Cracks and Gaps in Wood Flooring

We are your “Hardwood Flooring Experts”

The subject of cracks and gaps is constantly in the chatter about wood flooring. It is especially true of solid wood flooring. The blame for this is usually attributed to either the wood supplier or the installer. In actual fact the most common culprit is the home owner themselves.

The supplier: His responsibility is to make sure the wood is manufactured to industry specs or better, and most importantly that the wood is properly dried and stored. Fro most parts of the US a 6-8% moisture content is the standard target for a good installation. Too high (i.e. 10-12% and the wood will shrink in a dry environment such a winter heating), too low (i.e. 3-4% and you risk swelling and possible buckling) If these requirements are met all else is beyond his control.

The Installer: First, if you do not use a qualified, licensed, insured installer forget any response to complaints because he has nothing at stake and may not know anything about wood moisture relations which control the entire process. He is responsible to make sure the wood moisture content is right for the installation site. He needs to inspect the site for moisture problems that will lead to problems down the road (i.e. wet basements, dirt piled up too high on the foundation, sprinklers that may soak the rim boards and sill plate, signs that exterior doors or windows are leaking, ice makers, dishwashers, etc.) A proper moisture barrier need to be installed, we recommend 4-6-mil plastic, (rosin paper will absorb moisture and transfer it to the wood, felt paper is soaked in petroleum products and probably not the healthiest thing to be putting in your house.), proper gaps must left around the perimeter of the floor to allow for expansion, and finally the wood should be laid in a pleasing way so no one board or series of boards attracts too much attention.

The Home Owner: If the parties above have done their job properly the floor will remain without gaps/ cracks forever, AS LONG AS THE HUMDITY CONDITIONS IN THE HOUSE REMAIN EXACTLY AS THEY WERE WHEN THE FLOOR WAS LAID!!!! Simple as that. If , however the home is allow to dry out especially due winter heating etc. the wood naturally will want to dry out some more, WHEN WOOD DRIES IT SHRINKS, when it shrinks the boards get smaller and gaps appear and stresses are set up that can actually over come the strength of the wood and a split will occur, usually on the board ends. The homeowner is the only who can control this with proper mechanical equipment installed. Or just “chill out’ and realize what is going on knowing that in the higher humidity times of year the floor will swell back and the gaps will go away. This can also lead to the dreaded squeak, because the nails or staples do not move so the wood can become very slightly loose and when the board it stepped on it moves just enough to rub its neighbor and produce a noise. The key here it to make sure the first two guys have done their job then it up to you. Wood is a wonderful natural, renewable floor and all these “problem” only add to the total experience. Enjoy your floor and remember anything you walk on constantly is going to eventually have issues.