Is a Humidifier Necessary for Hardwood Floors?

Several things will shock you when you buy a new house with some perfect hardwood floors 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 only to run your humidifier during certain seasons.

You need to understand the intricacies of 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 its moisture, often shrinking. As it continues to shrink, it can start to crack along weaker parts of the wood; if left to dry further, it will become weaker, 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 just having one active throughout the house will ensure that the moisture in the wood is always at the perfect level. Many people have made the mistake of ignoring 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 that they are flexible and healthy. While the temperature, which is not always controllable, should be around 60o to 80o Fahrenheit to ensure that the hardwood is not constantly drying out.

At these levels, the wood will not change its shape drastically and allow you to enjoy your hardwood flooring without a challenge comfortably. 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 will have to find the average humidity levels inside your home and then have everything scheduled around that. This is the best way to be close to the right humidity levels throughout the years, as you can never be at just the perfect levels forever.

Where Should You Place a Humdifier?

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

We recommend having humidifiers in each of the larger rooms that have a hardwood floor in them, ensuring that they are running 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 completely 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 than the rest. While humidifiers that are too high up on the wall usually cause moisture to accumulate on the ceiling of any rooms they may be in.

What Is the Best Humidifier for Hardwood Floors?

This is the question that we have been asked many times, and it is never quite easy or clear what the right answer is. Instead, we have broken it up into looking at the type of home you have and its location to ensure that your floors will always be perfect.

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

  • Whole house humidifiers
  • Smaller, portable humidifiers

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 make an educated decision on which one best fits your needs.

Whole House Humidifiers

This is the most common solution for homes made out of wood and has hardwood floors throughout the house. 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 they sense that 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.

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Smaller Humidifiers

Smaller humidifiers have become increasingly popular over the years to have 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 floors rooms, as you can target these rooms specifically. Saving the rest of the house from being damaged, 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 starts to contract, causing splits and gaps between each wood panel to occur. Further, the nails that have been driven into the wood may start to 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 are constantly walking 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 the introduction of 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 that the floor is perfectly stable.

Conclusion

A humidifier is one of the best ways to ensure that your hardwood floors are always perfect and that they will not be damaged over time. We recommend having a system to measure the overall humidity in your home throughout the year to compensate properly.

Please, always remember, humidity is not interchangeable with simply throwing water on your floors!

Sources

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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