Before engineered flooring can be installed, it must be at, or close to, the equilibrium moisture content (EMC), as defined by the manufacturer requirements, to avoid moisture-related failures like cupping, crowning, or warping. This article will answer questions and provide some crucial tips for the acclimation of engineered flooring.
Specifically, we will talk about:
- Why and when you should measure MC in your engineered floors to save yourself time during the installation process
- Acclimation best practices
Let’s answer the question you might be thinking of.
Does Engineered Hardwood Need to Acclimate?
The short answer: absolutely. Many manufacturers suggest engineered hardwood floors should acclimate in the home for a period of time before installation. Most engineered wood floors are packaged and sealed in a box with plastic wrapping, and are pre-conditioned to a specific humidity range as defined on that packaging.
While engineered wood floors are designed to better withstand changes in temperature and humidity than solid hardwood floors, the location these floors are being installed in still must meet the requirements of the flooring products themselves. This will ensure the flooring will perform as it was intended to perform in that given environment. Acclimation is simply about aligning the jobsite with the requirements of the flooring being installed in it.
Acclimation can be influenced by:
- Seasonal changes
- The specific engineered flooring requirements
- The type and moisture conditions of the subfloor
- Climate conditions of the jobsite
- Whether or not the installation site is enclosed and the HVAC is running
Because so many factors can influence the jobsite, and ultimately the MC of the wood, it’s important to accurately measure the MC before, during, and after installation. This brings us to our next point.
How, Why, and When Should You Measure the MC in Your Engineered Floors?
Measuring the MC of engineered hardwood is the first step to ensuring your floor is acclimated properly.
Imagine this scenario: You receive a shipment of wood, and without checking it, you let it sit at the installation site for 48 hours, per the manufacturer’s instructions. You install the floors, and a few weeks later, your client complains about warping hardwood floors. What went wrong?
Well, if the wood planks had a high MC when you received them – perhaps due to temperature swings, improper storage, or shipping complications – letting them sit at the jobsite for 48 hours didn’t do much. Depending on how wet the planks were, it could take weeks or months without any other drying interventions for the flooring to find EMC.
How do you solve this problem? The key is to accurately measure the MC of the planks even before you unload the shipment.
Properly testing MC in an engineered wood floor can be challenging. Most importantly, know your meter, and get to know your meter representative. They can help you use the proper setting for the engineered flooring being tested. In order to help them help you, you must be able to identify the product itself, species of the wear layer, and the core material.
When the flooring shipment arrives, use a moisture meter to measure the MC of several of the planks. Then, ask yourself, “Does the MC of these planks match the EMC as defined on the packaging of the material? And does this match the conditions in the final installation location?”
If the answer is yes, you should be in good shape to unload the shipment and place it at the site. If the answer is no and the MC is several percentage points away from the EMC, you probably are better off returning the shipment. If, at this point, you decide to unload the shipment and prepare it to acclimate at the jobsite, you will need to account for any distortions within the planks that were caused by this high MC, and be aware that the manufacturer warranty will no longer be valid.
Measure the Moisture Condition of the Subfloor
Another critical step in ensuring the flooring is acclimated properly includes measuring the moisture in the subfloor. If your subfloor – whether wood or concrete – is still wet, then it doesn’t matter how acclimated your wood flooring is. You probably still will have a moisture-related flooring failure.
Be sure to conduct the appropriate moisture test for the subfloor you’re installing over, whether it’s wood or concrete. This will guarantee that the subfloor and the wood floor are moisture-compatible.
Get The Building Ready For The Floor
1 – Enclose the Building
If the installation location is enclosed, you can bring the wood in without worrying about it being exposed to the elements.
2 – Ensure Drainage Runs Away from the Building
Make sure that grading is completed and the drainage runs away from the building. Proper drainage will prevent water from pooling anywhere and impacting the moisture condition of the subfloor. If the subfloor moisture condition is affected, it eventually will cause moisture problems for the wood flooring.
3 – Complete All Wet Construction Elements
Wet construction elements, including paint, release moisture as they dry. When they do so, the wood may absorb that moisture and increase the MC.
4 – Install and Run the AC and Heating Systems
When the AC and heating systems have been running, you can be confident that the temperature and humidity of the installation location are stable, which is crucial for proper wood installation. Running these systems for at least five days before the wood shipment’s arrival will best prepare the installation site.
5 – Don’t Run the Risk of Ruined Floors
At the end of the day, you won’t know with certainty when your flooring is acclimated and ready for installation without a reliable moisture meter. Don’t put your reputation – and your client’s floors – at risk. Shorten acclimation times and make informed decisions by using your moisture meter.
Jason Wright is the business development specialist for new products for Wagner Meters. He brings more than 30 years of flooring industry experience with particular specialization in hardwood floor products and installation. Beginning in 1986, with a small sundry distributor in Medford, Oregon, Wright ascended through positions in regional sales, product development, business development, and marketing programs within different flooring companies. Contact him by email at email@example.com. For more information about moisture-related issues in engineered hardwood flooring or to learn about Wagner Meters visit wagnermeters.com.
Note From the Editor: To ensure desired flooring performance, please reference your specific manufacturer’s recommendations for relative humidity and temperature requirements. Not all wood products are designed to perform outside of their intended moisture content range.