6 Questions Answered About Acclimation

If this is your first time owning a home or having to replace a floor, you may have not yet been introduced to the term acclimation. But delve into your web searches for the best flooring choices on the market and you're sure to come across this word pretty quickly. Acclimation is an extremely important word in the Midwest flooring world, as we are blessed with particularly temperamental climate changes. So, before you start installing that beautiful new floor of yours, take a closer look at the answers to these six all-important questions about acclimation:

1. What is acclimation?

The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines acclimation as such: "the process or result of acclimating; especially : physiological adjustment by an organism to environmental change". In simpler terms, it's when an organism changes in response to a shift in its climate.

2. What does acclimation have to do with my floors?

Have you ever performed the straw wrapper water trick at a restaurant where you fold an empty straw wrapper into a little accordion and apply a drop of water to it to make it grow? The tiny slip of paper would respond instantly to the moisture and adjust its shape to become a long, straight, soggy mess. Well, this is essentially what happens to your hardwood floors when the humidity in the air changes because they are hygroscopic.

Wooden floors have the innate ability to adapt to their environment. They can expand or shrink as the air in the room changes. To avoid this, you must get your new floorboards adjusted to the individual humidity in your own home. This is the process of acclimating a floor.

3. Is it necessary to acclimate my floor?

Though a bit time consuming, it is absolutely necessary to acclimate your floor before you install it. If you don't, you could end up facing pricey and permanently damaging changes in your floorboards. You may start to notice splitting, distortion, shrinking, cupping, pressure on the its fasteners, or stretching in your floor's adhesive. Nobody wants to deal with that.

4. How long does it take to acclimate a floor?

Typically, the entire acclimation process takes around 72 hours if done properly. However, this is not the case for every floor. It really depends on the level of humidity in your room; a larger amount of humidity will require a longer process. The trick to knowing for sure how long you should spend in the acclimation process is to measure the moisture content in the floorboards and the subfloor. You'll want this number to land somewhere between 2% and 3% for the longest-lasting results.

5. How do I go about acclimating my floor?

  • Step 1: Record. Before even bringing the wood into your home, check the environment of its designated room with a hydrometer. Take a piece of paper with you to record the temperature and humidity levels.

  • Step 2: Control. You’re going to need to keep the climate of the room controlled for at least TWO WEEKS before your wood is hauled through the door. Make sure that the temperature and humidity levels are at their usual setting.

  • Step 3: Measure. When your two weeks are up, use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content of several boards in each box of flooring. You’ll want to make sure that they are consistent. Then measure the moisture content of the subfloor as well. The moisture level of the subfloor is usually good to go if it’s less than 12%.

  • Step 5:Stack. Unwrap your flooring and “sticker-stack” the planks to allow air to flow through the floorboards. Think Lincoln Logs for this. Put down one layer with the boards lying vertically a few inches apart, then stack a new layer on top of these in a horizontal position. Repeat until all of your boards are stacked.

  • Step 6: Double-Check. After you’ve given your wood flooring time to acclimate, go back in with your moisture meter and check the moisture levels of your boards again. If the moisture content between the wood flooring and the subfloor is 2-3%, you can go ahead and start installing your floor!

6. Can I save money by acclimating the floor myself?

It's your turn to answer a question: how confident are you in your knowledge of flooring?

We're by no means trying to discourage anyone for doing a bit of DIY, but have you considered what you'd be responsible floor if you take on the job yourself? If something goes wrong you may end up having to pay more for repairs later down the line, so why not spend a little extra now in order to avoid that and get your floors right the first time? After all, flooring experts are trained to look for things in flooring that you might miss.

Happy flooring!

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