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1Help & Hints for Hardwood Flooring Professionals
Because wood floors react to changes in climate, certain hardwood flooring issues come around as regularly as the seasons. Summertime is the season of ‘greenhouse’ problems, when homes are often closed up for a few weeks of family vacation or cottage time. Inside the locked house, heat and humidity builds up to uncommonly high levels, and the hardwood floor reacts to the change in climate. The family returns to find their floors buckled or cupped.It was during a particularly sweltering period this summer that I attended one such home to inspect a floor that was having problems. At the time, the temperature outside was in the high 30’s and the humidity was 65%. I could only imagine what conditions were like inside the house, which had been closed up for a week. It was probably like a sauna.In fact, it wasn’t. The air conditioning had been left running during the family’s absence, so the interior of the house was actually very comfortable. As for the floor itself, it was showing gapping and cracking, the kind of problem you would expect to see in a dry, cold climate, the kind of problem you associate with wintertime, not summer. What was going on?I did my basic site diagnostics – checking heat, humidity and so on – and was surprised to see that the humidity inside the house was a measly 26%, way below the allowable threshold for healthy hardwood floors. This was obviously what was ailing the floor, but what was causing the dryness in the air?There was only one obvious suspect: the AC unit. I consulted an acquaintance in the HVAC business and he informed me that yes, air conditioners do remove moisture from the air. In this case, the AC unit was working especially hard because the weather was so hot, so it was sucking more and more moisture from the air inside the house while it worked to keep the interior cool. Result: December-style dryness in the middle of July.The solution to the situation was to provide a source of humidity, which could be done in one of two ways: either open windows to admit some of the humidity-laden outside air into the house, which would probably just make the AC unit work harder, or install an indoor humidifier to put back the moisture the AC unit was taking away.The homeowners here thought they were doing the right thing by keeping the AC running, and their intentions were certainly good. But the situation illustrates the important difference between circulation and ventilation. Ventilation involves exchanging the air in a space with new fresh air; circulation just moves the same air around. That’s why leaving a fan or AC unit running isn’t a complete solution to avoiding greenhouse conditions; they only circulate the air, and in the case of the AC unit, dry it out at the same time. It’s important to also have a source of outside air, like an open window, to maintain an acceptable level of humidity for their wood floors.
2Do’s for avoiding greenhouse problems.
DO Ensure there is continuous ventilation in the home. This means having a method to let fresh air in (like an open window) as well as a method for expelling it (like a bathroom exhaust fan properly vented to outside).
3Do’s for avoiding greenhouse problems.
DO Ensure there is sufficient ventilation in the basement or crawlspace. Climate conditions need to be regulated on both sides of the hardwood, above and below.
4Don’ts for avoiding greenhouse problems.
DO NOT simply leave a fan or air conditioner running. This will only circulate the air inside the house. It is critical to provide a source of fresh air.