Best Practices for Acclimating Wood Flooring
In a previous article, we learned why wood floor acclimation is one of the most important steps that you can take when you are starting a new wood flooring project.
Now, in this article, we’re going to discuss the “how” of wood acclimation.
You’re going to learn:
But before we get started, it’s important to acknowledge that when we say “acclimation,” we are specifically talking about it in the context of wood flooring. Any similar process outside of wood flooring is just called drying.
Since acclimation is a method specific to wood flooring, this information is crucial for anyone working with wood flooring, whether you’re a DIY-er, contractor, or flooring expert.
So let’s jump right in.
How to Prepare for Wood Floor Acclimation
Acclimating wood properly begins even before the wood planks are brought to the installation site.
Prior to delivery, it’s important to make sure that the following conditions are met:
- The building is enclosed
- The final grading has been completed and all drainage runs away from the building
- The wet construction elements are completed and dry, such as concrete and plastering
- Basement and crawl spaces are dry
Also, in order to achieve proper acclimation, you want to make sure that the installation site has been climate-controlled for at least two weeks before delivery. If the location is kept at normal living conditions, the wood will have a stable environment in which to acclimate once it is delivered.
If the site hasn’t had a permanent HVAC installed yet, you can rent a portable heater or air conditioner in the meantime.
Ultimately, your goal is for the temperature and humidity of the installation site to be typical for that time of year. That way, you can safeguard yourself against dramatic swelling or shrinking in your wood floor planks.
So now that you know how you need to prepare your site, let’s look at how the actual process of wood acclimation works.
How to Acclimate Wood
The first thing that you want to do to begin the acclimation process after your shipment has been delivered is to position the wood properly.
Ideally, this means removing the wrapping from the boxes and unpacking the planks.
Because even though it is possible to acclimate wood flooring inside the box, your planks will acclimate much faster if unpacked and cross-stacked in layers in order to maximize airflow.
Once your boards are unpacked and stacked, it’s measurement time! Moisture measurement that is.
You will want to check the moisture content (MC) of the wood with a moisture meter, like the Bessemeter DS500, at the beginning of the acclimation process so that you have an understanding of your wood’s starting point. When you measure the MC later on, you can know whether the wood is absorbing or releasing moisture and how close it is to reaching equilibrium with your space.
Make sure that you measure the MC of several boards across several different boxes so that you have an accurate picture of the situation.
And it’s not just the boards that you want to measure.
You also want to measure the MC of the subfloor because, in most cases, if the subfloor is not within 2%-4% of the final MC of the wood planks, the moisture that the subfloor releases can cause serious problems in the future.
Whether the subfloor differs from the hardwood 2% versus 4% all depends on the size of the hardwood material you are using. Thin planks measuring thinner than 76mm should not differ more than 4%, and thick planks that measure thicker than 76mm should not differ more than 2%.
After the initial measurement, acclimation is a waiting game depending on seasonal changes, floor species, and climate conditions of the job site.
Depending on if the wood has been kiln-dried or not, acclimation time can vary greatly, from 2 weeks to several months. It’s important to give the wood the time that it needs and to maintain consistency in the space, or else you run the risk of moisture-related failures later on.
Knowing the process of acclimation, however, isn’t all that useful if you don’t know how to tell when your wood floor has acclimated to the space.
Let’s find that out.
How to Know When Your Wood Floor is Acclimated
Technically, your wood floor is acclimated once it reaches equilibrium with the installation space when kept at the average living conditions.
But how do you determine when you’ve reached equilibrium?
Some questions you can ask are…
- Has the space been kept at a consistent temperature and humidity level for the past two weeks?
- Based on your measurements, are the wood planks within 2% MC of the subfloor?
- Are the measurements in the appropriate MC range for your geographic location and climate?
Yes, your geographic location does impact the way your floor will acclimate. If you are in a humid and warm area, your floor will react differently than if you are in a dry and cool area.
At the end of the day, however, the only way to really make sure if your wood is acclimated to the space is to measure it with a moisture meter.
Using a pinless moisture meter like the Bessemeter DS500 can keep your wood flooring looking pristine and eliminate the anxiety that comes from not being sure if your floor is ready for installation.
How do I store hardwood floors?
Storing hardwood flooring, while not ideal, can be done.
In fact, the best practices for storing are similar to the best practices for acclimation.
Be sure to store hardwood in places with good ventilation and consistent conditions. Basements and garages—places that are often stuffy or dank—are not good places for long-term storage of hardwood.
A location with a consistent temperature and humidity similar to the final installation site is ideal.
How to Successfully Acclimate Wood
If you want to avoid moisture-related problems during and after the installation of your wood floors, then acclimation is extremely important.
In order to have a successful acclimation, you should…
- Prepare for the wood delivery by maintaining consistent temperature and humidity within the installation space.
- Unpack the wood and space out planks to encourage airflow
- Measure the MC of the planks and the subfloor
- Use a moisture meter to determine if your planks are at the appropriate MC for your region
If you keep these best practices in mind, then the floor installation process should go smoothly. You’ll be safeguarding yourself from future moisture-related problems like buckling, cupping, and gapping.
Do you want to have successful acclimations and avoid the headache of having to guess whether the wood is ready for installation or not?
Then invest in a pinless moisture meter like the Bessemeter DS500 so that you take the confusion out of the acclimation process.