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Does Engineered Hardwood Expand: Six Reasons

does engineered hardwood expand

Last Updated on July 30, 2023

Engineered hardwood flooring is crafted by layering multiple wood veneers, providing stability and strength. But you may be wondering, ‘Does engineered hardwood expand?’ It’s a valid concern, considering the potential issues that can arise from flooring expansion.

While engineered hardwood is less prone to expansion than solid hardwood, it is not completely immune. Factors like excessive moisture, improper installation, or inadequate subfloor preparation can cause slight expansion or shrinkage.

To minimize damage, you have to understand why this happened. Today we will discuss in detail why engineered hardwood expands or shrinks and what to do when this happens. So keep reading for further information.

Why Does Engineered Hardwood Expand or Shrink: Possible Reasons with Solutions

Why Does Engineered Hardwood Expand or Shrink

Engineered hardwood can expand or shrink due to various factors. But the most common reason for expansion is temperature effects, as changes in temperature can cause the wood to expand.

  • Temperature Effects
  • Expansion in Humid Weather
  • Shrinking in Cold Seasons
  • Effects of Water Damage
  • Inadequate Acclimating
  • Incorrect Installation Techniques

Temperature Effects

With fluctuating temperatures, the moisture content of the wood in engineered hardwood can change, leading to expansion or contraction. Temperature changes affect the moisture content of the wood, causing it to either absorb or release moisture.

This moisture absorption or release results in the wood expanding or contracting. Extreme temperature changes can cause the wood to warp or even crack, posing potential problems for the flooring.

To prevent these issues, you must maintain a consistent temperature in the environment where the engineered hardwood is installed. By doing so, sudden expansions or contractions in the wood can be avoided.

Temperature Effects   
EffectMoisture AbsorptionWood ExpansionPotential Issues
High TemperaturesIncreasesExpandsWarping, cracking
Low TemperaturesDecreasesContractsGaps, buckling
ConsistentStableMinimal expansion or contractionEnhanced durability, appearance

Expansion in Humid Weather

In humid weather, the wood in your flooring acts like a sponge, soaking up moisture and causing it to swell and potentially warp or crack. This phenomenon occurs because wood is hygroscopic, which can absorb and release moisture from the surrounding environment.

When the air is humid, the moisture content in the wood increases, leading to expansion. This expansion can result in gaps between the floorboards or even cause the boards to lift.

To prevent disfigurement and ensure stability, installing expansion gaps around the room’s edges is crucial. These gaps allow the wood to expand and shrink without causing structural damage.

Also, adjusting the relative humidity in your home using dehumidifiers, air conditioning, and hygrometers can help prevent excessive expansion and protect your engineered hardwood flooring.

Shrinking in Cold Seasons

When the cold weather hits, low humidity levels can cause the wood to lose moisture and shrink, leading to potential gaps and cracks in your beautiful hardwood floors. To prevent excessive shrinking, maintain proper humidity levels in your space.

This can be achieved using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Also, ensuring that your engineered hardwood floors have been properly installed with expansion gaps can also help minimize the effects of shrinking.

Effects of Water Damage

Water damage can cause the wood to swell and buckle, leading to the need for immediate repairs. Promptly address spills, leaks, and plumbing issues to prevent water damage and expansion in the wood.

If not properly addressed, the moisture can penetrate the wood fibers, causing them to absorb and retain water. This leads to the wood expanding, resulting in noticeable buckling and warping.

Also, prolonged water exposure can weaken the wood’s structural integrity, making it more susceptible to damage and decay. In severe water damage, it’s necessary to replace the damaged planks to ensure the longevity and stability of the engineered hardwood flooring.

Inadequate Acclimating

When engineered hardwood is not properly acclimated, it can expand after installation. When this type of expansion occurs, it can take some time to become noticeable. So acclimating the wood properly is essential to prevent excessive expansion or contraction, ensuring the stability and longevity of the flooring.

Before installation, acclimate the wood to the ambient humidity and temperature in the room where the flooring will be installed. This process allows the wood to adjust to its new environment, minimizing the risk of significant dimensional changes.

Incorrect Installation Techniques

Improper installation techniques can lead to unsightly gaps between planks, causing frustration and disappointment for homeowners. To avoid such issues, follow proper installation techniques based on the type of installation and the specific product being used.

