Many homeowners spend thousands of dollars on new wood floors that might end up ruined because they don’t have a whole-home humidifier – which costs a fraction of the price of their floors.
Imagine going through the process of putting new hardwood floors throughout your house.
First, you go through the design process. Then you move all your furniture out, move your family out, and after waiting several days, you finally have a beautiful new wood floor to live on (after moving everything back into place).
Several months later, you notice your floor squeaks. You see gaps appear between the floorboards. Maybe the edges of the boards are cupped or curved upwards. If you installed an engineered floor, the layers may even have separated.
After calling the installer, retailer, and perhaps a professional flooring inspector, you are told that the warranty is void. All because you didn’t keep your home at a proper level of relative humidity, somewhere between 35 – 55% RH.
Now the floor has to be replaced – and you’re on the hook for it.
The National Wood Flooring Association estimates that 90% of wood flooring failures are related to relative humidity and moisture problems in the home.
You can protect your wood floors with a whole-home humidifier
Most wood flooring manufacturers require the homeowner to keep their floors in a consistent environment because wood responds to temperature and humidity changes.
When the air is dry, wood shrinks. When it is moist, wood expands.
For just a few hundred dollars, you can equip your HVAC unit with a whole-home humidifier designed to add humidity to the air when it gets dry.
Keeping your home consistently between 35-55% relative humidity is the best way to protect your wood floors from shrinking, expanding, cupping, cracking, squeaking or gapping.
These relative humidity levels are also where we as humans are the most comfortable. Avoiding extremely dry air improves health, keeps skin from drying out, and limits the spread of airborne viruses.
A whole home humidifier is the best way to keep your floors from gapping.
What to look for in a whole-home humidifier
You can purchase whole-home humidifier units yourself, but a professional should install them on your HVAC unit and configure it to run properly.
Not all humidifiers are equal. It’s important to look for a unit with the following features:
Buy a furnace mounted humidifier
Freestanding units usually are not powerful enough to supply moist air throughout your home. Having a furnace mounted humidifier puts humidified air directly into your HVAC system.
Buy a whole-home humidifier with blower control
If your humidifier only runs when your thermostat calls for heat, it may not operate often enough to keep your home above 35% relative humidity in the dry season.
A humidifier that runs the blower on your furnace – even when heat isn’t needed – adds humid air throughout the day to keep your home consistent.
Buy a humidifier that can connect to an exterior and interior thermostat
The outside temperature plays an important role in calculating how much moisture your humidifier should add to the air.
When the air outside turns really cold, it holds less moisture. If your humidifier attempts to add too much moisture on a cold day, the air starts to condense on your windows which can cause wood rot.
This external thermostat provides more information to your whole home humidifier about how much moisture to add to the air. Adding this extra piece will protect your whole home and wood floors during any season.
Buy a humidifier that connects to a hot water supply
Hot water easily evaporates and converts to water vapor than cold water. Just like your bathroom mirror fogging up when you run the shower, connecting your whole-home humidifier to a hot water supply allows it to be more efficient.
Know how your whole-home humidifier works
We once visited a homeowner who complained of the symptoms of a dry floor – squeaking, gaps, etc. They owned a beautiful home with a brand new state of the art HVAC system with a whole-home humidifier.
Unfortunately, the humidifier wasn’t turned on. And that started to ruin the floor.
A couple more things to keep in mind:
- Be sure that whoever installs your system explains how it works, what settings to place it at, and how to service the unit.
- Also, keep in mind that most whole-home humidifiers use filters or wicks that you need to replace regularly as mineral deposits build-up.
- Check for seasonal settings the unit should be set at during different times of the year.
- If you notice consistent high or low readings, be sure to have your HVAC or humidifier system checked and serviced.
Additionally, monitor your home with a small device called a hygrometer to ensure your HVAC and whole-home humidifier system is working properly.
These devices usually measure both temperature and humidity to keep track of the high and low points. With this, you can monitor if your home is outside the recommended range of 35-55% RH.
You can read more about troubleshooting your whole-home humidifier here.
Remember: using a whole-home humidifier to keep your home environment consistent is THE BEST way to protect your investment in wood floors.