Hardwood floors naturally expand and shrink throughout the year depending on the humidity in the air. One question many people ask is when is the best time for installing hardwood floors to prevent gapping. Sometimes there is not an easy answer. If you install it in the summer, it may shrink next winter. If you install it in the winter it will expand and get tighter in the summer. Or there is always the in-between seasons, spring or fall.
While there are many opinions out there on the best time of year to install hardwood floors, all professionals in the industry do agree – finding the average humidity level in the home year round reduces contraction and minimizes gapping. The best results will be achieved if the wood is installed at this average level. While not always needed, products that test humidity (called hygrometers) are best used to monitor these kinds of conditions.
Also, smaller hardwood floor board widths can help minimize the look of contraction and expansion. Although the boards contract and expand at the same rate a 5” board will appear to contract and expand more than twice as much as a 2 ¼” board.
No matter what time of year you decide to install hardwoods, the most important thing is to bring the hardwoods inside the home for a period of time before installation. This allows the wood to acclimate to your home’s unique conditions.