Telling people no is one of my least favorite things to do.
But sometimes it’s the most responsible approach. At some point in each of our lives, we will run across a perfect example of the phrase: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” We can install engineered hardwood flooring. In fact, it would be super easy to do so. But we won’t install that type of flooring. And here’s why.
As it’s become more common and convenient to purchase over the past few years, Artistic Floors by Design has received more inquiries regarding engineered wood flooring. Colorado’s climate is not conducive to manufacturer warranty requirements for engineered hardwood flooring, so we do not install them. Engineered hardwood flooring is appropriate in some locations, for example, over concrete slabs in Louisiana and Texas or in the basement level of the home. But in our dry climate, it would not be. Manufacturers require engineered hardwood to be installed in spaces where the relative humidity can be maintained between 40-55%. I probably carry more Chapstick in my purse than a Midwesterner would buy in a lifetime. I can tell you it’s difficult to achieve even 25% relative humidity using a whole house humidifier attached to our furnace in our home.
Denver’s lower humidity isn’t as much of a concern with ¾ inch solid wood flooring. In a dry environment, moisture is released into the air from the wood, because it is a hygroscopic, natural product. Individual floor boards will shrink, causing gaps between boards, even with the proper moisture barrier. Gaps are seasonal, unless the wood wasn’t properly acclimated and certified installation methods were not adhered to. The wood boards will expand when Denver’s arid environment contains more moisture, during our spring and summer seasons.
So What Do We Do With Engineered Hardwood Flooring Installation Requests?
First, I find the installation procedures and warranty requirements provided by the manufacturer of the engineered hardwood flooring. I have yet to see a manufacturer warranty that allows below 40% relative humidity. Generally, engineered hardwood is made up of several layers of wood that are glued together, or laminated with a top hardwood veneer. The top layer is anywhere between 3 millimeters to half an inch.
In the mountain desert climate of Denver, even a high performing engineered hardwood flooring can crack or split within the top layer (know as a check), which is quite different from natural expansion and contraction that causes gaps between those boards. Or engineered floors can delaminate, which is the separation of glued-together horizontal layers of wood. This is especially common during seasons of dehumidification: fall, winter, and early spring. Splitting and delaminating layers of engineered must be replaced. Replacement of one board can lead to other issues, including noise and movement.
As a parent of four children, living in a world of disposable products, I admit I have consumed more paper and plastic than I should. However, instead of installing a product that might be able to be sanded one or two more times throughout its life, or not at all, our business focuses on helping you invest in your home environment. We give you a solid hardwood flooring that can be resanded many times over its lifespan. It is our preference to educate homeowners so that they understand the impact of their purchase, instead of just getting them the lowest price possible and hoping that it doesn’t fail them or their lifestyle.