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Wood is an excellent flooring material. No wonder many property owners gravitate towards installing solid hardwood floors to their homes. However, this type of home renovation project requires the expertise of professionals.

Several scenarios may contribute to issues involving installing solid hardwood floors – from homeowners trying the do-it-yourself-route to getting the help from unqualified friends to hiring inexperienced flooring installers.

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In today’s post, let’s talk about the common issues with installing solid hardwood floors and what warning signs to look out for.

For starters, the wood “moves” (expands and contracts) when there are seasonal changes or when there are significant humidity shifts within your home.

Cupping

It's sometimes unavoidable to spill liquid on your wood floors.Cupping occurs when there’s high moisture present in the edges (rather than in the center) of a board. You can see the wood expanding because of the humidity, which is typically the result of water spills – which the wood absorbs.

In some cases, high humidity is also the culprit behind cupping. Compression leads to the wood expanding because the boards are being forced together. The compression then deforms the boards all around the edges.

Cupping is also a result of moisture imbalance because of the thickness of the wood. The bottom board is wetter than on the top layer, which, as you know, dries faster. Cupping also appears after installing solid hardwood floors, even when the flooring project is done correctly.

Buckling

The floor buckles when the wood floors react extremely to moisture. It also occurs when the wood floors separate several inches up in one or more places. Good thing this is a common issue that can be fixed – if the problem is caught early.

You can do spot replacement or spot repairs when you first notice floor buckling. When you remove the standing water, you can take apart some of the floorboards to allow for air circulation across and from below the floors. When it dries to a more stable and acceptable moisture condition, you can have a professional do level repair.

Crowning

Crowning is a common issue that is the opposite of cupping. It happens when the floorboard’s center rises higher than the edges. This scenario occurs when there is either moisture imbalance or moisture exposure.

If the top layer of the floor gets in contact with water or is exposed to humid conditions for an extended period, the moisture – no matter the level of it – saturates the flooring, which then leads to crowning.

Another reason for crowning is when the floor had already suffered from cupping – but was sanded before the moisture level was back to its stable state. The sanding process can result in the edges of the board rising higher. In this scenario, the floorboards must be given time to dry completely before you do the sanding process.

Preventing Issues When Installing Solid Hardwood Floors

Acclimation

When your flooring first gets delivered, put it immediately where it needs to be installed. You can then measure the moisture level and be sure it’s within the flooring manufacturer’s stipulations. If it’s not, allow the floors to get acclimated with the environment – as specified by the manufacturer. Then, measure the moisture level again. Do this step until it’s within spec.

Use Moisture Barrier

If you did a wood subfloor installation and nailed it down, place a moisture barrier on top of the subfloor before installing solid hardwood floors.

If the flooring installation was done over a crawl space, make sure that you also place a moisture barrier in it. If the initial placement was done poorly, put another one on top of it.

Use Fasteners

Professionals know how to use fasteners when installing solid hardwood floors.

Your flooring specialists will know precisely how many and what type of fasteners you should use. When you don’t use the recommended type and number of fasteners, your floors won’t be as stable.

However, make sure you don’t fasten too much or use fasteners that are not the right size. If you did, it might result in cracks all over the planks.

Determine the Moisture Condition

Make sure you know what the moisture condition is of your subfloors. This is an integral part of quality control when installing solid hardwood floors. Professional flooring installers will know the correct information when it comes to moisture conditions.

You can have professionals check the moisture conditions of several rooms in the home, then the specific areas of the rooms. There must be a minimum of 20 for every 1,000 square feet.