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3 Common Problems With Wood Floors and How To Avoid Them

By Michael Hilton

For many homeowners, upgrading their home's old flooring with new wood floors is a home improvement project which takes priority over all others. When installed properly, and cared for regularly, the beauty and durability of wood floors can last for generations. Unfortunately, a less than perfect installation job can cause problems down the road, yet understanding these troublesome issues beforehand may help you to avoid the problems altogether.

Most Problems with Wood Floors Involve Moisture

Here are some common problems with wood floors:

  • If the wood is too wet prior to installation, gaps will eventually appear between the floor boards. Wood shrinks when it dries, so if the wood flooring which you are using dries significantly after it has already been installed tight on the floor, then gaps will appear. Remember, even after its initial drying, wood can expand and shrink depending on the relative humidity in the air.
  • Another problem which can be caused by moisture issues is buckling, which is what happens when a floor board has no room to expand, and instead pulls away from the subfloor and breaks the surface of the floor. This almost always occurs in a home which has had some sort of flooding or plumbing disaster, yet buckling can also happen when wood floors are exposed to high levels of humidity.
  • When a floor board is more wet on the bottom than on the top, cupping can occur. This is very obvious to the eye, as the surface of the floor appears scalloped with ridges, instead of nice and flat. This problem usually occurs when the bottom of the floor is absorbing moisture from the underlying subfloor. If left untreated, the moisture may eventually cause the cupped boards to buckle.

Here are some ways to avoid problems with your wood floors:

  • Acclimate your flooring inside your home for at least five days prior to installation. Make sure that the indoor humidity and temperature levels are maintained as close to year-round-normal as possible.
  • Install a good quality vapor barrier between the floor planks and the subfloor to help minimize moisture transfer between the two.
  • Test the moisture content of the wood and the subfloor before installation begins.
  • Consider using engineered wood flooring in moist areas of your home, such as basements, or in very dry homes, such as those that use wood burning stoves. Engineered wood products are generally more stable than those made from solid wood and may be the best solution for very wet or dry areas in your home.

Once the floors have been properly installed, they will need to be sanded and finished. Even if you don't plan on doing the work yourself, understanding the potential problems that can happen to wood floors may help you when choosing a qualified flooring installer.

About the Author
Michael Hilton was the original creator of Carpet Buyers Handbook. Having owned and operated a carpet wholesale company, Hilton has a vast knowledge about all-things carpet related as well as other types of flooring.

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