Why Do My Hardwood Floors Have Gaps?

gaps in hardwood floors
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You spent a lot of time and effort deciding which flooring option would suit your needs and home’s style the best. Naturally, you may be disappointed to discover that gaps are starting to form in your hardwood floors. 

Even if your hardwood floors look like they were tightly installed, wood is a 100% natural product, so it can change depending on the environment.

What Are the Causes of Gaps in Hardwood Floors?

One of the most common causes of gaps in hardwood floors is the weather and humidity levels inside your home. Wood is a hygroscopic product, which means that it will both attract and hold water molecules.

Whenever there are abrupt changes in moisture levels, your hardwood floors will react by either expanding or contracting. You may notice this even more as the temperatures and humidity change between winter and summer.

How much your wood floors will open up and form gaps will depend on how well the floors were originally installed, how well you can control the humidity levels inside your home as well as the Harwood specie and width. 

How Moisture Affects Hardwood Floors 

Depending on the relative humidity levels in your home, the moisture content of your hardwood floors will fluctuate. As the humidity levels increase, the moisture content in your hardwood floor will also increase, causing it to expand. Similarly, as the humidity levels decrease, so will the moisture levels in your floor, causing it to contract. Typically hardwood expands in its width and not necessarily in its length. Wider the plank, possibly more expansion as well as contraction. Also denser the wood specie, more expansion and contraction is expected. Hickory and Brazilian Cherry are considered denser hardwoods as compared to oak and will potentially expand and shrink more with humidity and temperature changes. 

When there’s too much humidity, such as in the summer months, you may notice expansion and as a result of each plank movement may even see cupping with the edge of the planks raising up. Then, during the winter, when there tend to be lower humidity levels, with heat drying the conditions of the home, cracks and gaps may start to form between the hardwood planks as the wood releases moisture and shrinks back into place. In areas where temperatures fluctuate significantly from one season to another like the northeast of the United States, when the humidity inside the home is not controlled, the wider the planks of hardwood more gaps may be expected. In many areas, hardwood experts would not recommend installing solid wood floors over 4 ¼” width unless proper measures are taken to maintain humidity. 

In the spring, when the humidity levels start to slowly increase again, you’ll notice that the gaps will start to fill back in again. To minimize the abrupt changes throughout the year, you can monitor the humidity levels for the hardwood floors inside your home and use a humidifier or dehumidifier as needed. Typically recommended relative humidity in the home for most hardwood products would be a range of 35-55% year-round. This is also true for individuals health. For example, when outside temperatures are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for several days and heat inside the home runs without any moisture introduced at the same time, you can expect relative humidity to drop below 15 degrees. While many individuals may experience dry skin, low humidity causes shrinkage in all wood including doors, cabinets, and of course hardwood floors. To introduce moisture into the air, humidifiers can help keep humidity within the recommended range and will help to limit shrinkage in the hardwood. 

Learn More About Our Professional Installation Services

District Floor Depot is your one-stop shop for all your flooring needs. We offer in-home consultations so that you can view flooring samples and discuss your needs and ideas with a project manager. Most of our materials come with at least a 15-year manufacturer warranty and a 1-year craftsmanship warranty on the installation, giving you the peace of mind you deserve.

Learn more about our installation services today!

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