Hardwood floors are extremely durable and with proper care and maintenance your hardwood floors may last for the life of your home. One of the conditions that can damage your hardwood floors and potentially decrease their longevity is humidity.
Any kind of water or moisture can damage hardwood floors, but fluctuations of humidity in the air can be hard to detect. Often homeowners notice changes or damage to their hardwood floors and don’t realize that swings in humidity are responsible. A relative humidity of between 35% and 55% is generally considered ideal for hardwood floors.
Humidity seeps into your hardwood floors, causing them to expand. When the individual boards run of space to swell, they start to warp and cupping occurs. A hardwood floor that has suffered cupping has a wavy appearance with the boards being higher along the edges and lower in the middle. Over time, high humidity levels can even cause hardwood floors to crack and buckle and may cause the finish to peel.
If you are concerned that you may live in an area where high humidity is an issue in the summer, install a humidistat or a hygrometer, both of which measure the relative humidity. A hygrometer is relatively low-tech (like a thermometer for humidity), while a humidistat may be wired right into your air conditioning system to maintain a specific relative humidity in a room.
If the relative humidity in your home is in danger of rising above 55%, you can control it by running your air conditioning or using a dehumidifier.
A newer home or building may have a Heat Recovery Ventilation system, or HRV. The HRV should be turned off to prevent it from continually pumping the humid air from outside into your home.
If you live in an area with particularly dry summers, beware that low humidity can be equally dangerous for your hardwood floors. Extremely low humidity levels can cause the wood to dry out and eventually split. Low humidity can also cause damage to the floor’s finish. If the relative humidity in your home drops below 35%, you can try to increase the humidity by running a humidifier in the rooms with hardwood flooring.
Also be conscious that while engineered hardwood may be less susceptible to damage caused by high or low humidity, they are not impervious. Keeping a constant humidity level in your home is just as important for your engineered hardwood floors.