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Are gaps and cracks in wood floors a sign of trouble?

On humid summer days, wood expands. During dry fall and winter days, it contracts. It’s a natural process, no matter what kind of wood you have, or the age of the wood. To ensure a wood floor that lasts 40 years or more, you must test for humidity—and have humidity controls in place—before your floors are ever installed.

This is the first part of a series we’re doing on potential issues with your hardwood floors.

This week we’ll be looking at gaps, or separations, between wood boards and what you can do about them.

Gaps in the floor

In places like the Northeast where the changeable weather can cause sharp rises and dips in humidity, it’s not unusual to find gaps in your hardwood floors. This is because humidity creates moisture, which a hardwood floor will absorb, causing it to expand.

Gaps in your floor can happen any time—after they’ve recently been installed, or many years later. To prevent gaps, if you install the wood floor yourself, you should always wait a few days before installing to give the wood a chance to get acclimated, as we mentioned in an earlier post. This is because the air at the manufacturing facility will most likely be different than the air in your home, and this gives the wood time to expand or contract before installation.

After installation, you can try to prevent gaps by putting humidifiers in rooms where you think they would be most helpful. During dry months, this will add moisture to the air, and dehumidifiers, of course, are good for summer.

The good news for New Englanders—when the heat goes off in spring, and the indoor air regains moisture, many common floor cracks will naturally close up. If that’s the case, there’s nothing to worry about.

Keeping an eye on cracks

Cracks in winter can easily develop in wide-plank, oak floors when the wood contracts. Light or light-stained woods, such as maple, often show cracks more than darker finished floors. Depending on the look you’re going for, this may not make any difference in the type of flooring you choose. Keep in mind, with any wood, most gaps will widen then narrow again as weather changes.

Fix it fast

If you believe you have a serious gap in your floor, it’s best to call on professionals to assess it. As we said before, some gaps are considered normal, and they’ll narrow when the floor expands in humid conditions.

If, however, the gap is too wide, it can be filled with wood material or a putty mixture that will renew the appearance of your floor.

Worst case scenario

If your floors are riddled with gaps, or they’re very creaky with loose boards, you could be looking at extensive repairs, or you might have to replace most, if not all, of the floor.

What to look for

There are many signs to watch for that can help you detect problems with your flooring. Next week, we’ll be talking about the indicators that something is wrong with your wood floor.

Remember to consult a professional at Sequoia Ltd. We’ll help you find, install and maintain your beautiful wood floors, so that you can enjoy them for years to come. Talk to us today.