How Moisture Affects Your Flooring’s Durability and Performance

Whether it’s hardwood flooring in a family home, concrete flooring in a school gym, or brand new tile at a local restaurant, flooring sets the tone and functionality of any space. These floors should work for you and last a long time.

That all changes, though, if moisture is left unchecked and uncontrolled.

But there’s a way to never have to worry about uncontrolled moisture sneaking into your floors.


Well, at Wagner Meters, we are in the business of providing solutions before your flooring problems even exist. We want to enhance the durability and performance of your floors.

Our number one priority is to develop systems that help you avoid moisture issues and, in turn, keep your and your clients’ floors looking great and lasting a long time.

Keep reading to learn how detrimental moisture can be to your floors.

Specifically, this article will cover:

Let’s start by understanding the building blocks of moisture issues.

Why Moisture Matters and Why You Should Care

Moisture is pretty much everywhere: in the air, in the ground, inside, outside, and, yes, even in your flooring.

The problem is not the presence of moisture; it’s the presence of too much moisture.

This moisture, when left unmanaged, can be detrimental to flooring. It can cause materials to break down and, depending on the material, can cause severe warping, mold growth, and dangerous structural damage.

Some materials, like wood, are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb or release moisture depending on their environment. If the ambient conditions are too wet, the wood won’t be able to release moisture. If, on the other hand, the ambient conditions are too dry—and the wood itself is overdried—the wood may split or become brittle (more on this later).

Other materials, like concrete, can remain wet indefinitely if covered before the moisture in the mixture is allowed to evaporate.

Whatever flooring you’re using, unmanaged moisture is almost certainly going to result in a moisture disaster.

Let’s break down the impact of moisture on specific flooring to see how important moisture management is.

How Does Moisture Impact Wood Flooring?

wood floor buckling and cupping due to moisture

Buckling, cupping, crowning, and other types of warping will make even the prettiest wood floor look bad.

If wood flooring takes on moisture, it expands. If it releases moisture, it shrinks. That’s because, as previously mentioned, wood is a hygroscopic material: It acts like a sponge in response to its environment.

So when wood flooring is put down and its moisture content (MC) doesn’t match the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) of the installation location, you’re asking for trouble.

Warping can take many different forms and can happen if the wood hasn’t been properly dried—it’s too wet or too dry—or if the subfloor beneath the wood floor hasn’t been properly dried.

Warping can look like:

  • Bowing: a curve along the edge of a plank
  • Cupping: the edges of a plank curve upward in a “u” shape
  • Crowning: the opposite of cupping. The center of the plank is higher than the edges.
  • Twisting: the edges of a plank of wood are on different planes

Even on the off chance that moisture doesn’t cause warping, the regular shrinkage or expansion of wood from seasonal moisture changes—if not properly accounted for during installation—can make boards cup or have unsightly gaps.

So, if your wood floors come from a low-humidity environment but end up in a high-humidity environment, they will expand, which could cause cupping or buckling.

How Does Moisture Impact Concrete Flooring?

Concrete that’s too wet is the perfect environment for mold growth—which is both unsightly and concerning for health. Wet concrete also has detrimental effects on any flooring that goes on top of it.

Moisture from a concrete subfloor can migrate through the slab and into the flooring above it, whether that be wood, laminate, or tile. This kind of moisture can cause warping, breakdown of adhesives, or cracking.

When first poured, moisture is an inherent part of the concrete mixture. But even once the concrete cures (or appears and feels hard), it can still hold moisture deep beneath its surface.

This moisture can take a long time to evaporate, so it takes a while for concrete to be truly dry. But if the concrete isn’t given the time (and environment) that it needs, there can be dire consequences.

How Does Moisture Impact Tile Flooring?

At first glance, tile would seem to be unaffected by moisture. After all, it’s commonly used in humid places like bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. But while it’s true that tile is more resistant to moisture than wood flooring, it’s not invincible.

Mostly, the moisture that impacts tile flooring is going to come from the subfloor. Moisture constantly coming up from a wet subfloor can cause grout to break down, tiles to become loose or crack, and, eventually, mold and mildew to build homes beneath these loose tiles.

At the end of the day, nearly no flooring type is invincible against unmanaged moisture. So how can you tell whether your flooring is a victim of moisture? Keep reading to find out how to spot the early signs of moisture damage (and find the real solution: prevention).

Spotting the Early Signs of Moisture Damage

Moisture damage is one of those things that happens slowly, and if you catch it soon enough, you can solve the problem with little to no consequences. That being said, moisture can also go undetected for a long time. With enough time, it can cause irreversible damage to flooring.

But if you know the signs, you can catch the damage early. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Warping, like cupping, crowning, or twisting
  • Buckling
  • Discoloration
  • Musty smells
  • Loose tiles or squeaky boards

No matter how good you get at spying out these early signs, the best solution is to prevent the problem in the first place. That’s where we come in.

Next, you’ll read about the products that make moisture damage prevention and monitoring effortless.

Wagner Meters: Your Ally in Moisture Control

Orion 950 wood moisture meter in use

The Orion 950 is easy to use and will change the game for anyone who works with wood.

We have several products to help you manage and monitor moisture in any given space so you won’t have to worry about moisture issues. Let’s look at three products that can truly change the game and save you time, money, and lots of headaches.

Orion Pinless Wood Moisture Meters

Our Orion line is the not-so-secret secret to making your hardwood floors last longer and stay beautiful too.

A high-quality pinless moisture meter, like the Orion 950, will tell you the moisture content (MC) of a plank of wood quickly, accurately, and without any pinhole damage.

When you measure the MC of several planks, you’ll know whether the MC is close to the EMC of the installation location, ensuring the planks won’t warp or buckle due to excess moisture.

And, if you take your moisture meter with you when you purchase wood, you’ll be able to measure MC prior to purchase, meaning you won’t buy wood that needs time and money to dry out.

Rapid RH System


The DataGrabber makes moisture monitoring nearly effortless.

Measuring concrete relative humidity with in situ probes is the most reliable method to determine the moisture condition of a concrete slab. That’s where our Rapid RH system comes in.

It’s easy hands-on monitoring that involves drilling small holes into the concrete slab and inserting probes. These probes, what we call Rapid RH L6 Smart Sensors, help you make an informed decision regarding your concrete slab.

And if you want to take this system from hands-on monitoring to automatic on-site monitoring, all you have to do is attach the DataGrabber with Bluetooth to the in-slab sensor.

Then, instead of scanning the probes yourself, the data will automatically transfer to your smartphone whenever you set foot on site.

Floor Sentry

If you want to make your floor a smart floor, Floor Sentry is the ticket. This device is smaller and thinner than your smartphone, and it’s installed directly into a wood flooring plank.

Once installed, pair it with the Wagner Sentry app. Now, you’ll get relative humidity and temperature monitoring indefinitely. You can even set alarms when the humidity or temperature exceeds a certain threshold.

When you monitor ambient conditions, you’re not just getting data. You’re empowering your clients with the knowledge they need to maintain the beauty and longevity of their floors.

The Moral of the Story? Manage Moisture Proactively!

If you take anything from this article, let it be this: Moisture must be managed. Without that, you (and the floors you install) might be in big trouble.

The above products make managing moisture and preventing moisture-related damage possible. They are the answer to “how to control moisture in my flooring.” So if that’s something you want, check out our industry-leading products and experience the best in moisture management.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *