How to Acclimate Hardwood Flooring

Acclimation is act of allowing wood moisture content to become at equilibrium with the environment in which it will be installed.

Knowing the effects of moisture in wood flooring, some flooring retailers now store their material in a controlled environment. If the retailer’s location is in the same geographical region as the installation site, there is a chance the flooring acclimated in storage, and MAY be ready for installation at the time of delivery. On the other hand, storing wood in a warehouse without climate control, especially in areas with high humidity, will likely result in a longer period of time for the wood flooring to reach equilibrium and the material will not be ready for installation for a period of time.

Acclimation  is NOT determined by the length of time the wood flooring sits at the installation site- its about moisture content, and if moisture tests were not performed, or performed incorrectly, there’s a chance the wood floors were not properly acclimated prior to installation.

How to Acclimate Hardwood Flooring: Inside the Boxes: 

If you choose to keep the woods in their boxes, make sure you open the ends of the boxes and lay the boxes flat across the floor throughout the room. If you do not have enough space to lay the boxes out flat, you can stack them on top of one another. If you must stack the boxes, try to stagger them to allow as much air to circulate as possible.

  1. Make sure the area where the flooring will be laid is an enclosed space.
  2. Between 5 and 10 days ahead of time, check to see if the temperature and humidity of the space is at normal living conditions. In other words, let the heat or air run as it would normally for at least 5 days. Between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is a good range when it comes to the temperature. The humidity level should be around the yearly average for the area.
  3. If the temperature and humidity of the room is off, use a heating and/or air conditioning system to balance it out. Don’t bring the hardwoods into the space until the heating or air has been running for at least 5 days, and wait until the wood flooring moisture is at equilibrium with the environment (this is determined with a moisture meter).
  4. Open the boxes and lay them flat in the room where they’ll be installed. If space is lacking, stack the boxes and try to stagger them to expose as much of the box to the open air as possible.

How to Acclimate Hardwood Flooring: Outside the Boxes

Follow steps 1-3 above, but instead of laying the opened boxes flat across the floor, take the hardwoods out of their boxes and lay them out as you’re going to install them. Lay them out and piece them together like you would a puzzle. Doing so will help you see where the transition lines will go and make the nailing down process go by much quicker.

Taking the hardwoods out of the boxes is the best way to acclimate them because air can hit the boards on every side.


Understanding your Environment:

The Moisture Content Map shows average interior moisture contents in winter and summer by geographic areas. In each pair of figures, the first is average moisture content during January and the second is average moisture content during July for wood products used indoors. For instance, flooring installed in buildings along the Gulf Coast is expected to eventually acclimate between 11% and 13% moisture content. Also, flooring installed in the Western Rockies can be expected to eventually acclimate between 4% and 8% moisture content.



Test Moisture before installing:

Use a pin moisture meter designed for measuring wood moisture. Make sure the environment is at “in use conditions” and establish a baseline by measuring the moisture content of the sub-floor and moldings, or other wood objects. You will want the wood flooring to be as close to the measurement of other wood items that have been in the location to be as close as possible.

1. Wood Sub-floor: Recommended moisture should be lower than 12%
2. Wood flooring is typically manufactured between 6-9%. (contact manufacturer if significantly higher readings are found)
3- Strip flooring (less than 3″ wide); less than 4% difference between the subfloor and the material
4- Plank flooring (over 3″ wide); less than 2% difference in moisture content between wood flooring and the subfloor.

Certified Wood Flooring Inspectors are available to perform, and independently document moisture tests of the installation site and the wood flooring before, during and after installation.

Tools used for measuring wood flooring gaps: Steel RulersWood Moisture Meters, Tape Measures, Magnifiers