Flooring, Humidifiers

Is a Humidifier Necessary for Hardwood Floors?

Medium Sized Humidifier Lg

When you buy a new house with some perfect hardwood floors, several things will shock you, or save up and have them installed in your house. Many people are surprised at the requirements they suddenly have to fulfill regarding the humidity inside their homes.

A humidifier is necessary for your hardwood floors if you live in an extremely cold or dry environment. You should consider getting a humidifier if the humidity levels in your area and home drop below 35% for large parts of the year. You may need to run your humidifier only during certain seasons.

You need to understand how the wood in your home will respond to moisture in the air. Most wooden floors change shape as they dry out or absorb more water from the air, becoming quite a big headache.

Is a Humidifier Necessary for Hardwood Floors?

As the wood dries out, it can and will change shape drastically as it loses moisture, often shrinking. As it shrinks, it can start to crack along weaker parts of the wood; if left to dry further, it will become softer, brittle, and unable to support much weight.

The immediate danger homeowners face from too-dry wood is that it will start flexing and changing shape. As the hardwood dries out, usually because of dry winters or even air-conditioners that are always on, they will automatically dry out the air as a part of their function.

Installing a humidifier or having one active throughout the house will ensure that the moisture in the wood is always at the perfect level. Many people have mistakenly ignored the moisture levels of their hardwood floors with disastrous results.

What is the Ideal Humidity Level for Hardwood Floors?

It is always recommended to keep the humidity of your hardwood floors between 35% and 55% to ensure they are flexible and healthy. The temperature, which is not always controllable, should be around 60o to 80o Fahrenheit to ensure the hardwood is not constantly drying out.

At these levels, the wood will not change its shape drastically and will allow you to enjoy your hardwood flooring comfortably without a challenge. However, it’s important to point out that you can expose your hardwood floors to too much humidity, with many people overcompensating during drier months.

You must find the average humidity levels inside your home and have everything scheduled around that. This is the best way to be close to the proper humidity levels throughout the years, as you can never be at just the perfect levels forever.

Where Should You Place a Humidifier?

If you do not have a whole-house humidifier installed in your home, you can purchase smaller humidifiers throughout your home. These are less effective than a whole-house humidifier system and require you to refill their water reservoir daily.

We recommend having humidifiers in each larger room with a hardwood floor, ensuring they run for at least half the week. These humidifiers can be kept on shelves, desks, or side tables as long as they are not too high or flat on the floor.

If the humidifier is too far down, it will not spread the humidity to the whole room, causing one spot to be more humid. Humidifiers that are too high up on the wall usually cause moisture to accumulate on the ceiling of any room they may be in.

What Is the Best Humidifier for Hardwood Floors?

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Generally, there are two main types of humidifiers that you can use to get the correct humidity in your home for your hardwood floors:

We always recommend that people consider both when solving the humidity problems for their hardwood floors. Let’s take a look at both types so you can decide which one best fits your needs.

Whole House Humidifiers

This is the most common solution for wood-made homes with hardwood floors. Even the kitchen has hardwood flooring that may be laminated to give them extra protection and ensure that spills won’t damage the floor.

These humidifiers cost a lot more, but they are automatic and will switch on and off when the humidity in the home is dropping. Further, they have the added benefit of being linked up to the waterline, not requiring you to refill them but requiring that you clean their filters.

Smaller Humidifiers

Smaller humidifiers have become increasingly popular in homes when the humidity of a country is dropping. These are usually small, can be placed in the corner, and will help you increase the overall humidity of your house with ease.

We recommend using these when you only have a few hardwood floor rooms, as you can target these rooms specifically. This saves the rest of the house from damage, especially if you have stone walls that do not like being in constantly humid environments.

What Happens When Hardwood Floors Get Too Dry?

When the hardwood floors are too dry, the wood naturally contracts, causing splits and gaps between each wood panel. Further, the nails driven into the wood may lift as they are no longer entirely secure in their positions.

Hardwood floors that are too dry will also be prone to splintering and cracking when people constantly walk on them. We have seen many homes that should have perfectly smooth hardwood floors that are almost impossible to live in because the wood has dried out.

Fortunately, a hardwood floor that has become too dry can be saved; with a humidifier and some floor wax, you can rejuvenate the wood. However, some sanding, realigning, and reapplication of the nails throughout will be needed to ensure the floor is perfectly stable.


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.