My Wood Floor is Shrinking

wood flooring gaps (600x450)It’s winter and wood floors are shrinking. Here’s a question I received the other day about this common complaint.

Jean wrote:

Need your expert advice please if you can.  I have installed acres of 18mm solid wood flooring in all my rooms. this winter with the heating on it seems to be shrinking. Seems to be taking wooden studding with it, i.e., door frames fixed on top of it have moved too. Will this settle down do you think?  Many thanks in advance.

My answer:

This shrinking is due to the wood losing moisture content. The indoor relative humidity is usually quite low in the wintertime. As the air dries out, it draws moisture from the wood floors and the rest of the wood in the house, studs and doors included. When the weather warms, the relative humidity will go back up and the wood’s moisture content will increase. The wood floors, studs, joists, and doors will swell up again. If the wood was excessively moist when installed, it will never return to the original size. If the wood had the proper moisture content when it was installed, it will return to its original size. It’s impossible for me to say without knowing the condition at the time of installation.

Seasonal shrinkage of wood in a home is a normal occurrence. One way to reduce this shrinking is to add humidity to your home. A central humidifier installed on your heating system will work if you have forced air heat. Otherwise, a free-standing humidifier would help. If you install or start using a humidifier, it might take weeks for the wood to absorb enough moisture to make a visible difference in the shrinkage you see.

If your floors do not return to normal and excessive cracking is still a problem next summer, call your contractor and tell him you think he installed a wood floor with too high a moisture content. Hopefully he’ll stand behind his work.

These floors were refinished after humidity was under control.

These floors were refinished after humidity was under control.

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Bill Hirsch

Bill Hirsch

2 Comments

  1. flooring Houston on November 3, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Shrinking flooring is definitely a challenge that you hope you don’t face in your home, but sometimes, it is inevitable. When it comes to such trouble, handling the situation yourself should be out of the question because you might make things worse. There are various flooring experts out there to make sure they do the job well.

  2. city of san diego retaining wall permits on December 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I agree, it’s inevitable to escape the shrinkage, either spills on the floor, inundations and even condensation.

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