As we get deeper into the winter, the humidity will drop. And with drops in humidity often come gapping and squeaking hardwood floors. To prevent headaches, you’ll have to prepare your clients for the seasonal changes they may see in their floors.
Here’s how to make this winter problem-free for your contracting business.
Measure, measure, measure
Remember that measuring moisture content when installing floors is just as important during the winter as it is during any other time of the year. During the summer, excessive moisture can cause problems; during the winter, the opposite problem––lack of moisture––can cause an equal amount of problems.
For this reason, it’s important to have a moisture meter on-hand all the time. If you install flooring when the moisture content of the flooring is too low, the floors may undergo cupping, buckling, and other problems during the summer when they expand in response to higher moisture content.
Two moisture meters we recommend in particular are the Wagner MMC220 and the Delmhorst J2000.
Quashing callbacks before they happen
Callbacks are something that most contractors have to contend with. But if you do a good job managing your customers’ expectations during and after the installation, you shouldn’t have to deal with as many this winter.
Let your clients know that regardless of the size or type of their floors, a small amount of gapping and squeaking is usually normal during the winter.
But if they have 8”, plain-sawn, solid hickory floors, they’re likely to experience a fair amount of seasonal gapping and squeaking. Make this known so they’re not surprised when winter rolls around.
If even minimal gapping and squeaking is unacceptable for your clients during the winter, you might want to suggest installing narrower or engineered floors to prevent them from being unhappy when the humidity drops.
Some species are more stable than others, and how they are sawn can also affect stability and movement.
It’s crucial that your clients understand that wood reacts to its environment. Wood is porous and although it is technically dead, it is not static.
Your best line of defense against callbacks is to give all of your clients an informational sheet or booklet about what to expect out of their floors during seasonal changes and how to prevent excessive gapping and squeaking.
Controlling humidity = controlling wood movement
Your clients can prevent excessive gapping by doing their best to create a stable temperature and humidity range in their home.
According to Wood Floor Business, “A good annual range for the best flooring performance is a swing of 20 percent RH from wettest to driest.” Anything beyond that range of 20 percent can lead to excessive gaps.
To minimize gapping or prevent excessive gaps in their hardwood floors during the winter, your clients will have to prevent the relative humidity of the indoor environment from dropping too much.
If they’re planning to leave their house unoccupied for a few weeks during the winter, let them know that it’s important to keep the heat on to prevent them from coming home to a disaster.
Although it is difficult to completely control the humidity throughout a household, especially if the house is particularly large, your clients can try introducing a humidifier to the environment. A humidifier adds several pints per hour to the house, therefore keeping the humidity at an acceptable level. They can choose to use either standalone humidifier or one that’s attached to a forced-air furnace.
They will have to be careful, though, about monitoring the humidity of their house while the humidifier is on. Adding too much moisture to the house can cause problems with excessive condensation and mold.