Hardwood Floor Acclimation: When Can You Install?
Whether hiring contractors or installing wood flooring, homeowners must consider measuring the wood’s moisture content (MC) as one of many installation concerns. Many wood moisture meters assess the surface moisture conditions and the MC inside the wood.
A wood’s MC is addressed beginning with the kiln drying manufacturing process. Each species has different properties; even within species, there can be variability in drying rates and defects. The interactions of wood, water, heat, and stress during the kiln drying process are very complex. Manufacturers use industrial moisture meters for wood to verify a stable MC in the end product before delivery.
Homeowners (and even some installation professionals) mistakenly assume that the wood flooring’s MC has been resolved once and for all after the kiln drying manufacturing process. Whether installing solid wood floors or engineered flooring, stakeholders must measure the wood’s MC multiple times from the point of flooring delivery. This is when flooring installers must use moisture meters for wood for multiple assessments to preempt or prevent recurrent MC problems in the wood flooring.
Why Multiple Measurements?
Moisture is a crucial, life-sustaining component of wood. From the tree as it stands in a forest to the wood manufactured into flooring, MC is part of every wood cell in all 1600 species. Moisture meters for wood are necessary because wood continues to absorb and release moisture into the air until the wood is in balance with its surrounding environment’s relative humidity (RH) and temperature. When the RH levels rise, wood absorbs moisture and expands; wood releases moisture and shrinks when RH declines. This process does not end when a tree is cut; it continues to a certain degree even after the wood flooring is sealed with finishes.
Engineered flooring poses distinct wood moisture measurement challenges. Each engineered flooring product can contain several layers of different wood types, each with its own MC characteristics. Put simply, the MC of the medium-density fiberboard core can vary distinctly from its surface hardwood lamella layer. Therefore, it is important to repeatedly assess moisture levels with a wood moisture meter while installing any type of wood floor.
On delivery: Assessors need to measure the wood flooring’s MC upon delivery to verify that the MC is within acceptable specifications for installation purposes.
Before acclimation: It is important to place the wood flooring in its intended room’s environmental setting before installation for the time specified by the manufacturer. The wood flooring’s MC will acclimate to that environmental setting, so installers should measure the wood flooring’s baseline MC before acclimation.
After acclimation/before installation: This wood moisture meter measurement can likely reveal MC changes in the wood flooring, especially if installing wood floors in air-conditioned settings or during times of significant RH fluctuations, such as during seasonal changes.
Once finished installing wood floors: By measuring the MC in the wood flooring after installation, MC reading variances can inform the flooring owner of any extraordinary changes which may require further attention to protect the life of the flooring.
Long-term moisture measurement helps ensure owners’ investments once the wood flooring is installed. Flooring owners should still conduct periodic moisture measurement checks as almost every wood floor endures some expansion and contraction as humidity levels change due to seasonal variations. MC management includes wood moisture meter measurement during these seasonal changes when overall RH fluctuates in different patterns.
While heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems control indoor humidity, outdoor RH levels can still influence indoor RH. When homes are heated in the winter months, RH levels can decrease, boards can shrink, and spaces appear between the boards. These spaces usually close as the season changes and moisture returns to the air. There is no need to fear these fluctuations, but long-term wood flooring strength and performance are assured by periodic MC measurement and management.
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The Wood Moisture Meter Investment
Wagner Meters carries an industry-leading line of moisture meters for wood.
With both analog and digital options, Wagner Meters’ wood moisture meters accurately measure the MC in hardwoods, softwoods, and even exotic wood species with certain models.
Assessors can use the Orion 930 Dual Depth Wood Moisture Meter for all wood species used for wood flooring and woodworking applications, including engineered flooring products and bamboo.
For every stage of wood floor installation and use, a wood moisture meter will help you successfully manage the wood’s MC for the floor’s life.
As Sales Manager for Wagner Meters, Ron has more than 35 years of experience with instrumentation and measurement systems in different industries. In previous positions, he has served as Regional Sales Manager, Product and Projects Manager, and Sales Manager for manufacturers involved in measurement instrumentation.
Last updated on August 24th, 2022