Reasons for Installing Wood Floors during the Winter

Although hardwood floors have been around since the 1600s, there are certain aspects of hardwood flooring that few consumers appreciate. For instance, most homeowners would be surprised if their hardwood flooring contractor recommended installing a new wood floor during the winter months. Yet, as listed below, there are several real advantages to installing wood flooring during this season.

1. Winter dryness means less moisture will get trapped underneath hardwood flooring.

Contractor types recommend installing wood flooring in extremely dry conditions for a couple of very important reasons. First, if the underlying concrete slab or subflooring is moist during installation, the floorboards are likely to buckle and warp over time. Furthermore, mold and mildew thrive in damp subflooring.

Even though interior air is often dryer in the winter than in the summer, here in the Pacific Northwest we tend to have plenty of moisture all year long. Therefore, you want to be especially careful about preparing the area where your floor will be installed. To check the condition of the subflooring, duct tape a sheet of plastic around the perimeter of the installation area. Wait a few days, and then check to see if the underside of the plastic sheet is wet. If so, you’ll need to wait a few more days for it to dry out. If your subflooring just won’t dry out, it may be necessary to run a dehumidifier.

Additionally, it’s important to let hardwood flooring materials acclimate before installing them. Acclimation involves storing the unpacked floorboards in the room where they will be installed. A week should be enough time to ensure that the wood has adjusted to the surrounding humidity and temperature conditions.

2. Floorboards expand in heat and shrink in cold temperatures.

Like all organic materials, wood naturally expands in heat and contracts in cold. Similarly, hardwood swells in humid conditions and shrinks in dry settings. These phenomena are rooted in the fact that trees have vertical vessels in their trunks. These arboreal highways are akin to the human circulation system; they pull water up from the ground and distribute it throughout the tree. After a tree has been harvested, those tunnels remain. In moist conditions, water seeps in and fills these vessels, expanding the entire floorboard.

As you can imagine, significant problems can arise if you don’t take humidity and temperature into account when installing your hardwood flooring. Contractor experts can verify it is harder to properly space floorboards in the summer, since boards are enlarged during that time of the year. If floorboards are placed right next to each other during a summer installation, they will inevitably shrink in the winter, creating gaps between boards.

Of course, the opposite situation can also be problematic. If you install floorboards in the winter and leave no gaps for the wood to grow with heat, the boards could crack later on. Therefore, a hardwood flooring contractor who’s worth his salt will maintain a small gap between boards when installing wood floors in the wintertime.

3. It is often easier to schedule installation to occur over winter vacation.

In addition to offering superior moisture and temperature conditions, wintertime is also a good time to install wood flooring because many families go on vacation during this season. As with many home improvement projects, installing a wood floor can turn any home into a chaotic mess. Therefore, it’s best to have it done when you won’t need to use the space. If you trust your hardwood flooring contractor, you can ask him or her to complete the installation while you are out of town for winter vacation.

Even if you will be staying in town while your hardwood flooring is placed, winter is a great time to have it done because people are often more generous about opening their homes during the winter season. The installation process will feel far less hectic and stressful if you have an oasis where you can retreat and refresh. The holidays put people in the mood to share their homes; take advantage of this when installing your hardwood flooring.

Bottom line: Winter hardwood flooring installation is a good idea because hardwood boards are at their smallest during the dry, cold winter months, and because your friends might not mind you crashing at their place as much during the holiday season.

Posted in Hardwood Talk.