Cupping occurs when solid wood flooring has gained moisture and expanded. The boards expand so much that they put pressure on each other, which causes the edges of the boards to rise creating a ripple effect throughout the floor. The cupping should subside when the new home moisture is removed and the relative humidity is maintained between 30-50%. The longer the wood has been exposed to high humidity, the longer it will take for the wood to dry out and the cupping subside.
Thank you for purchasing your Gaylord Floor
Hello! On behalf of our family and The Gaylord Team, we would like congratulate you on the purchase of your new floor and supply you with the basics needed to care for your hardwood floor to ensure it looks beautiful for a lifetime. If you have purchased your flooring through a builder, it is quite obvious they believe in putting quality products into the homes they build. We are definitely not the cheapest option for them, so the fact that they have used our flooring shows they don’t make compromises on the quality of the products they put into the homes they build. We are proud to work with only the best builders.
Not only does hardwood flooring add value to your home, but it is the only flooring option proven to last a lifetime. With proper maintenance, and humidity control, your hardwood floor will look like new forever. That being said, wood is a natural product and must be treated as such. It is not bulletproof, it will dent and scratch with normal wear and tear, but certain steps can be taken to minimize dents and scratches. One of the first things you will want to do when you move into your new home, is install felt pads on the bottom of all pieces of furniture. They can be ordered online at www.flexifelt.com. Avoid sliding your furniture and appliances across the flooring when putting them in place. Pet nails must be clipped to prevent damage to the floors; a 10lb dog jumping off of an 18” sofa with unclipped nails exerts a pressure of an estimated 1200 lbs. per square inch, which will easily dent the hardwood flooring. In comparison, an elephant exerts 50-100 lbs. per square inch; so a little dog can exert 12-24 times as much pressure as an elephant. This pressure will dent the wood and the finish will follow, leaving a very noticeable indentation especially on a dark shiny floor. Your floor will get damaged if pet nails are not clipped and chair pads are not used. Although the marks are very noticeable, the finish will remain on the flooring.
The Best Conditions for Hardwood Flooring
Normal living conditions are considered between 18-24°C with a relative humidity (RH) between 30-50%. The above chart clearly shows that below 30% and above 50% RH, health issues such as bacteria, viruses, respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis and asthma problems will increase. Respiratory problems and asthma are one of the leading reasons for visits to emergency rooms in North America. If you have pets and your humidity rises above 50% it is almost certain you will have dust mites. Dust mites reside in carpet, sofas, bedding, curtains and child’s stuffed animals. Evidence of dust mite activity can include sneezing, runny nose and signs of asthma such as wheezing or difficulty breathing. Dust mites cannot drink, but absorb moisture from the atmosphere and thrive in humidity above 50%. Hardwood flooring and humans enjoy the same humidity conditions.
Being a natural product, wood is constantly shrinking and expanding from varying humidity levels, which makes humidity control extremely important. The National Wood Flooring Association figures show that 78% of hardwood flooring issues are in new homes, and of those, 95% are moisture related. It is imperative that you maintain your home’s interior humidity level between 30-50% for solid wood flooring and between 35-60% for engineered wood flooring.
New homes are now being built with energy efficiency in mind, making them inexpensive to heat and cool. However, this causes the new home to be full of moisture that will need to be removed in a controlled way over the next 1.5 to 2 years, in order to prevent damage to the floor. This moisture is in the form of vapor which is invisible to us but not to the hardwood flooring.
Vapor barriers are meant to stop air movement but will also trap and hold the excess moisture in a new home. The hardwood flooring will be the driest product in the home and must be protected from this moisture. It is hard to believe how much moisture is in a newly constructed home. We will go through the entire process from start to finish.
The poured foundation and floor of a 2000 square foot home can have up to 1200 gallons of moisture. This moisture will slowly ooze out of the concrete in the form of water vapor over the next 1.5 to 2 years at a rate of 2-3 gallons per day. This water vapor will not be the healthiest to breathe so removing it quickly and not allowing it to linger is a good idea.
Framing and other wood products will add another 800 gallons of moisture to a new home. This moisture also leaves the structure gradually over the next 1.5 to 2 years due to the vapor barriers.
If allowed to linger the stagnant moisture in the walls can turn to mold which will cause a huge problem, so it is important to remove this moisture quickly; just because you cannot see it does not mean it is not there. The picture beside illustrates how the wood has wicked the moisture from the new concrete floor bringing it up inside the enclosed wall where it turns into mold. High humidity with little to no air flow is the perfect recipe for mold. Operating a properly sized dehumidifier in your basement can prevent this.
For more information on the new home building process, watch our video “New Home Building Process” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD-tLgRZntE
For more information on the amount of moisture in your new home, watch our video “Wet Houses” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me8pKNTLoy4
Drywalling, taping and mudding can add 100 more gallons of moisture to the structure. This is mostly surface moisture that will be released very quickly. Do not drywall the basement ceiling before the joists and subfloor are within 2% moisture content of the hardwood flooring as this will trap the moisture, and not allow it to leave the structure, causing long term cupping.
