Why Your Wood Floors are Changing with the Weather


If you are reading this article anywhere near where it was written (St. Louis, Missouri) then chances are you have already experienced what the weather can do to your St. Louis hardwood floors. If you are new to the mid-west (with our sultry summers followed up by dehydrating winters) or if you are new to wood flooring in your home you may be surprised how the changing of the seasons can change your wood floors.

When we talk about wood floors, what we are really talking about the wood itself; the organic, hygroscopic material that’s kiln-dried but is still a product of Mother Nature. Wood flooring will absorb and release moisture through the air (that’s the hygroscopic part) until it reaches a state of equilibrium with its environment. So, essentially, as your home environment changes so does your wood floor. This trend will not dissipate over time and if your home brings on extreme temperature or humidity changes you will be sure to see the results in not just your wood floors but many times in wooden furniture, as well.

Another important note for understanding how wood floors will adjust with moisture or lack of moisture in the air is to think of each board as a stalk of celery. If you look at the ends of celery stalks you will notice all the little fibers inside, this is similar to the individual boards in your floor. The wood floor boards will take in and release moisture through these channels, resulting in powerful and sometimes very noticeable width changes but almost no change lengthwise.

The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) gives a great example of how much temperature and humidity affect the dimensions of a hardwood floor. On a 5” red oak solid plank board, if the humidity in the air raises above 65% that board will expand (width-wise) by 0.079”. That doesn’t seem like much until you take into account every board will expand that much. That’s an expansion rate of 1.9” over 10 feet of flooring! Did your contractor leave 2 or 3 inches of empty space at the wall to account for that kind of movement? Probably not. No one would. On that same board, if the humidity falls below 20% we can expect 0.059” of shrinkage. That equates to as much as 1.4” across 10 feet of flooring – the whole room is losing its floor!

Now, if those numbers don’t impress you, perhaps the photos will. When these floors start moving, nothing – NOTHING – will stop them.


So what does all this mean to you, the consumer? It illustrates the importance of a few things:

Have your AC, furnace, and humidifier checked yearly.  If you don’t have a home humidifier, get one. No, we are not talking about the stand-alone room humidifiers from Walgreens. These are professionally installed units. Time and time again, we see people spending thousands and thousands of dollars on wood flooring, but they won’t spend $400 or so for a humidifier. Make your wood floors look great and last for years with the relatively small investment of a humidifier.

Always be in control the temperature and the humidity in your home or office. If you have wood floors, don’t turn off the air conditioner while you are vacationing in Mexico for a week in July. High humidity rooms, like laundry rooms, that lack sufficient ventilation may not be great choices for hardwood flooring project (talk to your contractor!).

Hire the right contractor. If your flooring guy doesn’t talk to you about the importance of acclimating your wood floors BEFORE installing them, you may want to get a few more bids. He/she should also bring up controlling the temperature while the floor is acclimating. That means your wood floor shouldn’t be acclimating in your garage or sunroom. Our hardwood floor installers are here to help!

About the author 

Ralph Kuehn

Ralph Kuehn is the President of Champion Floor Company in St. Louis and has been in thee flooring industry for over 35 years. He has experience with everything related to flooring, from installation to estimating and sales. He is proud to work with his 2 daughters who are also part of the flooring industry, and share his passion and knowledge of flooring with them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Areas We Serve

Champion Floor Company proudly serves the people in St. Louis, MO and the surrounding areas with their flooring needs and have worked with amazing customers from...

Get Your Free Flooring Estimate

Fill out the form to book a visit to our showroom or an on-site estimate. We look forward to working with you!

Fast And Easy Financing

Subject To Credit Approval. Minimum Monthly Payments Required. See Store For Details.

Whether it’s the perfect sale or simply the perfect timing for your home, you should be able to purchase your dream flooring when you want to.
However, you want to do so in a way that is convenient and won’t interfere with other household finances.

Where To Find Champion Floor 

Champion Floor Company is located at 2312 Centerline Industrial Drive just off of Page Ave, in between 270 and Lindbergh, in the Westport Plaza business district. If you need help finding our flooring store, click here for directions.