large and the boards have pulled away from the walls.

I now have a humidifier running and hope that in the coming months the floors will expand enough to close the gaps. I have noticed that because of the large gaps, not all of the boards are staying level. Do you believe they will they expand enough to close the very wide gaps? Will we experience warping when they do expand?

A: I don’t know what is going to happen. I’ve seen floors that got soaked, cupped and heaved and then later settled down to the point you could hardly tell there had been an issue. Your problem is exactly opposite. I don’t think they will cup and they should expand.

I think you need to set up a humidifier in a lower level, below the floors. This way the increased and correct moisture will rise and go through the bottom of the floor and work it’s way through the wood. If you had a moisture meter you would better be able to monitor the actual moisture content in the flooring, which generally is 7-9% for normal readings.

Good luck with it. I guess when possible, it is a good idea to have someone check in on the house every few days if we are away for an extended period.

Related Q: We just put in a new red oak floor in about two months ago. The weather was warmer and now we are in the middle of winter. The whole floor is separating. We are wondering if the boards were tight enough or if the wood was seasoned enough. The wood sat in our house one week before being installed. Does wood have to be seasoned for a period of time prior to purchasing? What else would have caused this?

A: You need to raise the humidity levels in your house. The floor may have been acclimated to the climate in the home at the time. However, if for example you don’t have air conditioning and you don’t run a dehumidifier in the summer, and the floor was installed with, say, 75RH in the home, then if it drops to 27% in winter with the furnace running, that is quite a difference.

I would buy a cheap hygrometer to keep an eye on the temperature and RH in the home and invest in a good dehumidifier. If you could find one that does that plus dehumidify that would be a bonus. Try to get it up close to 40% in winter. The gaps should close up or at least ease.