Homeowners around the world invest millions of dollars in beautiful hardwood floors. Many of these end up damaged as a result of improperly maintaining the home.
Could the answer be in installing a whole-home humidifier? For a fraction of the cost of the floors themselves, this important addition could make all the difference.
Imagine this scenario:
You stayed within your budget and saved up enough to get the perfect hardwood floor you’ve wanted for years. The furniture and family have moved out, and after waiting days to get moved back in~ you finally have the ensemble complete with your new wood floors .
Then, just a few months later, you begin to notice a squeak and popping noise under foot. Flooring boards begin to show gaps between them and the edges appear to curl up looking like waves across the entire room.
After having a flooring contractor, retailer, or professional flooring inspector check it out, you are told that the warranty doesn’t cover this issue. The reason.. not maintaining proper level of relative humidity, between 35-55% RH in the home.
Now the floor must be repaired if possible or replaced — at your expense.
Why Does Moisture Cause Problems with Wood Flooring?
The National Wood Flooring Association estimates that 90% of wood flooring failures are related to moisture problems in the home.
When the air is dry, wood shrinks. When it is humid, wood expands.
Avoid these problems of extremes with a whole-home humidifier. It is the best way to keep your floors and family healthy and happy during the dry winter months.
Additionally, most wood flooring warranties requires the homeowner to maintain a consistent environment to keep the wood flooring stable.
For just a few hundred dollars, a home’s HVAC system can be adapted with a humidifier that diffuses moisture into the air when the heater or fan is running.
Keeping your home consistently between 35-55% relative humidity is the best way to protect your wood floors from shrinking, expanding, cupping, cracking, squeaking or gapping.
An added benefit in maintaining humidity levels within this range is a healthier environment for us humans (and Fido too). Avoiding extremely dry air improves respiration, keeps lips from chapping and skin from drying out. Built-in filters can also help limit the spread of airborne viruses during cold and flu season.
What To Look For In a Humidifier
Whole-home humidifiers can now be purchased at most big box stores, but a professional plumber or HVAC technician should be considered to install and configure it to operate properly.
Not all humidifiers are created equal. Choose a humidifier that is:
Freestanding manual fill units are not powerful enough to supply the required moisture for an average size home. However, they can be helpful for supplementing small rooms that may be dry from being farther away from the main unit. A furnace mounted humidifier resolves having to constantly add water. Once installed, it is designed with a continuous water supply which infuses humidified air directly into your vented ducts.
Connected to a Hot Water Supply
Hot water evaporates and converts to water vapor more easily than cold water. The same principle as when your bathroom mirror fogs up when you run a hot shower, connecting the humidifier to a hot water supply results in a more efficient system.
Equipped with Blower Fan Control
A humidifier that operates only when the thermostat calls for heat, may not provide enough moisture to keep your home above 35% relative humidity during the dry season.
Most humidifiers can be setup to operates with the blower fan on the furnace and continue to provide humidified air even when the furnace is not engaged. This can make up the difference and add humidity throughout the day when the blower is on constantly. Just be sure to check the hygrometer and adjust as needed to stay within the 35-55% range.
Designed with Inside and Outside Thermostat
Outside temperature and humidity plays an important role in determining the amount of moisture a humidifier adds to the air.
When the air outside turns cold, it retains less moisture. If the humidifier adds too much moisture on a cold day, the indoor humidified air can condense on windows and casings, causing damage.
The external thermostat provides information to the humidifier control panel to determine the amount of moisture needed to reach the desired setting. Adding this extra component will help protect your whole home and wood floors during any season.
Use a hygrometer to measure RH levels in your home. To stay between 35-55% RH may mean you turn the thermostat higher. Just because you set the thermostat to 45% doesn’t mean the RH will always be there. Check your hygrometer and adjust accordingly and remember to keep the thermostat between 60-80 degrees F.
Know How Your Whole-home Humidifier Operates
One homeowner who complained of a “dry floor” with squeaks and gaps reported having a new state of the art HVAC system with an installed humidifier. Unfortunately, the humidifier was not turned on which is what led to the dry floor.
- Make sure the humidifier installer knows and can explain how to operate the control settings. This includes how to adjust settings and when and how to maintain and service the unit.
- Most HVAC humidifiers use filters or consumable wicks that you must replace regularly as dust and mineral deposits build-up.
- Check for seasonal settings and determine when the unit should be turned on (in winter) and off (in spring) as the humidity changes through the seasons of the year.
- If you notice consistent high or low readings, be sure to have your HVAC and humidifier system checked and serviced.
- Monitor your home with a hygrometer to ensure your HVAC and whole-home humidifier system is working properly.
You can watch more about troubleshooting your whole-home humidifier here.
Remember: Using a whole-home humidifier to keep your home environment consistent is the best way to protect your investment in wood floors.
Use a Hygrometer to Monitor RH Levels
In addition to a humidifier, a hygrometer is required to measure the relative humidity or moisture in the air. These are inexpensive and require no setup. Having several around the home can ensure that your humidifier is maintaining RH levels where you want them.
Why a Humidifier and Hygrometer Can Protect Your Flooring
Humidifiers are one of the best ways to protect your flooring investment while also making your home more comfortable to live in.
It is sometimes the case during mildly cold winters when humidity levels drop below 35% but the inside temperature remains comfortable without the heater on. During such times you may want to supplement a room or two with a free standing unit from brands like Idylis and Honeywell. These also work well for rooms where flooring shows additional gapping or dry cupping.
Keeping an eye on the moisture levels in your home is an easy and effective way to keep your wood floors looking great for years.