How the Indoor Climate Affects Your Flooring

If you’ve ever installed or are thinking about having laminate, wood, cork or bamboo flooring, you’re likely familiar with ‘acclimation’. This term refers to a required pre-installation process which allows the above flooring types to adjust themselves to the indoor environment where they will be installed.

The Acclimation Process

Flooring is first placed in the location in a home where it will be installed and then left for up to 3 days at a set indoor temperature and humidity, typically between 18 and 23 degrees Centigrade, and between 35 and 55% humidity.

Of course, the level of humidity will fluctuate, based both on the season and the geographical location of the home. Those living in coastal regions will experience higher humidity levels than those in desert areas.

Laminate Floors

Laminate flooring is often considered to be little more than ‘plastic’ flooring. However, its core is made of wood, which can be affected by humidity levels. Therefore, laminate flooring must go through the acclimation process and be maintained just as bamboo or real wood flooring would be.

Bamboo Floors

Although bamboo is technically a grass, it has a fibrous construction that is affected by moisture. In fact, bamboo flooring is affected by humidity in virtually the same way that wood flooring is. Maintaining the dimensions and stability of bamboo flooring requires controlled humidity levels after installation as well as an acclimation process beforehand.

Cork Floors

Although far less vulnerable to the swelling and shrinking that fluctuating humidity levels can cause, cork is still a natural product, as it comes from cork oak tree bark. Therefore, it will be affected by humidity on some level. Most manufacturers of cork flooring recommend the acclimation process as well as continuous humidity control following installation.

Real and Engineered Wood Floors

Because actual wood is used in engineered wood floors, both types require acclimation. The fibrous material will acclimate itself to the humidity of the environment it’s in. Should humidity levels begin to decrease, both real and engineered wood floors will release any accumulated moisture. If moisture levels within the flooring drop below the saturation point of 28% but indoor humidity is high, this will cause swelling.

However, once the flooring reaches its saturation point again, it becomes stable and will remain so until moisture content reaches twice the saturation point. It is because of this that manufacturers recommend that rooms with wood flooring have a humidity level of between 35 and 55%.

How to Control Indoor Humidity

In areas where humidity is low, the successful maintenance of humidity levels is done with humidifiers. This allows flooring to be acclimated in the recommended range. This will prevent the shrinkage and separation of the flooring.

In locations where humidity is high, dehumidifiers as well as air conditioners are used so that swelling and buckling of the flooring can be prevented.

Although it may seem like a lot of work to first acclimate and then install your chosen flooring, it must be remembered that flooring is an investment. As such, ensuring it’s done right from the beginning will mean that you have a floor which lasts for many years. Another thing to consider is the warranty coverage of your flooring. In order to ensure coverage, all recommendations of the flooring manufacturer must be followed, and to the letter.

Really, the acclimation of flooring is less a pre-installation process than it is an ongoing one. The best way to maintain your flooring’s warranty, as well as its integrity, is to control and maintain the humidity of the indoor environment of your home.