Hardwood floors are incredibly prone to contraction and expansion due to changes in humidity. If you are considering installing wood floors in your house, you might ask: “Do wood floors shrink in the winter?”

Wood floors shrink in the winter not because of a temperature change but because of the low humidity. Your wood floor shrinks because heating reduces the humidity in your house.

Unfortunately, even engineered wood floors shrink and expand, but not as much as natural wood floors.

Do wood floors shrink in the winter?

Wood floors shrink in the winter because of the lower humidity in the house. Winter means you are heating your home, and as a result, wood floors lose some moisture. And because of the moisture loss, wood floors shrink in the winter.

Related post: What are the benefits of sleeping on the floor?

Do floorboards shrink in the winter?

Floorboards shrink in the winter if they are in a heated area. Heat reduces moisture in wood floors, resulting in shrinking.

Why does wood shrink in the winter?

Wood shrinks in the winter because the relative humidity is low. As a result, thin cracks, spaces or gaps may appear between wood planks.

Therefore, it’s normal to have gaps between your wood planks. And you shouldn’t be surprised if you start seeing gaps in wood floors in the winter, especially when heating without humidifiers.

But, once humidity levels return to normal, you no longer have to worry about wood shrinkage. With the added humidity, most gaps will close up.

How do I keep my wood floor from shrinking in the winter?

You can keep your wood from shrinking in the winter by maintaining proper humidity levels in your home. Using a humidifier during the winter is a simple way to prevent wood floor dryness problems.

Some home heating solutions, such as electric heat, create very dry conditions in winter, and it will cause wood floors to shrink. Unfortunately, wood stoves have the same drying effect on wood flooring, but you can maintain proper humidity with humidifiers in your home.

Even if you don’t live in your home, you should maintain humidity and temperature at the manufacturer’s recommended level.

Does wood expand or contract in winter?

Wood may expand or contract in winter depending on moisture and humidity levels. So, it isn’t the temperature that shrinks or expands wood in the winter.

Moisture is the main factor in wood expansion and contraction. All wood floors have a moisture content. Therefore, wood floors can take on more moisture and lose moisture. But, wood floors will always contain moisture within their composition of tubular cells, fibers, and cavities.

Another important factor of moisture is temperature. For example, moisture will evaporate from the wood floor’s cell walls if temperatures increase.

During winter, heating creates drier weather conditions, resulting in a contraction of wood flooring. But your wood floor will expand when the heating season is over.

The change in moisture or humidity may cause swelling, distortion, thermal expansion, and potential warping as it heats. But shrinking is also possible eventually.

It’s important to note that temperature alone will not cause wood floors to swell or shrink. The humidity in the environment and the moisture content of the wood floor determine the changing size of wood planks.

How much your wood floor expands or contracts also depends on the type of wood in your flooring.

How much hardwood floor shrinkage is normal?

Hardwood floor shrinkage during winter is normal. If you have hardwood flooring in your home, you’ve probably noticed that cracks appear during the winter months. The cracks fade away once the winter is over.

Seasonal expansion and shrinkage of hardwood floors aren’t signaling a problem. In fact, wood shrinkage and expansion is normal.

Properly installed wooden flooring will show seasonal gaps between the floorboards. The size and the severity of the opening depends on several factors.

You don’t need to worry if you see seasonal gaps in hardwood floors. Seasonal expansion and shrinkage are normal and caused by the home’s moisture change.

As your heating system pulls the natural moisture out of the air inside your home, your wood flooring will also dry out somewhat. The planks will shrink as the wood flooring loses moisture and dries out. The shrinkage causes the gaps you see between planks.

Conversely, when it becomes more humid in the summertime, the same wood planks will reabsorb moisture and often return to their previous state.

The only way to prevent gaps from forming is to maintain consistent air humidity in your house regardless of the season. Homeowners who use a humidifier in winter and a dehumidifier for the weather when there is too much moisture in the air don’t have to worry about the shrinking and expansion of wood flooring.

A humidifier will introduce moisture in a heated environment. It will rebalance your home’s humidity level, preventing wood floors from shrinking.

Using a portable dehumidifier is less expensive than installing a humidifier on your furnace. And for a small area of hardwood flooring, you can hang damp clothing to dry or even boil water in the kitchen.

In smaller spaces, it’s easy to release extra moisture into the environment, which will also help combat the dryness you feel on your skin and throat.

Adding too much moisture to the environment can also create problems with hardwood floors. The key is to maintain the proper humidity level in your house. Watch for the build-up of excessive condensation on your exterior doors or windows. It will help you determine when there is too much moisture in the air, resulting in wood floor expansion.

Expansion gap for hardwood flooring

The expansion gap is an important part of hardwood flooring. The expansion gap allows hardwood floors to shrink and expand when humidity levels change.

All types of wooden flooring require an expansion gap. It allows the floor to shrink during winter when your house is heated. The heating will dry out hardwood flooring, resulting in a bit of shrinking.

You might have problems with your wooden floor in the future without a sufficient expansion gap. Even if the gap is noticeable, it is necessary to keep your wood floor in good shape.

Hardwood Floor Expansion Gaps

Hardwood floor expansion gaps refer to the space around the room’s perimeter. A gap of at least a half inch or 12mm is required. Without expansion gaps, your wood floor cannot expand and shrink, which will damage the wood flooring.

Does engineered hardwood expand?

Engineered hardwood expands even though it’s more moisture-resistant than natural hardwood flooring. Proper preparation, installation and humidity will help you prevent major problems with your wood flooring.