As a hardwood flooring owner, nothing is more frustrating than unsightly gaps between the planks. Besides the negative impact of gapping on your home’s appearance, it can also make walking on the floors uncomfortable. Additionally, gaps allow the hardwood to rub against one another, resulting in annoying squeaks.
Suppose you’ve recently invested in a hardwood flooring installation and are suffering from gapping floors. In that case, you’ll be pleased to learn that, in most cases, the issue can be resolved with minor alterations.
Here, we’ll examine the primary causes of gaps and provide you with information on how to fix gaps in old hardwood floors.
What Causes Gaps in Hardwood Floors?
Hardwood gapping is a common issue in old and new homes alike, and it’s well-understood why it happens. Overall, the cause of your gapping can be broken down into two categories:
- Environmental: When you install hardwood in your home, you’re receiving a living, breathing entity. Although the wood has long since been milled, it still retains the flexibility that live wood has. As such, your hardwood will react and move to different environmental circumstances like humidity level and temperature.
- Structural / Installation: Issues with your home’s structure or the initial installation itself is the other primary cause of gapping. If you’re a novice DIYer, hiring a professional like is your best option for a clean installation that’s issue free.
Wood is an extremely responsive material, and it’s quite sensitive to changing temperatures. Your hardwood flooring will react to the surrounding temperatures and may change position accordingly. This is even the case with engineered flooring. When the air cools, your flooring will contract, resulting in gaps between the planks. This is especially common during the winter months, and it’s during this time that most homeowners first notice their gapping issues.
Warm temperatures can also cause gaps. As the temperature rises, your flooring will expand, putting pressure on points it previously hadn’t. If drastic enough, this can open gaps that did not exist before.
Temperature changes in your hardwood are not always dependent on the season, either. If you have baseboard heating, radiators, or air conditioning units, these can also affect the temperature of your wood planks.
Seasonal Fluctuations in Humidity
Also known as seasonal gapping, changes to your flooring can be largely attributed to fluctuations in humidity. Your flooring retains quite a bit of moisture, and as the environment dries out in the winter, so do your floorboards. With all this water gone from your floorboards, the planks will shrink slightly, causing gaps between them.
Like heaters and air conditioners, the changing humidity level from dehumidifiers can also impact your flooring’s density if placed too close to the floor.
All experts agree that the key to a long-lasting, successful hardwood flooring installation is acclimation. Acclimation is the process by which you allow your flooring to adjust to the conditions of your home. Your home has a unique environmental biome to it, and you need to allow your flooring time to settle.
When flooring is installed before the acclimation process is over, you’ll deal with an astonishing amount of contraction and expansion after the fact. When severe enough, this can easily ruin the entire project. You’ll be left with gaps in your flooring that are impossible to ignore.
The bare minimum amount of time you should acclimate for is three days. However, many professionals recommend waiting up to two weeks or even more. Always choose the side of caution, as you can’t over-acclimate.