Dear Bob and Betsy,
I’ve heard you’re not supposed to install hardwood floors in an area with high levels of moisture. I live in Arkansas. How does the humidity down here affect hardwood and what is the moisture content of hardwood flooring when it arrives at my home?
– Alex G.
Arkansas is a beautiful part of the country. However, summer time can skyrocket humidity levels. When humidity makes the air so thick your pants stick to your skin and you never seem to fully dry off after your daily shower, you realize just how much moisture is in the air. You’re right to be concerned about how this could affect your hardwood floors.
Moisture is like kryptonite for hardwood. Because wood is a natural, live material, it expands and contrasts with the heat and humidity. Because of this, it is dried in the kiln during production so that it only has between 6% and 9% humidity. When the moisture levels rise, it can cause your hardwood floors to expand to a point where they cup, buckle or crack. This is why it’s highly discouraged to use water when cleaning your floors.
Air humidity can affect your flooring just as much as spills or puddles.
The first thing you should do is check the moisture levels in your home. Humidity outside won’t affect your hardwood as long as the moisture levels remain between 35% and 55%.
If the levels are over 55%, there’s a greater chance of enough moisture seeping into the wood so the floors swell. This is also the case with engineered hardwood floors, which are slightly more durable against humidity, but still at risk of damage from excess moisture levels.
In Arkansas, it’s quite possible your humidity could rise to the point where your floors soak up excess moisture. To protect against this, we suggest installing a humidistat or hydrometer. If you notice the levels inching up above 55%, turn on a dehumidifier or use your air conditioning. Both of these devices will curb the amount of moisture in the air, keeping your floors safer.
If you have any questions while you’re picking out your hardwood floors, or any other concerns, don’t hesitate to contact our flooring experts anytime!