Is Portland’s Humidity Damaging Your Hardwood Floors?
As a Pacific Northwest homeowner, you’re probably all too familiar with nearly year-round wet and humid weather and the impact it can have on wood flooring. When hardwood floors are properly installed and maintained, they can hold up for decades. But sometimes, moisture strikes when you least expect it, which can damage your big investment underfoot. Is Portland’s humidity causing you trouble with your hardwood floors? Find out if humidity is the culprit of your flooring damage and how to prevent issues in the future.
4 Ways Humidity Affects Hardwood Floors
When moisture levels aren’t managed in your home, it can not only impact the durability and lifespan of your hardwood floors, but also cause visible deterioration. Here are four ways humidity can affect your hardwood flooring.
1. Expansion & Buckling
When the humidity underneath your home is higher than it was when your floors were installed, it can cause expansion and buckling. When floors buckle, the material will lift from the subfloor.
2. Swelling & Cupping
If humidity levels in your house are significantly higher or lower than underneath your home, it might cause the wood to swell. Swelling may lead to cupping, which means that the edges of the planks are higher than the center.
3. Shrinking & Contracting
Alternatively, the combination of dry winter air and heat from your furnace can cause a drop in humidity. When humidity levels in or underneath your home are lower than they were when your hardwood was installed, the planks can shrink and contract, which will create gaps in between the boards.
4. Splintering & Cracking
Under enough stress from drastic fluctuations in humidity levels, wood planks can become brittle. When wood expands, it can create immense pressure on the material and may affect the integrity of the planks. In extreme cases, shrinking and contracting can also weaken hardwood floors enough to cause splintering and cracks.
How to Fix Hardwood Cupping/Buckling
If your hardwood floors are cupping or buckling, there’s a good chance that the humidity inside or underneath your home is particularly high. Most likely, it happened due to a combination of improper installation (whether with nailing or adhesives) and drastic changes in weather throughout the year. However, sometimes a spike in humidity can occur when house siding is wrapped with a nonpermeable material.
To fix hardwood cupping and buckling and prevent further damage to your floors, we recommend using a hygrometer (humidity gauge) to monitor the humidity inside and underneath your home. You’ll be able to put a stop to moisture damage by getting a humidifier and keeping humidity levels lower than 60 percent, but 40 to 45 percent is ideal.
In addition to getting a hygrometer and humidifier, you can manage the humidity in your home by:
- Using an air conditioner in the summer
- Running the stove vent in your kitchen when cooking on the burners
- Using bathroom ventilation during and after showers
- Regularly cleaning the vent on your clothes dryer and making sure it is unobstructed
Aside from shifts in humidity, hardwood floors are vulnerable to other types of moisture damage. It’s particularly important to stay ahead of water damage during Portland’s rainy season.
While it’s crucial that you keep an eye on the humidity levels in your home, we also recommend that you:
- Wipe up spills immediately
- Make sure everyone removes their shoes and rain jackets to avoid tracking water on your floors
- Dry off your pets when they come in from the rain
- Look out for pipe leaks, overflowing gutters, and drainage problems
When it comes to maintaining hardwood flooring and lengthening its lifespan, prevention is key. If your floors are beginning to show signs of humidity damage, you may be able to salvage the material. However, in the event that they are in a condition beyond repair, we encourage you to consider replacing your flooring.
Find Hardwood Flooring in Portland at Floor Factors
Floor Factors offers not only finished and unfinished solid hardwood, but also myriad other flooring materials, including water-resistant options. We pride ourselves in providing expert installation services that prevent hardwoods from expanding, swelling, shrinking, and cracking as humidity levels rise and fall.
To learn more about the floor covering materials and installation services we offer, contact us today or visit our flooring store in Portland.