How the Humidity in the Room Can Affect Your Floors

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The first thing most people usually do when planning a new flooring project is to hit the home improvement store to pick their new flooring. Wait! This important DIY project will turn into a failure if you don’t consider what type of flooring is best for the room’s environment. After all, getting the best floor covering for your room isn’t just about picking what is beautiful today; but what will look good years from now.

Humidity Levels Can Cause Real Problems

The humidity in your home can dramatically affect how your new floors hold up. Too much moisture in the air and hardwood can buckle; laminate can lift; and the grout between tiles can mold. Too little moisture in the air and you may face splitting and cracks due to brittleness. Either way, your gorgeous floors will become damaged.

So what is the right humidity level? In most cases, the ideal humidity (RH) level is between 40-50%. This keeps your family – and your floors – comfortable. Keep in mind though, that during the winter months, you may have to keep humidity levels below 40% to keep condensation off of the windows. But, do your best to maintain at least an RH level of 40% during colder months if possible.

Signs of High and Low Humidity

To ensure that you are getting the best floor covering for your room, be sure to look for visual signs of high and low humidity. Condensation on windows or mirrors, wet stains on the ceiling or walls and even mold and mildew growth are all signs of moisture. On the other hand, if the people in your household complain of dry skin, chapped lips, dry and scratchy throats, or even an excess of static electricity, the odds are good that your humidity levels are too low.  Both of these problems can affect how your new floors will look – and hold up.

Checking Humidity Levels

If your visual inspection has you worried about the humidity level in your home, then it may be time for a more intense test.

If you suspect low humidity, try this simple test:

  • Fill a glass with ice and water
  • Leave sitting on a table or counter (not in the kitchen) for 3-5 minutes. 
  • If condensation forms on the glass, the humidity level is good; but if no condensation appears, the air in the room is too dry.

Of course, the most accurate way to check the humidity levels in your home is with a hygrometer. This sensitive tester can give you exact humidity levels. There are a variety of hygrometers currently on the market that work well. Some are extremely sophisticated, while others are pretty basic. Both work fine. But, be sure to follow the instructions with the model you buy carefully to get the most accurate reading.

Check Cement Floors for Moisture Wicking

Moisture in the air isn’t the only type of humidity that can affect your new flooring project. Moisture that wicks up through the cement subfloor can also cause problems. One of the simplest ways to determine if your concrete slab is wicking moisture is to simply take an 18 inch square piece of polyurethane plastic, and duct tape it to the floor. Let it sit for 18-24 hours. If condensation develops on the plastic, you have a moisture problem.

Choosing Your New Floors

Controlling the humidity levels in your room can offer more options when it comes to choosing your new floors. But sometimes your choice will depend on how high or low the humidity levels are. For instance, bathrooms, laundry areas and basements tend to have more moisture naturally, so installing hardwood or certain laminates may cause problems in the future. Your best option for these high humidity areas is to install tile or some other high moisture resistant flooring.

Natural hardwoods are better for areas where humidity levels can be better controlled. Laminate too can be susceptible to moisture and should be installed in rooms where humidity levels remain stable.

Moisture can cause real problems for flooring if not controlled. While it may be possible to install a dehumidifier (or humidifier) to stabilize your rooms RH levels, you should also consider the type of flooring that will acclimate best to the environment.

Maurcia H. is a seasoned writer with 20-plus years of publishing experience which includes 10 traditional print books, three book collaborations; more than 100 ghostwritten books. Specializing in both how-to pieces as well as industry oriented articles, Maurcia has written press releases, blog posts and articles for a variety of construction companies.