According to the Oxford dictionary, the word acclimate means:
To become accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions. To respond physiologically or behaviourally to a change in an environmental factor under controlled conditions.
Whether you’re redecorating a room or remodeling sections of your home, the word acclimate as it applies to your flooring is a term you should learn well.
What does acclimate flooring mean?
Certain types of flooring have more needs and requirements throughout the installation process than others. With some, what you see is what you get. If you install carpeting, for example, you stretch it and tack it into place, knowing it will stay exactly how you place it for a very long time. Only after wear will it start to stretch and move and change, requiring maintenance work to bring it back to original condition.
But some types of flooring aren’t as easy to work with right out of the box. Wood floors are one of the most popular flooring choices throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Colorado also happens to be an arid climate, much drier than other parts of the world, where many of the most popular wood floor choices come from. What’s more, the various types of wood move through a variety of steps during the manufacturing and shipping processes. They can be stored in cold or hot environments, and face many different temperatures and humidity levels before making it into your home.
How do you acclimate flooring?
When you install new flooring, you do so with the hopes it will last for years to come.
Now imagine your new flooring buckling, cupping, warping, almost before your eyes. Not a pretty picture.
That is where acclimation comes into play. Acclimating your flooring allows your new floors to adjust to your home’s environment before it’s laid into place. The planks adjust to the humidity levels and temperature before the installation process.
Most manufacturers will tell you that for most wood floors, the planks must be within 4 percent of the moisture levels of the subfloor before being laid into place. If you’re using solid hardwood with plank size of 4 inches or wider, you should drop that down to 2 percent to ensure the wood stays looking great for years.
If it’s lower than the specified range, it will absorb moisture and swell. Higher moisture content will cause the new floors to lose and shrink up. With a near perfect balance, your new flooring won’t change once it’s laid into place.
What happens if you don’t acclimate laminate?
Acclimating new wood flooring is important for all kinds of wood, including laminate.
Acclimating allows the individual planks to adjust to the temperature and humidity levels found in the room they will be installed in. All forms of wood, including fiberboard used in laminate production, have tiny air pockets that allow it to adjust to current environmental conditions. These air pockets must settle before you lock the flooring into place.
You’ll find every manufacturer has their own specific policies in place to ensure their product is ready for the installation process. Some manufacturers say their products will need a minimum of 48 hours to fully acclimate, while others can go a week or longer. Talk with one of our representatives before you make your final selection to ensure you have enough time built into your remodeling process to ensure your final flooring selection will be in your home in time for the specified timeframe.
How do you acclimate hardwood floors before installing?
Whether you’re having a contractor install your new flooring, or have selected a product you can install yourself, make sure you understand the process before you make your final selection.
Know what type of wood flooring you’re planning to install to fully determine the amount of time it will take to acclimate it into place. Not all hardwood is the same. Some species of wood will change and adjust to your humidity levels faster than others. Exotic species are used to a more tropical climate, not something we have here in the Colorado region. That means it might take longer to acclimate it properly.
As you narrow down your selections, you can check in with the manufacturers to determine their guidelines for the acclimation process. It’s always best to use their guidelines, as it will ensure any warranties hold through the life of the product. You can also find charts online to help calculate the proper acclimation periods based in your area and region.
Always acclimate the product in a closed environment that closely resembles your home’s living arrangements. Be sure to use both your furnace and air conditioner, so the flooring adjusts to the proper moisture levels of your home. On a construction site, contractors can mimic the expected living conditions as closely as possible.
Don’t “guess” at moisture levels. Contractors will use a moisture meter to get an accurate reading of the interior of your home. They will check upon arrival to see how much acclimation is necessary, and check again throughout the process. Keep in mind that results can change plank to plank, box to box.
Because of this, it’s important to pull the product out of the box and lay it as closely as possible into place before the installation process. You don’t want the boxes stacked in a corner, packaged up, until the day of installation. This gives every board the chance to adjust as needed.
If you have questions about the process at any time, it’s better to ask first. It can be the difference between beautiful floors, and flooring you’ll have to replace shortly after the installation process is complete.
Do prefinished floors need to acclimate?
In short, yes. Wood floors are wood. It doesn’t matter if you use solid hardwood, exotic wood, or laminate, prefinished or unfinished, if you want a high quality flooring that lasts for years, you need to acclimate them to ensure they do well in your home.
It’s installed, now what?
Immediately after installation, it’s a good idea to let your flooring adjust further to your living space.
Don’t plan a party to celebrate. Don’t plan on moving in a bunch of heavy furniture the following afternoon.
This gives adhesives a chance to fully bond, or the planks to settle in and adjust without having the added force of movement right away. This will help minimize scratches and dents as well as prevent undue stress on the seams of your floors.
Are you thinking about adding wood floors to your home?