How to Acclimate Hardwood Flooring: An In-Depth Guide

By Cezar

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the idea that different types of hardwood floors absorb moisture and will need to acclimate to its space. For most people, however, acclimation simply means allowing the wood to sit in your home or other space for 48 hours – this is supposed to allow the moisture content in the wood to adjust to the moisture content in your home.

However, this can be a big mistake! Properly acclimating hardwood is a much more sensitive task that demands proper know-how. Failure to do it correctly can be an expensive mistake – it can compromise your installation, leading to a floor that ends up not fitting correctly, or in the worst case warping or buckling. Beware!

To be technical, acclimating your hardwood floor means allowing the wood to reach its equilibrium moisture content (EMC) within your home’s normal conditions. This means that as long as conditions in your home don’t change, your wood will be exchanging minimal moisture with the surrounding air. Rather than just leaving your wood exposed for a certain period of time, this means that you should be actively monitoring its moisture content throughout the acclimation process. A moisture meter is a key tool in this process.

Acclimating hardwood is a delicate process, and can be something of an art. This article will give you some key tips to help you understand hardwood acclimation. It’s a good idea to acquire the help of a professional if you’re unsure about the process – it’s cheaper than buying new wood!

Preparation Before Hardwood Floor Acclimation

The first step in successful wood flooring acclimation is to prepare properly and control your environment. You should aim for a controlled humidity level of 30-50% in your space for the peak performance of your wood. The temperature should remain between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Installing your wood floor should always be the last job in any construction project. Before proceeding to your hardwood installation, any wet work should have been completed and allowed to dry. This means that any work with plaster, cement or paint should be long completed before your wood shows up. This is important, as any of these substances will release excess moisture into the air as it dries – which your wood can suck right up!

Once any wet trades are completed, you should verify that your humidity and temperature are in the correct range. Then you can bring in your hardwood and begin the acclimation process.

How To Work With The Moisture Meter?

A moisture meter is a critical tool for acclimating your wood properly. This is a sample of the tasks that a moisture meter will help you perform:

  • Performing baseline readings of your wood’s moisture content upon delivery
  • Checking the humidity levels of your subfloor and concrete to be sure that they are ready to receive wood
  • Monitoring the wood flooring as it acclimates to the room

Checking the moisture levels of your subfloor is a key step that is sometimes overlooked – if the level is too high, the moisture the subfloor will release into the air will be absorbed by your hardwood.

A moisture meter should always be used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you have any doubts, we always recommend using the service of professionals. Any contractor who works with wood should have a moisture meter handy.

Steps To Acclimate Wood Floors

Here are the rough steps you should follow to acclimate your hardwood. The first step is to make sure that the humidity levels in your house are under control. You should make sure that the humidity and temperature levels are consistent for roughly two weeks prior to bringing any wood in.

  1. Measure: Measure initial moisture content upon delivery. The packing should be opened and the inner plastic wrapping as well
  2. Store: Make sure you cross stack the boxes to make sure that all packaging remains open and your wood can freely exchange
  3. Wait: You’re waiting for your floor’s equilibrium moisture content to normalize with your home’s, and for it to differ from your subfloor’s by no more than 2%. There are also resources you can consult by region, humidity, and temperature to find out the right humidity levels for your home and wood.

There are no hard rules for acclimating – it takes as long as it takes. Normally, it should take at least three days for your wood to acclimate, and maybe longer.

Summary

Acclimating your wood is a necessity if you want it to perform at its best. More than just leaving your wood out to dry, you need to be sensitive to the different steps in the process and prepare properly.

Remember, if you don’t acclimate properly it can be an expensive mistake! Take things slowly, and if in doubt talk to the pros.

There is no “one size fits all” solution here! Each wood floor and its condition are unique. We will provide you with the best and most cost-efficient solution for your floors.

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As a general rule, professionally refinished hardwood floors last 5 times longer vs DIY.