Why Are My Hardwood Floors Separating?

Why Are My Hardwood Floors Separating?

Hardwood floors are prized for their beauty and durability, but they can sometimes experience issues like plank separation. Gaps between the planks can be a natural occurrence or a sign of underlying problems. This blog will explore the common reasons why hardwood floors separate, how to address this issue, and preventative measures to keep your floors looking their best.

Understanding Hardwood Floor Separation

Seasonal Changes and Wood Behavior

Wood is a natural material that reacts to changes in its environment. The primary cause of separation in hardwood floors is the wood's response to changes in humidity and temperature. During colder months, when heating systems are running, the air inside homes tends to become drier. This dry air can cause wood planks to shrink, leading to gaps. Conversely, in more humid conditions, wood absorbs moisture and expands, which can eliminate these gaps.

Improper Installation

Another common cause of gaps is improper installation. If the hardwood planks were not acclimated to the house’s environment before being installed, they might not have been at their equilibrium moisture content when laid down. This oversight can lead to excessive expansion or contraction after installation. Additionally, inadequate spacing between the hardwood planks and the walls to allow for wood expansion can also result in separation.

Subfloor Issues

The condition of the subfloor can significantly impact the stability and appearance of hardwood floors. Uneven subfloors can create stress points on the hardwood planks, causing gaps. Moisture issues with the subfloor, such as water damage or elevated humidity levels, can also lead to separation and other problems like warping or buckling.

How to Fix Separating Hardwood Floors

Addressing Humidity and Temperature

The first step in addressing gaps in hardwood floors is to stabilize the environment. Using humidifiers during dry months can help maintain optimal humidity levels, typically between 35% and 55%. Conversely, dehumidifiers can be useful in damp conditions. Maintaining a consistent temperature and humidity level is crucial for the health of hardwood floors.

Repair and Maintenance

For existing gaps, filler products can be used to close spaces if they do not close naturally with seasonal changes. It is essential to choose a filler that can expand and contract with the wood. For more substantial gaps or ongoing issues, it may be necessary to consult with a professional flooring contractor who can assess whether reinstallation or replacement is needed.

Regular Care and Inspection

Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and occasionally checking for signs of moisture or damage, can help prevent gaps. Using mats and rugs can also reduce direct exposure to elements that might cause the wood to expand or contract excessively.

Preventative Measures for Hardwood Floors

Proper Acclimation

Before installation, hardwood planks should be allowed to acclimate to their new environment for several days. This step ensures the wood adjusts to the humidity and temperature levels of the space, reducing the risk of future separation.

Quality Installation

Ensuring a quality installation by a professional is crucial. This includes proper subfloor preparation, correct plank spacing, and using suitable adhesives and fastening methods that allow for natural wood movement.

Ongoing Environment Control

Investing in a good HVAC system with a built-in humidistat can help regulate indoor conditions year-round, providing a stable environment that is beneficial for hardwood floors.

Conclusion: Maintaining Your Hardwood Floors

While separation in hardwood floors can be concerning, understanding the causes and solutions can help you manage and prevent this issue effectively. Remember, wood is a dynamic material; a little attention to environmental details and proper installation can keep your floors looking seamless and beautiful for years to come.

Are you experiencing issues with your hardwood floors, or do you need professional advice on installation and maintenance? Visit Friends and Family Floorings at our showrooms in Fulton & Silver Spring, MD, or check out our website. Our flooring experts are here to help you ensure that your hardwood floors remain a beautiful and durable part of your home.