Seasonal Shrinkage, Oh My!

Seasonal shrinkage is common in wood flooring since it is a natural product and always has some degree of water in it.  The moisture content in the wood fluctuates as the moisture in the environment changes.  The drier the air, the drier the wood becomes resulting in shrinking and ultimately “cracks” and gaps between the boards.  When cold weather hits, it packs a one-two punch to wood floors.  First, temperatures drop which causes home owners to turn on their heating systems and keep doors and windows closed.  The second factor is when the air temperatures fall below freezing and any moisture left in the air then falls as snow, frost, or ice.  The combination of these can lead wood flooring to shrink even more.

Wood stoves are especially bad for drying out the inside air. Areas directly around furnaces, heating ducts and base board heaters also are more susceptible to shrinkage cracks.

As temperatures rise and humidity changes occur in the spring and summer, most of the seasonal shrinking should remedy itself.  As moisture is introduced back into the air, expansion will naturally occur, and wood floors generally return to their original state.

What can you do to help prevent seasonal shrinkage from happening?

  • Use a humidifier! Because shrinkage happens as a result of a loss of moisture in the air, a humidifier is a great solution.  There are portable options or you can have one installed in your furnace.
  • Weather-proof your home by reducing exposure to outside air. The more cold air coming into the house and then being heated, the more moisture is sucked from the indoor environment.  Seal windows, doorways, holes and cracks, and anywhere unwanted air is getting through.

It is not recommended that you fill your wood floor during the winter months because when the floor eventually expands again, it might force out the excess fills or cause the boards to warp.  The wood has to have somewhere to go when it expands, and the force of this expansion can be significant.  Instead, do what you can to keep humidity levels stable in your home, hunker down and enjoy the beauty of the colder months.  Stay warm friends!

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