Don’t raise home hu­mid­ity for new floor­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - 8 MCRCNTZ

QUES­TION: Could you please give us some ad­vice in re­gards to hu­mid­i­fiers and hard­wood floor­ing. We have or­dered hard­wood floor­ing for our main floor. It’s a Brazil­ian hard­wood called Tiger Wood. We were told by the floor­ing com­pany that the hu­mid­ity in the home should be kept at 43 per cent, oth­er­wise the wood will crack. Are you in agree­ment with this?

Is it best to have a hu­mid­i­fier mounted di­rectly on the fur­nace, and can you di­rect us to com­pa­nies that can do this? Lyle & Sandy Fod­chuk

AN­SWER: I’ve an­swered sim­i­lar ques­tions in my col­umn sev­eral times, but I feel so strongly about this is­sue that I think it needs fur­ther re­view.

I’m con­stantly amazed and an­noyed at the ter­ri­ble ad­vice, rec­om­men­da­tions or re­quire­ments given to home­own­ers by man­u­fac­tur­ers of var­i­ous build­ing ma­te­ri­als. There are many ex­am­ples of this, from HRVs to shin­gles, but it’s par­tic­u­larly true of hard­wood floor­ing.

There’s a lot of in­for­ma­tion out there about the need to main­tain spe­cific con­di­tions for build­ing ma­te­ri­als in­stalled in homes, much of it pro­vided with­out any ver­i­fied test­ing. Some of this in­for­ma­tion comes from ex­pe­ri­enced con­trac­tors and trades­men and should be treated with re­spect. But ad­vice such as that you re­ceived about rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity (RH) is un­re­li­able.

AIn our cli­mate, in­te­rior RH lev­els change with the weather. Main­tain­ing ar­ti­fi­cially high hu­mid­ity in our frigid win­ter can have dis­as­trous ef­fects on other com­po­nents in your home. If the floor­ing you’ve cho­sen re­ally does in­deed re­quire con­stant RH lev­els near­ing 50 per cent to pre­vent dam­age, it should not be sold or in­stalled in Man­i­toba and many other places. More likely, this re­quire­ment is just an ex­cuse for man­u­fac­tur­ers to blame de­fects on un­sus­pect­ing home­own­ers.

If high air mois­ture lev­els were re­ally re­quired to pre­vent dam­age to hard­wood floor­ing, there would be thou­sands of homes with ei­ther cracked floors or ma­jor mois­ture dam­age to walls, win­dows and other build­ing com­po­nents. Any­one main­tain­ing an in­door air RH above 40 per cent in the dead of win­ter in our area will know what I am talk­ing about. Con­den­sa­tion on win­dows alone, es­pe­cially at night, will be ex­ces­sive with that much in­door mois­ture. This con­den­sa­tion can run down onto win­dow sills, walls and even floor cov­er­ings. Even with mod­ern, sealed, dual- or triple-pane win­dows, the tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­en­tial will be a cer­tain recipe for the air to reach its dew point upon con­tact with the glass. While this could be con­trolled by con­stant mop­ping of the wa­ter from the sills with tow­els, or with fans blow­ing di­rectly on the win­dows, main­tain­ing a lower RH is the proper ap­proach.

Since your cho­sen floor­ing is an ex­otic wood, it may have dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties than the tra­di­tional oak or maple in­stalled in our homes for decades. But nu­mer­ous types of hard­wood are very com­monly used for floor­ing be­cause they are very durable and adapt to en­vi­ron­men­tal changes as well or bet­ter than most build­ing ma­te­ri­als.

In my opin­ion, most prob­lems with wood floor­ing are caused by the con­di­tion of the ma­te­rial af­ter milling or the con­di­tions present dur­ing in­stal­la­tion. Hard­wood floor­ing has to be prop­erly dried be­fore or af­ter pro­duc­tion, of­ten in huge kilns, to reach a fairly low mois­ture con­tent. This is crit­i­cal to pre­vent ex­ces­sive shrink­age if the wood dries out af­ter it’s nail­ing down. If the wood is not prop­erly sea­soned, gaps can open be­tween planks.

If the hard­wood has a proper mois­ture con­tent but the air in your home is too hu­mid, buck­ling can oc­cur as the floor­ing ab­sorbs this am­bi­ent mois­ture. For this rea­son, any wood floor­ing should be stored for sev­eral days or weeks in the home where it is to be in­stalled. This will al­low the ma­te­rial to “ac­cli­ma­tize” to the ex­ist­ing RH, pre­vent­ing dra­matic shrink­age or swelling af­ter be­ing nailed down.

This crit­i­cal step has been adopted by ex­pe­ri­enced floor­ing con­trac­tors for decades, and skip­ping it can cause many floor­ing de­fects.

Main­tain­ing an RH level close to 50 per cent dur­ing the heat­ing sea­son in our cli­mate cre­ates another dan­ger — the pos­si­bil­ity of mould growth. This could oc­cur in­side ex­te­rior wall cav­i­ties, on cold foun­da­tion walls, or in any ar­eas with poor air move­ment. Mould, such as wood rot, can cause se­ri­ous health prob­lems.

While mois­ture may be good for your rain­for­est floor­ing, it’s not good for many of the other wooden com­po­nents in your walls, floors, and at­tics that are sub­ject to rot­ting. It makes no sense to pro­vide an in­door air en­vi­ron­ment that will be ben­e­fi­cial to one com­po­nent to the de­ter­ment of many other home sys­tems. I would for­get about in­stal­la­tion of a hu­mid­i­fier and look at time-tested al­ter­na­tive floor­ing ma­te­ri­als for in­stal­la­tion in your home.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the Pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors - Man­i­toba (www.cahpi.mb.ca). Ques­tions can be e-mailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at (204) 291-5358 or check out his web­site at www.trained­eye.ca.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.