Here are some key installation techniques to consider:

  • Nail down installation: Ensure that the planks are securely fastened to the subfloor using nails or staples to prevent any movement and subsequent gaps.
  • Glue down installation: Apply the appropriate adhesive evenly and consistently across the entire subfloor to create a strong bond between the planks and the subfloor, minimizing the chance of gaps.
  • Floated installation: Use the correct underlayment and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation, including the correct expansion gap allowance to accommodate the natural expansion and contraction of the engineered hardwood.

How much does engineered hardwood flooring expand?

How much does engineered hardwood flooring expand

Engineered hardwood flooring can expand up to 8 mm due to humidity and temperature changes. This expansion is a natural response to the environment and is important to prevent the flooring from buckling or warping.

The expansion rate of engineered hardwood flooring is relatively low compared to solid hardwood or bamboo flooring. However, leave the recommended gap to allow for proper expansion. This ensures that the flooring can adjust without causing any damage to the surrounding areas.

Does engineered wood flooring need an expansion gap?

Despite being more resistant to temperature and moisture changes than solid wood floors, engineered hardwood floors still undergo small movements. These movements can occur due to fluctuations in humidity and temperature.

Without an expansion gap, the floor planks can become stressed and start to separate, causing unsightly gaps.

What size expansion gap for engineered wood flooring?

Most of the time, the expansion gap will be concealed beneath a skirting board or beading. However, leaving a 15mm expansion is strongly advised to accommodate any potential movement. This allows the flooring to expand and contract without causing damage or buckling.

Although there may be situations where a smaller gap is preferable, consulting with us beforehand is highly recommended to ensure the best outcome.

Why is my engineered hardwood separating?

Separating in wood flooring occurs when the wood expands and contracts over time. This natural process is caused by changes in humidity and the loss of moisture content in the wood. When the wood expands but doesn’t have enough space, it can lead to separation and gaps in the flooring.

It’s important to understand that engineered hardwood, like any other wood flooring material, will naturally expand and contract. To prevent separation and gaps, installing the flooring with the appropriate expansion gap is crucial. This gap allows the wood to expand and contract without causing damage to the flooring.

How long engineered hardwood flooring needs to acclimate?

It is crucial to acclimate engineered hardwood flooring before installation. The recommended acclimation period is a minimum of 48-72 hours. During this time, the flooring should be kept in the room where it will be installed, and the temperature and humidity levels should be maintained at their normal levels.

Failure to follow the acclimation process can result in several issues. For instance, if the flooring is not acclimated properly, it may contract or expand after installation. This can lead to the formation of gaps or buckling in the floor. It may also cause the flooring to warp or split over time.

How long does it take for engineered hardwood to settle after installation?

How long does it take for engineered hardwood to settle after installation

After installation, it is normal for engineered hardwood flooring to take some time to settle. The time required for the flooring to settle depends on the product and species. But a general rule of thumb is to allow the hardwood to acclimate for at least three days before installation.

During this time, the moisture content of the wood materials is adjusted to match the humidity level in the room. As the wood acclimates, it will expand or contract, which can cause slight movement or changes in the flooring’s appearance.

What happens if you don’t acclimate flooring?

If you skip the acclimation process, you risk severe and costly issues with your flooring installation. Flooring that has yet to acclimate correctly may expand or contract once installed, leading to buckling or gaps in the floor. The boards may also warp, crack, or split beyond repair, thus requiring replacement.

Furthermore, the force from the expansion or contraction can cause substantial damage to the subfloor or the flooring system’s integrity. This may lead to creaks and crevices, posing a hygiene hazard, lowering the house’s value, and affecting the floor’s aesthetics.

Keep Your Engineered Hardwood Flooring Looking Sleek

As we’ve explored, engineered hardwood flooring can indeed expand and shrink, causing all sorts of headaches for homeowners. By understanding the reasons behind these changes and implementing the proper solutions, you can keep your engineered hardwood looking sleek and stable.

Remember, ensure you have the right size expansion gap and promptly address any issues. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a floor that likes to keep you on your toes by keeping you on your toes all the time?

Does Engineered Hardwood Expand: Six Reasons

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