For more information watch our video “Finishing Your Basement Ceiling” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBYwF_Aoz18
Priming and painting can add up to 80 gallons of moisture to the structure. This is all surface moisture that will need to be removed immediately.
Tiling and masonry around fireplaces can add roughly 50 gallons of moisture. This moisture will take a few months to be absorbed by the air.
A new 2000 square foot home can be saturated with up to 2230 gallons of moisture that will be released slowly over the next 1.5 to 2 years. This volume of moisture is why a commercial dehumidifier, capable of removing at least 10 gallons per day, is needed. A commercial dehumidifier in the basement running for 60 days at full capacity should remove between 400- 600 gallons of moisture that has been added during the last 6 weeks of construction. Set the dehumidifier at 40% Relative Humidity and it will run only when needed which will save electricity. The high humidity summer months will require more moisture to be removed. You may want to consider adding a dehumidifier and humidifier to your HVAC system. As previously mentioned this new home moisture will be removed over the next 1.5 to 2 years. After that you will need to add moisture to your home, in order to keep your home healthy for both yourself and your floor.
Many clients believe that because their new home is equipped with a heat recovery ventilation system (HRV), that their relative humidity is automatically controlled. HRV’s were introduced to the housing industry as new homes started to be built with energy efficiency in mind. With homes being built very tight with no leakage, an air exchange system was needed to bring fresh air into the home. Previous building practices allowed fresh air into the homes through cracks and spaces making them more expensive to heat and cool, but allowed the new home moisture to escape much quicker.
The air in an older home can change 1.5 times per hour with no need for additional equipment, while in a new home built now the HRV can exchange the air 0.5 times per hour or one third of that of the older homes.
The HRV system will exhaust stale air and replace it with an equal amount of fresh air. The two streams of air are passed through the core of a heat exchanger, where heat from the exhausted air meets the cooler incoming air recovering 70 to 80% of the heat from the exhausted air. As you can see in the diagram there is no moisture added or removed by the system. The system is limited to exchanging and reheating the air, which is very energy efficient but does not have humidification or dehumidification capabilities.
Most homeowners feel the HRV system controls the humidity in the home but this is not true. The controls are very misleading. When the dial is turned to 40%, homeowners feel this is the relative humidity setting and they are creating the perfect conditions for the hardwood floor. In the heating season it is difficult to have the humidity in the home above 30% RH. If you have the dial set at 40%, the HRV system will not come on until the humidity reaches 41%, which will not provide the recommended 0.5 air changes per hour needed for a healthy home.
For more information on HRV’s, please watch our YouTube Video titled “Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) in Your Home”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXAmshK9OtM&list=PLHzgMzuCSoxOTK5OLlawC5UKGlon M04AJ&index=20
HRV’s should not be operated in the high humidity summer months as they just bring in the warm humid air, putting more stress on your air conditioning. Air conditioners remove moisture from the air only when they are operating. Air conditioners start and stop by temperature not humidity. Because of this the air conditioner does not replace a dehumidifier as the main source of moisture removal. If outside relative humidity is between 30-50% open your windows and enjoy the fresh air. In summer months the solution is set a dehumidifier at 40% so it will come on only when needed.
In winter the colder outside air is drawn in by the HRV, and when heated the relative humidity drops substantially, far below our recommended low of 30% for solid wood flooring and 35% for engineered wood flooring. Over use of the HRV in winter months allows too much dry air into the home causing hardwood flooring to shrink excessively not to mention how unhealthy it is for humans and pets.
HRV’s should be cleaned every 6 months and filters should be changed or cleaned every 4 months.
We have focused on removing the new home moisture which is very important. Once the excess new home moisture is removed, you will likely need to add moisture back into the home during the heating season. Quite often homeowners will have undersized humidifiers that cannot possible raise the humidity to the recommended levels. This chart illustrates how many gallons of water will need to be added to the home daily, in order to bring the RH up to 30% when the exterior temperature is 0° and exterior humidity is 80%.
You are probably wondering what this all means, and how it can affect your wood flooring.
The Most Common Issues Humidity causes to Hardwood Flooring
The most common issues caused by humidity are cupping, cracking, gaps, and squeaks.
Another common issue is cracking or checking. With solid wood this typically occurs at the same time or after cupping. The boards are pressing against each other, creating pressure which causes the boards to split at their weakest point. In our engineered flooring, cracks will appear in the surface layer when the flooring is exposed to low humidity as well as exposure to an overheated radiant heating system. The solid wood surface layer shrinks much more than the plywood causing the surface layer to crack at its weakest point. For more information, watch our YouTube Video “Realities of Engineered Hardwood Flooring”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsJy3rYPhfE The finish on our hardwood flooring is guaranteed for 40 years, and it is the hardest and most durable finish available. It is roughly 2.5 times thicker with a higher percentage of solid particles of titanium oxide than our competitors. This makes the finish very durable but it has less elasticity than a normal polyurethane finish that will only last a few years in high traffic areas. The finish and wood have to move together and this can be easily controlled by keeping your humidity within our recommended range.
