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  • Writer's pictureJoni Rocco

You might be surprised what humidity levels can do to your wood floors!

We have been so fortunate to be able to enjoy such a beautiful, balmy fall and warm winter so far this year, but the cold finally has arrived! Most Coloradoans love our winters because of the fun sports opportunities and the warm sunshine that quickly melts snow and ice. As much as we appreciate the beauty of a Colorado winter, it is the driest time of the year for all of us, in an already dry climate. And with the winter chill comes dry skin and chapped lips. While we can slather on lotion and lip balm as thick as we want for comfort, that is not the case with our wood products. Wood furniture, instruments, and floors all require higher relative humidity than nature allows during Colorado winters. We’ve got to protect our beautiful wood investments.

Most people are familiar with the benefits of humidifying their homes in the winter months to prevent respiratory problems. But what you may not know is that humidity is also important for other aspects of your home. Do you know your home’s relative humidity level? You should; it is the #1 way to control the moisture in the air and protect the wood in your home from shrinking or gapping. The National Wood Flooring Association recommends keeping your Colorado home’s relative humidity levels between 25-40% continually, year-round, to help protect the woodwork in your home. That means you will need a whole-house humidifier that restores missing moisture to the air. Ideally, it also monitors your home’s relative humidity levels. As your furnace runs during the winter, your home’s relative humidity should remain between recommended levels. If your home’s relative humidity is too low, your indoor air will absorb moisture from the wood, causing it to shrink and gap. Dry air absorbs moisture from everything inside your home, including you and your wood floors. The combination of an overly arid climate (that’s us!) and the process of heating your home during the winter can cause your beautiful wood floors to shrink, crack, and creak. Wood is hygroscopic (big word for a contractor!), and it reacts to the environment it is in.

Mitigating relative humidity is so important that it’s one of the first questions I ask during an estimate: do you have a whole-house humidifier attached to your furnace? I don’t stop there, though. Sometimes people aren’t certain, or we find out that although they have one attached to the furnace, it’s not working properly. How do I know? I am a wood floor nerd, plain and simple. I measure your home’s relative humidity with a thermo-hygrometer, an instrument used for measuring the temperature and moisture content of the environment. As an NWFA Certified Professional Wood Floor Sales Advisor, my job is to ensure that all new flooring is installed in an appropriate climate, so you stay happy with the aesthetics, and your floors last as long as they should!

It’s important for you to know that if you neglect your home’s relative humidity, you will probably end up paying for it later. Wood flooring manufacturers and contractors do not warranty damage resulting from humidity issues. Artistic Floors by Design’s contract requests that homeowners maintain their home’s relative humidity between 25-40%. Why? If the boards shrink too much, you’ll notice those gaps between boards. That’s one of the reasons why we ask about (and measure) your home’s humidity during your estimate. It’s also why we offer penetrating oil finishes as well (penetrating oils tend to be more conditioning: read here for different types of finishes).

Artistic Floors by Design will ensure your new flooring materials are properly acclimated by checking the moisture content of the flooring to be installed against the moisture content of the (plywood or OSB) subfloor to make sure they’re within an appropriate range. This is an important step to protect your flooring investment from the dry Colorado air. Also, by purchasing a whole-house humidifier and keeping it in good working condition, you can avoid costly damage to your home in the future. It’s an important step in protecting your home’s assets and ensures you and your family stay comfortable. If you don’t know whether your humidifier is working, Contact Us and we will be happy to pay a visit to measure your home’s relative humidity.

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