Hardwood makes for one of the most elegant choices of flooring material. They are relatively easy to install, require less maintenance and have a tendency to acquire character with age. Subsequently the older they get the more attractive they become. Coupled with the fact that they are durable enough to be passed down generations makes hardwood one of the most popular choices for flooring materials today.
However, one point that needs attention is its aversion to moisture. Which for general and typical water leaks and spills immediate action can help alleviate the problem, with regards to humidity or atmospheric moistness, special care needs to be taken beforehand to ensure that the following damages do not affect the hardwood floor.
- Cracking: Wood has a tendency to absorb moisture and release it. When it absorbs wood tends to expand and when it releases water, the boards tend to shrink. This alternate contraction and expansion when happening with continuous regularity tends to give rise to cracks which can deepen with age thereby causing irreversible damage to the wood. But sometimes there are seasonal changes in the atmospheric humidity levels. This results in the expansion of wood during the moist summer months and contraction of the same during the dry winter months. thus cracks that develop become visible in one season and fade away in the next.
- Cupping: Which a little amount of cupping is natural in hardwood, an increase in its intensity can pose quite a problem. In fact the severity of this problem increases with the amount of moisture present in the surroundings. Cupping is a term which is used to describe a specific condition of hardwood wherein a depression forms in the centre of the plank while the edges remain high making the whole thing look like a cup. This causes the boards to get crushed together thereby deforming the edges. Cupping generally results from either enhanced indoor humidity or more commonly a plumbing leak which causes water to seep into the subfloor and travel up to the flooring. Cupping is, however, does not cause permanent damage to the hardwood floors and is generally reversible.
- Crowning: This is a condition which is the absolute opposite of cupping. Herein the centre of the hardwood planks and boards swell up while the edges remain shrunk. In severe cases the edges of the boards get stressed out and can cause it to get separated from its corresponding boards. Crowning is the result of the surface of the hardwood floor coming in contact with too much water or moisture over a period of time. This condition also commonly develops in hardwood boards and planks which have experienced cupping. Sanding a cupped wood soon after drying it can result in the edges getting sanded more than the middle depression. Thus when this cupped wood comes back to its original shape, the edges become lower than the centre making them easy targets for crowning.
- Buckling: This is the most severe reaction hardwood floors can have to being exposed to moisture over a period of time. Constant exposure to water or moisture can cause the planks or boards to literally pull-off and get separated from the sub-floor. Buckled hardwood can go up to becoming several inches higher but even this condition can be repaired and reversed without needing immediate replacement of the damaged areas of the floor. Fortunately, since this is an extreme reaction of hardwood to water, it also needs extreme exposure to the same which comes as a result of flooding of the hardwood floors. Thus buckling is not a very common occurrence and is a phenomenon which is rarely seen in hardwood floors.
All the above damages are more prevalent during the summer months than they are in winter. However the winter dryness can also result in gapping and splitting of hardwood planks. This can however be taken care of by installing a humidifier and keeping the humidity levels of the room at a level which is in sync with the requirement of the hardwood floors.
While most of the problems which occur due to moisture can be reversed, it is best not to allow it to happen at all. For this the humidity within the room needs to be monitored, controlled and an optimum level maintained, the basement and the subfloor need to be checked regularly for water leaks, which, if found, also need to be immediately plugged.