Help! My Hardwood has Gaps!

Whether it’s on the main floor, upstairs, or in the basement, finishing your floors with hardwood can add significant value and appeal to your home.  While hardwood is becoming an ever more popular choice because of the wide selection, visual appeal, and durability, it’s not devoid of challenges.

Especially in climates like our native Colorado, where winter’s are cold and dry, hardwood tends to contract somewhat creating unsightly gaps in your floor.  It never fails that we receive multiple questions this time of year about gapping in hardwood and how to fix it.

First and foremost, while seasonal gapping is undesirable, it is unfortunately – normal.  Most species of wood readily absorb and exude moisture based on the environment around them.  And like anything else, absorption of moisture makes hardwood expand while lack of moisture makes hardwood contract.

The gaps you are seeing in the cold, dry, winter months is the wood reacting naturally as moisture exudes from it into the dry environment around it.  Depending on the level (upstairs, main floor, downstairs) you may experience more or less gapping (hardwood for your basement finishing project may actually be great in terms of reducing the problem of gapping, but it does pose some other problems not discussed here).

So the million dollar question is: how do I get rid of gapping?

The first preventive measure is to make sure your wood is properly acclimated prior to installation.  If wood has a high moisture content relative to the environment in which it will be installed, gapping may occur almost immediately after installation.  So always acclimate properly.

The second, and more important measure is to control the humidity in your home.  During the dryer winter months, running a whole-house humidifier will help keep moisture in the air around the wood.  Depending on your particular home, year-round use of the humidifier might be advisable.

Even after taking steps to prevent it, you may still notice minor seasonal gapping.  This is simply one of the limitations of hardwood that should be considered prior to selecting it for your project.  Fortunately, with proper planning and care, the majority of problems can be eliminated and you’ll enjoy your hardwood for years to come.

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