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Installations: Acclimating the Wood

Thermometer

Before installation of your new hardwood floor begins, you must acclimate the wood floor to the normal environment the wood will be present in from day-to-day. This means physically exposing the wood to the air inside the area it will be installed.

This allows the wood floor planks to absorb the normal amount of moisture that will be present in your living environment on a day-to-day basis. During this time the wood floor planks will swell and shrink, swell and shrink and continue this process until a relative equilibrium is accomplished. Hardwood floor installers call this process “reaching EMC” or reaching the proper equilibrium moisture content.

Each type of wood floor will have slightly different acclimation needs depending on the species, the geographical region your home is in and the time of year. New construction homes will have different needs than already lived in homes. Special instructions for acclimating your new wood flooring can be found in the National Wood Flooring Association Installation Guidelines.

A qualified installer will not skimp on the acclimation process.

    1. Before you take delivery of your hardwood flooring, make sure the house has been at a constant temperature and humidity range for at least five days. Average ranges can be between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit with 30 to 50 percent humidity.  
    2. Store the boxes inside the house near where installation will take place.
    3. Open each of the boxes and inspect the pieces for defects. If you find defects contact the retail outlet you purchased the wood from for further instructions.
    4. Test the planks for current moisture levels using an approved moisture meter. Write down what you find. Reference the “Moisture by Area” Appendixes found in the National Wood Flooring Association Installation Guidelines to find your ideal moisture levels for your geographical region.
    5. Stack the planks on top of each other with small strips of wood (1/2 inch to 1inch) lengths between each plank to allow the environmental moisture access to all sides of the boards.
    6. Keep retesting the moisture content of the wood until it reaches the ideal moisture level for your geographical region.

Many manufacturers will make recommendations on a specific amount of days for this process; however there is NO ACTUAL SET time frame because each acclimation situation is unique and depends up several different variables. A qualified installer will be able to assist you in determining when your new wood floors have reached the proper “EMC” or equilibrium moisture content for your home.

Remember:

Do not store your new wood floors in a garage, shop, or other place where the installation will not actually take place, especially if it is not temperature and humidity controlled.  You cannot properly acclimate the wood to your normal living conditions if the wood is not physically present in your actual living environment.

Acclimating your wood floor incorrectly, or not at all, will only result in damaging effects to your new wood floor.

Each home installation will have its own unique set of variables to deal with. Acclimation and installation should follow the NWFA Installation Guidelines. If you are at all unsure of the specifics for your situation during this process, contact a qualified hardwood floor installer for assistance.