New floor installed after minor flooding is making cracking noises

Q: We experienced minor flooding in our home due to a bathroom faucet and incompetent plumber. We had to remove and replace the Bruce hardwood flooring on the first level. We used the same prefinished Bruce hardwood flooring as previously (different installer) and noticed that right after this installation, the wood makes cracking noises when walking across it in certain areas/rooms and not others. We had the subfloor screwed down throughout prior to wood placement so we know it’s not the subfloor. Now, we’re worried about whether or not it was properly installed.

The wood was acclimated for two weeks (due to our being out of town) and our home is at the same temperature as we keep it always; however, we’ve noticed that the humidity is lower than it was with our previous flooring this time around since we installed a vapor barrier in our crawlspace. We are trying to get the humidity levels higher in our home without freezing in the wintertime. 

Any ideas of what could cause the cracking noises, only when walking across the floor? Also, any ideas on how to increase RH in the home? Our RH ranges from 25-35% usually on the lower end because it’s so cold here right now and we keep the heat on constantly. We want to make sure we fix the problem prior to furnishing our home again and not ruin our new flooring.

A: This cracking sound is most likely caused by a very tight tongue and groove joint which is moving when you walk on it.  Especially if there is a bit of a dip or hollow between floor joists and a nail or cleat was not applied on that spot.  A slight flex in the floor and the tight joint would make a noise. Each floor is an individual and can take two seasonal cycles to completely become a part of your environment, so you need to give it time unless other problem indicators appear.  I hope your installer checked moisture levels in both the subfloor and the hardwood.  Sub floors can take a long time to dry out.  If you experience any cupping of the hardwood you will know there was a problem with that. 

25%-35% RH in winter sounds about as high as you want to go.  I wouldn’t want to go higher than 40% in winter or you would have water streaming down your windows.  You can buy a portable humidifier to inject some moisture into the air.

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