How to protect your floor over the (dry) Holiday period.

It is a little-known fact that the time with the highest possibility of severe floor shrinkage is during the holiday season. It is not uncommon for me to return from Christmas holidays to inspect a floor that has experienced floor shrinkage. Co-incidentally it is a time when it is not uncommon that bush fires and drought conditions occur. One thing is common in both these unwanted events; LOW HUMIDITY.

Accordingly, I think it is important for you to understand how this happens, or why a floor and I include established floors, can react to appropriate weather conditions that are conducive to unsightly floor gapping.

Relative humidity, moisture content and shrinkage.

Humidity is a measure of how dry or how much moisture is in the air. When the relative humidity is low, moisture in timber flooring moves into the air causing the moisture content of the flooring to reduce. Inevitably, associated with this drop in moisture content is accompanied by shrinkage.

At this time of year with warm temperatures and dry air, can make timber floors very responsive to moisture loss and gaps at board edges can quickly appear. A typical scenario can be a builder or installer, installs a floor just prior to his Christmas holidays. The dwelling is locked up and no fresh air is cooling the house the house down. Consequently, there is a build-up of heat lowering the humidity causing shrinkage as explained above. This situation can just as easily apply to established house floors given similar conditions as just outlined.

What can be done to prevent shrinkage during the warmer months.

Obviously the dwelling should be designed with appropriate measures to keep heat and sunlight out. Having said that I make the following suggestions;

  • Keep the house well ventilated, particularly during the evening when there is more humidity in the atmosphere.
  • If the house is still to be finished and the floor is installed, cover the windows with temporary coverings, perhaps newspaper.
  • Buckets or bowls of water left around the house, even the sinks or bath, will help put moisture into the micro climate within the house as the water evaporates.
  • A novel way could be allowing wet clothes dry on the clothes horse inside the dwelling.
  • If you are away, arrange if you can for a neighbour or friend to open the house at night.

A word of warning if you are thinking about using air conditioning to achieve increase humidity in the house. Many of the systems currently used for cooling are refrigerated based. This type of system takes humidity from the air and if used for prolonged periods, will probably cause unwanted shrinkage. However, an evaporation system puts humidity into the air and will help to prevent shrinkage.

However, if on return from holidays your floor has suffered severe board gapping, other methods may be necessary to restore the floor to its original form. These methods are;

  • Daily applications of a damp mop. (not wet).
  • Mist spraying the rooms, then laying clear plastic over the floor, causing sweating.
  • Once the floor has returned to a reasonable appearance sanding and the floor has stabilised sanding and polishing can take place.

These measures should only be carried by a very experienced flooring contractor.

I acknowledge using the Australian Timber Flooring Association information sheets to state some of the information above.

Source: Frank Di Stefano – Timber Expert (Showroom By Bowens) 

Back to all stories Read next story