Hardwood flooring can enhance the beauty and value of your home. If installed correctly, it will endure for decades. However, because hardwood expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity, homeowners often ask, “when is the best time to install hardwood flooring?”
Summer is hot and muggy, and winter is cold and dry in most locations. Hardwood reacts to humidity, absorbing moisture in the summer. In winter, the wood dries out, and can shrink, causing the boards to pull apart—a phenomenon called “cupping.” As the wood dries in the parched indoor air of winter, the edges and sides of the planks rise, leaving a slight trough in the center of the boards. In high humidity, newly installed floors can warp or even crack as they expand due to the amount of moisture they absorb.
Installing hardwoods flooring requires flooring fasteners, usually applied with power tools, but often also requires glue. The adhesives used to fix hardwood floors work best in temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level of 35 to 60%. A combined temperature-humidity monitoring device can measure the levels in the room where the wood flooring will be installed.
Autumn Sweet Spot
The cool, pleasant air of autumn creates a great environment for installing hardwood floors. Summer heat and humidity have subsided, the bone-chilling air conditioning has been turned off, the heat isn’t needed yet, and the home can more easily be kept in the optimal temperature and humidity range for installing hardwood.
Wood Needs a Chance To Acclimate
When you select hardwood as a flooring material, remember to set aside time, usually about a week, for the floorboards to get used to the environment of the room where you will have them installed. The wood must get used to the usual conditions of temperature and humidity in the room. It should sit, raised off the floor an inch or two, with cartons or containers open, to allow it to get used to the conditions in the room. This will minimize the risk of cupping, warping, or cracking after installation.
Flooring professionals may disagree about when is the best time to install hardwood flooring and say that they can make it work at any time of year. Take your cue by the climate in which you live. If your home experiences fairly constant temperature and humidity levels year-round, you may be able to install wood floors any time of year. Not many homes maintain such constant conditions, so attention to temperature and humidity is critical. You should also consider the inconvenience and disruption that occurs by completely clearing out a room to have a new floor installed—it’s probably not something you want to do during the winter holiday season.
Whenever you choose to install your new hardwood floors, the brief disruption will be worth it for the warmth and elegance hardwood adds to your home.