Hardwood Flooring:
Dimensional Stability, how to prevent cracks in your hardwood flooring.

Hardwood Flooring must be chosen based on your environment, not your neighbour's or that of a family member.

Sure they can suggest a wood species that appeals to them visually, but you must make the ultimate decision as far as what type of wood flooring is going to perform the best, under your specific home conditions.. so let me give you a few ideas first on how humidity can be addressed...

  1. Air Conditioning... this is the perfect answer. Air conditioning prevents the build up of excessive moisture in the home, eliminating most of the hardwood flooring expansion issues. It allows you to consider the full range of woods as appropriate flooring options.
  2. Humidification: This is the opposite end of the spectrum. In northern climes or for that matter anywhere that experiences excessive dry winter weather, you must consider some method of introducing moisture into the home environment. This usually entails the installation of an air exchange unit and a humidifier. The exchange unit brings new oxygenated air into the home from outside and the humidifier add moisture. This is extremely important for the success of your wood flooring installation. The moisture prevents excessive drying and shrinking of your floor.

Controlling the home's humidity between these two seasonal extremes is the most important factor in preventing cracks in your hardwood floor or in the opposite extreme, buckling.

That being said we understand that it is impossible, and undesirable to spend the day studying your humidistat, and some homes, especially older ones will always experience fluctuations in humidity. Thus it is important to choose woods that are inherently more stable.. ie. less likely to respond negatively to humidity changes.

"Dimensional Stability" or Dilation-coefficient is a measure of a wood floor's stability, under changing humidity conditions . Wood research labs have taken the science out of the equation for you and I and assigned a dilation-coefficient to a long list of wood species. This quantified woods from the most stable to the least. Here is a list for you to peruse.

In order of woods for hardwood flooring that are the most stable to the least stable -->

  • cabreuva (Santos Mahogany) (most stable)
  • cherry
  • walnut
  • ash
  • oak
  • birch
  • jatoba
  • maple
  • beech
    (least stable)

- this would suggest that beech would be a very poor choice for an unstable environment like an unheated winter cottage, lake side property or over radiant heating.

Today there are a lot of exotic wood species that are new to the hardwood flooring market. I'd suggest that you do your own research, if the sales staff can not definitively recommend this species as appropriate for your given home environment.

I hope this helps, Karen

Further Information:
Hardwood Flooring