Spaces or gaps between boards during the heating season are normal and to be expected, especially near and over heat ducts and the furnace. These spaces will be minimized with the use of a humidifier or waiting until the humid season arrives. You can avoid having gaps by using a humidifier to maintain your relative humidity above 30% in the dry winter months. The longer the wood flooring has been exposed to a dry environment, the longer it will take for the boards to expand and the gaps to disappear.
Squeaks can have a number of causes. If the floor has cupped, the raised edges will slightly pull the fasteners from the subfloor causing the boards to be loose. If the Gaylord Hardwood Flooring Installation Guidelines (Including Wide Plank Installation) have been followed, which includes the proper number and placement of fasteners; it is not a failure of the product or installation. Squeaks can typically be repaired with glue injections but this is not covered under the warranty. Maintaining the recommended humidity level, and removing the new home moisture quickly will minimize the possibilities of cupping, in turn reducing the possibility of squeaks. You could also have squeaks where the subfloor has dried out and shrunken. This typically happens over the main heat ducts. These squeaks can be minimized by wrapping the heat ducts with insulated foil. Not only will this keep the heat in your heat ducts, making your heating system more efficient, but will avoid the subfloor being dried out excessively. Thirdly, the squeak may not even be in your flooring at all. Solid wood floor joists can shrink up to ¼”, which could cause the subfloor to separate from the joist. This is an easy fix; all you need to do is install a shim in the void between the subfloor and the joists. None of these issues are to be confused with the snap, crackle, and pop effect which happen in virtually every new floor. When you first move in, you will typically have small squeaks throughout your home, as the edges on the boards get used to one another. Most of the time, you will walk across the area and hear small squeaks, but when you walk back across the same area, the squeak will disappear. Squeaks may be noticed in the morning and dissipate throughout the day. The more traffic you have on the floor, the faster this will dissipate. For more information watch our video “Snap, Crackle, and Pop Effect” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoJjFVURNP0
I am sure by now you understand the point we are trying to drive home. Wood is a natural product, and can last a lifetime, as long as you maintain your humidity level between 30-50%, and follow our maintenance guidelines. Do not expect your hardwood floor to be perfect. You will always have some version of the aforementioned issues in your home; it is just the nature of the product.
You have a beautiful floor and you want to keep it looking great. Although there are many products on the market we recommend Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaning products. Products that have a high content of soap or oil leave a residue that makes the flooring appear cloudy and not clean. Bona products are now available at Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot. Never mop your floor leaving it wet or use a steam cleaner. This moisture will get under the finish and cause it to peel. Depending on the floor you purchased, you shouldn’t need to clean it very often. Our showroom takes a lot of abuse especially in the winter months after a new snowfall. Our showroom floors sparkle and look great after hundreds of cleanings.
For more information on how to clean your floor, watch our video “How to Clean Your Hardwood Floor” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aj7CZQos4Oc
Moisture is wood’s worst enemy. Depending on species of wood you purchased, artificial and natural light may change the colour of your floor. In most cases making the floor darken which is the case for many exotic woods and North American cherry, or lighter in the case of American walnut. We recommend not covering floors with area rugs until the full color change has occurred. Do not put tape on hardwood flooring. The resins that prevent the tape from drying out will weaken the finish and when the tape is removed the finish will come off.
For more information watch “Tape on a Hardwood Floor” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zblWe2oD-c
- Trim your pet’s nails and protect your floor from furniture, including office chairs.
- Your new home is full of moisture that will take 1.5 to 2 years to leave. You must continue removing this unwanted moisture to prevent problems with your floor.
- HRV systems are air exchangers only and do not directly control humidity.
- Do not operate your HRV in the humid summer months.
- Air conditioners will only remove moisture when they are operating.
- Humidifiers and dehumidifiers control humidity. You should consider adding them to your HVAC system. Hardwood flooring and humans prefer the same temperature and humidity conditions.
- Do not finish your basement ceiling until the floor joists and subfloor are within 2% of the hardwood flooring.
- Follow our recommended cleaning advice.
- Expect more shrinking and/or squeaks over the furnace, heat ducts and vents.
- Relative humidity must be kept 35-60%, for engineered hardwood flooring, and 30-50% for solid hardwood.
- Exposure to light can change the color of the flooring. We recommend not using area rugs until the full change has occurred.
- Keeping your humidity in the green zone will minimize movement in your floor. Feel Free to Watch Our YouTube Video: “Hardwood Flooring in Your New Home”