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How Long Should I Let Hardwood Flooring Acclimate Before Installation?

Hardwood flooring is a major investment, so it is important that you let the flooring go through the proper acclimation process. Incorrectly acclimating wood flooring leads to buckling, gapping, and other installation issues. It is crucial that you provide hardwood flooring the right environment and amount of time for acclimation, which is why many manufacturers provide guidelines on how to acclimate their flooring. Still, there are other factors to consider beyond the manufacturer's suggestions.

What Is Acclimation?

Hardwood flooring is different than other flooring methods, in that it is subject to change in dimensions due to factors such as humidity, moisture, and temperature. For the flooring to maintain the proper size and shape once it is laid, it must be given time to acclimate. Acclimation is the process of allowing your hardwood flooring to reach an equilibrium moisture content (EMC) that is equal with the typical conditions of its setting. Simply put, this means that the flooring must reach the same moisture level of the room it will be laid in.

Hardwood Flooring Acclimation

Typically, acclimation is completed by opening the packaging and/or dividing the flooring into small lots. It is common to cross-stack the hardwood with spacers between the layers, which allows for air circulation on every side of the boards.

Most manufacturers recommend that the materials acclimate for no less than three days. There is not necessarily a maximum amount of time the flooring needs to acclimate, as different environments and wood types have different needs. You want to make sure you have enough time for everything to acclimate properly, though, so it is best to check the specifications of your wood type before making your decision. While some hardwood flooring is fine with only three days of acclimation, there are others that require two weeks or more.

Equilibrium Moisture Content

While different wood types vary slightly, the comfort level for hardwood flooring is the same as the comfort level for most people: a temperature range between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity range between 30 and 50 percent. The temperature and humidity levels determine the EMC. For example, if your environment is 75 degrees with 35 percent humidity, the EMC is 6.9 percent. It is recommended that hardwood flooring stay within a range between 6 and 9 percent EMC. You can use this calculator to determine the EMC of your flooring for different temperature and humidity combinations.

How Much Does Hardwood Flooring Cost?

Providing an exact cost for hardwood flooring is difficult, as there are multiple factors that affect the final price. Additional materials, finishing, installation, waste, room size, and the type of wood all play a role in determining the total cost. That being said, what follows is a general pricing guide to provide an idea of what you can expect to pay for your hardwood flooring.

  • Hardwood flooring has an average cost between $3 and $10 per square foot. Remember that exotic hardwoods tend to cost more than common ones.
  • If your floor will be finished on-site, stain and sealer application has an average cost between $2 and $5 per square foot.
  • Installation for hardwood flooring has an average cost between $3 and $7 per square foot.
  • It is recommended that you budget an additional 10 percent for extra expenses and to order an additional 5 to 10 percent more material to account for waste production.

Don't be afraid to shop around. Many people find the prices to be daunting at first, but if you look at multiple dealers, you can find the right choice at the right price.

Tips to Avoid Acclimation Issues

Acclimation is an incredibly important process, so it is crucial that you do it right. To avoid damage and distortion, remember the following:

  • Hardwood flooring should be acclimated in a controlled, enclosed environment. This requires some planning, but if you try to acclimate your flooring in an area with fluctuating temperature, it cannot acclimate to the level of your home.
  • Check your flooring with a moisture meter to ensure an accurate reading. Moisture levels may fluctuate from board to board, so it is best to check each individual plank upon arrival, as well as periodically throughout the acclimation process.
  • If you receive flooring that it too far beyond the optimal moisture range, do not accept it; the wood is bound to cup, shrink, or swell.
  • Make sure you know the type of wood flooring you're getting and its acclimation needs. Different types of woods have different needs, which change the acclimation process.

If you find yourself confused or worried about making a costly mistake, contact a professional. While acclimation is a fairly straightforward process, it needs to be done properly.

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