How To Acclimate Your Hardwood Flooring In Your New Home

All hardwood products absorb moisture from the air, and when this happens, the wood swells. The higher the moisture content in the wood, the more swollen the wood will become. When the moisture content in the wood drops, the wood shrinks. This shrinking and swelling is natural and happens in all homes with hardwood floors. During the winter, small gaps may appear between floorboards as they shrink. In the summer, the gaps will disappear as the boards absorb humidity from the air.

Cupping Explained

Though this swelling and shrinking of the wood may not seem pronounced, it can affect the way your hardwood floor installation fits in your home. Improperly installed hardwood floors can experience a condition called "cupping," wherein the edges of the boards raise and the boards become concave in shape. In extreme circumstances, floorboards that experience cupping may crack, ruining the boards. 


The best way to avoid cupping of the floorboards is to properly acclimatize the boards before installing them in the home. DIYers hoping to install their own hardwood floors in their new homes must use two strategies to properly acclimatize their floorboards:

  • Control the humidity at the installation site. Installing floorboards in environments where the humidity is very high or low will cause the boards to improperly acclimatize. 
  • Control the moisture content in the boards. Installing boards before they've had a chance to absorb the moisture from the air will result in improper installation. 

Controlling the Humidity at the Site

Installation of the floorboards in a new home construction must come last, after plumbing, windows, insulation and climate control have all been installed. To ensure that the humidity at the installation site is within acceptable parameters, use a moisture meter to read the relative humidity of the environment. The humidity should be between 35% and 55%. Dehumidifiers or humidifiers must be used to bring the environment's humidity to proper levels. 

Regulating the Moisture Content in the Boards

Once the installation site has reached an acceptable humidity level, the next step is to bring in the floorboards and allow them to adjust to the environment. Put the boards inside the home. Do not put them in the basement, garage or patio. Open the box and allow the boards to sit for a full week. This will give the boards the chance to become fully acclimatized. 

Hardwood floor installation isn't a beginner DIYer project, and improper installation can cause the floorboards to be ruined. To avoid problems, speak with a professional hardwood floor installer at Costen Floors Inc.