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Relative humidity and wood flooring – a guide

When you start researching wood flooring before getting it for your home, one thing you are bound to read about is relative humidity.

Relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air inside your home, expressed as a percentage of the amount of moisture the air can hold at a given temperature. You need to know about relative humidity if you are getting wood floors as it can affect the structure and the appearance of solid wood flooring if not properly managed.

Wood, as a material, is constantly exchanging water vapour with the air in the room. When the relative humidity is high, the wood absorbs the moisture and can start to swell. When humidity is low, the wood gives off moisture and can shrink and contract.

Needless to say, you don’t want your wood changing size according to humidity fluctuations, as this can cause the floor to buckle and warp or shrink. To prevent humidity problems with your flooring, you must:

• Check moisture levels in your home before installing wood floors
• Use a professional with a knowledge and awareness of relative humidity to install your wood flooring
• Condition solid wood flooring to humidity levels before installing – this is called acclimatisation
• Choose a wood finish with low-permeability coatings
• Use a humidifier or dehumidifier to control humidity inside your home, especially important if the floor is being installed in a property that is recovering from a flood.

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