Is Measuring Your Home’s Relative Humidity Really That Important?

cupping wood floors

Keeping an eye on a home’s relative humidity can prevent damage like cupping hardwood floors.

You’ve heard that humidity can affect wood. But will those changes in humidity really make a difference for your wood floor?

They very well could.

Relative humidity (RH) is the ratio of the water vapor in the air to how much water vapor the air can hold. It’s affected by temperature. At warmer temperatures, the air can hold more water vapor than at cooler temperatures.

That means that seasonal or weather changes will affect the humidity of indoor environments—unless the changes are somehow controlled. And those changes can cause movement in the wood, and possibly damage. This is definitely a reason to keep an eye on relative humidity!

Our team, with over 100 years of combined experience in the wood industry, knows how harmful RH changes can be to wood flooring. And we want to help you measure it so you can prevent moisture problems.

Read on to learn:

Why Measure the Relative Humidity of Your Home

Measuring the RH levels of your home can help you keep those levels stable and prevent moisture damage, particularly to floors and furniture. This is especially important for floors prone to moisture damage, such as hardwood flooring which can easily cup.

And if you’re a flooring professional, it’s worth encouraging your clients to do the same.

When they measure the RH of their home, they take responsibility for their floor’s care. As a result, they’ll be much less likely to have problems that they end up calling you about. They also won’t be able to blame you for moisture issues you didn’t cause!

So let’s look briefly at how humidity affects common floor and subfloor materials.

Humidity’s Impact on Wood

Wood is a material that changes based on the moisture of its environment, known as the equilibrium moisture content or EMC.

Two factors that influence EMC are temperature and relative humidity. Thus, when humidity levels fluctuate, the EMC changes—and the wood follows suit.

If RH levels increase, the floor can experience issues like warping or crowning (when the center of the floorboard raises up.

On the other hand, if the RH decreases significantly, the floorboards can gap, crack, or split.

So, all of that to say, It’s better to keep the RH in your home at a consistent and optimal level. Here’s how to do that.

How to Maintain Ideal Relative Humidity Levels

smart logger

Mount Smart Logger in a room to easily monitor temperature and relative humidity.

One of the best ways to maintain ideal RH levels in your home is to measure them and adjust them accordingly with air conditioning or humidification/dehumidification. Typically, the ideal level will be at a consistent point between 30 and 50% relative humidity with an indoor temperature of about 60–80° F.

So how to measure relative humidity?

Let’s look at a couple of Wagner tools that can take out the guesswork and give you accurate results when you need them.

Smart Logger™: the Humidity Detective in Your Home

Smart Logger is a simple data logger that helps you keep track of your indoor temperature and humidity levels. This way, you can keep your floor in that safe RH range.

And if you’re a professional, you can monitor job site conditions, making sure they’re ready for installation. The logger will transfer records to a smartphone app via Bluetooth® when at the job site so you have evidence of your diligence. Easily generate and email those reports to your clients.

We’ve heard from many floor professionals who finish an installation only to receive a call from the customer a few months later: The floor is cupping. Or splitting. Or checking.

Now, you can hold your customers accountable for caring for their floor.

When you ask them, “Has anything changed environmentally?” they’ll be able to answer that question.

Floor Sentry®: Turn Your Floor into a Smart Floor

floor sentry

New flooring in the house. Beautiful golden handscraped oiled European oak brushed for added texture and fine definition of wood grain.

A step up from Smart Logger, Floor Sentry measures the temperature and relative humidity of a small pocket of air in your floor.

All you have to do is rout out a small cavity in the underside of a floor plank and insert the device. It’ll connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can keep track of your floor and subfloor’s conditions at all times.

It even allows you to set a threshold for RH and temperature. If those numbers go out of range, you’ll receive an alert so you can remedy the issue.

This way, you never again have to worry about sneaky environmental changes that could hurt your floor.

Frequently Asked Questions About Relative Humidity

Still wondering about relative humidity and its effects on a floor? See if any of the following can help answer your questions.

How do I measure relative humidity in my home?

Measure relative humidity in your home with a hygrometer or data logger. Wagner Meters also offers options for measuring concrete relative humidity or keeping an eye on the floor and subfloor conditions.

What happens to hardwood floors in high relative humidity?

Hardwood floors can expand when exposed to higher humidity levels if the floorboards are not acclimated to those conditions before installation. The result can be cupping of the floorboards or, in severe cases, buckling.

What happens to hardwood floors in low relative humidity?

Low relative humidity can cause hardwood floorboards to shrink if they aren’t acclimated to those conditions beforehand. As the boards shrink, you might notice gaps between them or between the flooring and the walls. The worst-case scenario is that the boards may start to crack or split.

What happens to concrete slabs in high humidity? What about low relative humidity?

The relative humidity of the air has very little effect on the concrete itself. However, it can have a major impact on the floor above it. Excess moisture can raise the pH levels of the concrete, affecting how well adhesives work. The adhesives might not hold well, which could cause issues like delamination in certain flooring. This excess moisture can also move into the floor above and cause wood moisture issues.

Better to Measure RH Than Deal with Damage

Humidity can affect the overall outcome of your project. It may not be a problem at the time of installation, but the issues can sneak in later on—if you’re not measuring RH levels in your home or encouraging your clients to monitor their homes.

So why waste time and money dealing with damage if prevention is so simple? All you need is a hygrometer or something like our Smart Logger to get started.

And if you’re ready to take it to the next level, we have you covered with Floor Sentry. Visit our store to get you and your clients set up with products that will protect their floors once installed. You won’t regret it.

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