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Are cracks in wood floors normal?

A: Because wood is a natural product it will react to changes in its environment. Wood flooring is kiln dried from approximately 30% moisture content to between 6-12% at the time of manufacturing. This evens your floor to the standard normal relative humidity level of between 35-55% that normally should be present in your home.

The most common causes of separations are Mother Nature and dryness. The loss of moisture results in the most frequent reason for shrinkage of individual pieces and cracks. Most cracks are seasonal - they appear in dry months, or the cold season -when heating is required, and close during humid periods. This type of movement is considered normal.

Engineered floors are designed to compensate for dimensional changes within the construction itself, and do not move as much as solid floors.

In a solid 2 1/4" wide strip oak floor, dry time cracks may be the width of a dime's thickness (1/16"). Wider boards will have wider cracks and the reverse is true. Cupping might occur as humidity increases.

Q: How do I avoid cracks in my floor?
A: Engineered wood flooring is usually several times more dimensionally stable to cracking and cupping than a solid floor. The engineered construction itself --a cross lamination of plies-- counteracts dimensional movements. Particularly stable is an engineered floor installed with a floating method, which causes movement --or floating-- as a whole if temperature and humidity change.

The cure is to minimize changes by adding moisture to the air space during dry periods, and to reduce humidity in the summer. A constant Relative Humidity (RH) of 50% (minimum 35%, maximum 55%) works in concert with the manufacture of wood floors to provide stability in the floor. You must either live with some cracks, have stable humidity, or chose an engineered floating floor - it's your choice.

We recommend you purchase a small hygrometer that will tell you what the RH is daily. It is especially important during the hot humid summer months to run either an air conditioner or a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air. Remember that maintaining this 35-55% RH year around is not only beneficial for your flooring; it is also good for your own health and comfort.