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How to Acclimate Solid Hardwood The Right Way

How long will a floor take to acclimate? It all depends on what type of flooring you’re installing and maintaining the environment.

Moisture, both too much or too little, is the primary cause for problems with flooring. A key way to avoid moisture-related problems is proper acclimation to the job site. It is key to acclimate your hardwood flooring to the home before it is installed.

Why take the time to acclimate properly?

Wood is hygroscopic, meaning it will take on moisture from the surrounding environment. Absorbing or releasing too much moisture will cause wood to change.

It can expand, shrink, check, or split because of excessive moisture changes in the flooring. Properly acclimating the flooring before installation will help you mitigate these problems.

Poor Acclimation Can Lead To:

  • Expansion: When wood flooring takes on too much moisture, individual boards will start to expand in width. This can cause boards to buckle or to appear cupped or swollen.
  • Squeaks: Boards can push or pull against the fasteners in the floor. Eventually causing squeaks or loose boards.
  • Adhesive Failure: If the floor is glued down, too much moisture can cause the boards to stretch the adhesive. This can cause hollow spots due to adhesion failure.
  • Gaps: When wood flooring loses moisture and becomes too dry, boards will begin to shrink in width which creates gaps between boards.
  • Cracks: Cracks, checks and splits can open up if the floor shrinks due to excessive dryness.

Do solid and engineered wood flooring require the same process?

No! Solid and engineered wood flooring have different acclimation requirements.

For engineered hardwood flooring, follow the manufacturer’s instructions that are included with the flooring. Many engineered floors are acclimated for temperature only.

Go to our documents library to find all of the installation guides for our collections.

Acclimating Solid Wood Flooring

Step 1: Climate Control the Home for 2 Weeks Prior to Delivery

Before bringing in the flooring, use a thermo-hygrometer to record the temperature and humidity levels of the space where the flooring will be installed.

The home should be climate-controlled to normal living conditions for at least two weeks prior to delivery to properly acclimate a floor.

We recommend keeping the home at 60-80° F and within 30-50% relative humidity for solid prefinished floors.

Step 2: Open All Boxes and Measure the Moisture Content

Bring in all flooring into the job site where it will be installed. Open all boxes along the length and ends. Cut open the inner plastic wrapping and fold back the plastic and cardboard to expose the flooring. Flooring will not acclimate properly if left in the plastic wrapping. Cross-stack the flooring, leaving room between each box for good airflow.

Using a moisture meter, get an initial baseline by measuring the moisture content (MC) of 20 boards per 1,000′ of flooring. Make sure to take random samples across the full lot of flooring. Take the average of all MC% measurements. Also, measure the MC% of the subfloor by taking the average of 20 readings per 1,000′ of subfloor.

In most cases, the MC of the subfloor and flooring must be within 2% of each other to begin the installation. The MC% of the flooring and subfloor should also match the average temperature and RH% of the house.

Step 3: Cross Stack Boxes

Bring in the rest of the flooring into the room where it will be installed. Space them apart, so that one holds down the cardboard flap of the other. Open the cardboard flap and plastic wrapping of every box.

Cross stack the boxes no more than 5 high so that air can circulate throughout the flooring. This will allow for the most efficient acclimation. Using a fan to circulate air through the stack of wood will decrease acclimation time.

wood moisture content

Step 4: Determine When the Floor is Acclimated

Once you’ve finished these steps, how do you know when the flooring is finally acclimated?

Simply stated, wood flooring has acclimated once it has reached equilibrium with the home kept at average normal living conditions.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the home reached its average living conditions for at least 2 weeks before acclimation?
  • Is the MC% of the flooring within the recommended MC% of the subfloor?
  • Is the MC% of your flooring within the average of the range of moisture content for your geographic region and the conditions of your home? To know what this range is, see the graphic below.

When you can answer yes to these questions, you are ready to install.

How to Acclimate Successfully Every Time

The rule to remember is this: wood floors do best when there is consistent temperature and humidity. After acclimating your floors, maintain a consistent home environment to help prevent movement, squeaks, and stress on the floor.

And the best way to do that – have a whole-home humidifier and keep it running during dry times of the year.


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