Ohh!!!!!! My hardwood floor has lost its clear beauty. It has gaps and looks crooked and sad.
Is the investment I made doomed? Why do my hardwood floors have gaps?
Can you make them as good as they were before? Are these natural?
Calm down! Relax we can fix your cracked up hardwood floorings. This is our first response when we get people complaining or wailing about their floors. The timeless elegant beauty of hardwood flooring is worth admirable. Homeowners or everyone who has hardwood flooring on their premises take great pride in their classic beauty. And that’s why they freak out the most.
However, the question is this really a problem? Should the homeowner be worried, or is it a natural process? Are hardwood floor gaps good or bad? Let’s dig deep down.
Is It Natural To Have Gaps in Hardwood Floors?
THE TREE. Not to forget, your beautiful hardwood floor was once a tree. It has organic properties, meaning it is completely natural. You must know how the tree works; roots absorb the water and nutrients, and the trunk transports the same to leaves. Trees can survive the low moisture period. However, the cells of the wood will be drier and shrink up to low moisture content. Resulting in cracks you might have noticed. When we cut the trees into floorboards, they’re still organic and can soak up and hold onto moisture, just like trees. This means wood floors can expand and shrink during their lifetime.
Hardwood reacts as per the surrounding conditions. It takes in moisture from the air in your home or loses it if relative humidity drops. But what is Relative Humidity? Relative humidity is the amount of water vapor present in the air. It is expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount of water air can hold at the same temperature. Comparatively warm air holds more moisture than the air on cold days; hence, summer days are far more humid than winter days.
Your floor expands in summer as the humidity level is higher, and it fully absorbs moisture present in the air. On the contrary, in winter, your floor shrinks or contracts as you lock up every single door and crank up the heat, resulting in humidity level drops. You might have seen or noticed a creek or separation in winter, and it gets back when the temperature increases. Now you know why it happens? Right.
It is also a fact that the relative humidity of your surroundings not only affects the hardwood flooring, but it also affects every piece of hardwood furniture present in your house. Ultimately, these are all made of hardwood. The out product will always behave like its origin or its source. Hence, Yes! It is natural.
Reasons And Preventions You Must Take
Seasonal expansion and humidity levels in the air are natural reasons for gaps in the hardwood floor. You can’t avoid but take precautions to prevent this. However, there are certainly more reasons for gaps in hardwood floors.
1. Seasonal Expansion and Contraction Reason: Like a good cup of tea, hardwood floors react to changes in temperature and humidity. In the dry winter months, they might decide to tighten their belts and contract, creating gaps.
Solution: Treat your floors to safe days by installing a humidifier. It’ll keep the air moist enough to prevent your hardwood from turning into a shrinky drink.
2. Poor Installation Reason: If your hardwood floors resemble a jigsaw puzzle gone wrong, blame it on improper installation. Not leaving enough room for expansion joints during installation can make the wood throw a fit and separate.
Solution: Don’t DIY this one! Call in a professional installer who knows the ABCs of hardwood floors. They’ll ensure there’s enough room for your wood to breathe and use techniques that make your floors feel snug but not suffocated.
3. Subfloor Issues Reason: For example, your subfloor is as uneven as a rollercoaster ride. When you lay down hardwood on a wobbly base, it’s like asking for trouble. The wood won’t sit still, and gaps will become a regular thing.
Solution: Before you give your hardwood a fancy makeover, treat the subfloor to a repair day of its own. Clean it up, level it out, and make sure it’s bone-dry. A stable subfloor makes for happy hardwood.
4. Moisture Problems Reason: If your hardwood were a plant, it would hate overwatering just as much. Excess moisture from spills, leaks, or a muggy climate can make your hardwood swell and rebel in the form of gaps.
Solution: Be the hero with a mop! Keep the room well-ventilated, and use rugs or mats in moisture-prone areas. Your hardwood will thank you with fewer gaps.
5. Wear and Tear Reason: Your hardwood is no match for the daily grind of life. Heavy foot traffic and furniture can create pressure points, causing gaps to form over time.
Solution: Give your hardwood some TLC (tender, love, and care). Use protective pads under furniture legs to distribute the load and strategically place area rugs in high-traffic zones. Your floors will feel less abused.
6. Aging and Shrinkage Reason: Think of your hardwood like fine wine; it gets better with age but also drier. As it ages, it naturally shrinks and loses moisture, leading to gaps.
Solution: Bring out the rejuvenation treatment! Regularly check for gaps and consider refinishing or resealing your floors. It’s like a spa day for your aging wood, making it look and feel more vibrant.
Remember, it’s all about proper care and a dash of professional help when needed. So go ahead and step confidently on your beautiful hardwood floors, knowing you’ve got the tricks to keep those troublesome gaps at bay.
How can you fix the gaps after installation?
From different reasons to proper prevention, we discussed all the above. But what if your hardwood floor starts shrinking after a few years of installation or immediately after? You can’t ignore this. You must have invested a considerable amount to get the timeless elegant hardwood flooring and if it gets gaps in no time, it’s frustrating. We understand all your frustration, here is the step-by-step guide from where to start to the number of remedy options you have.
Step 1: First, check what is causing the problem
If your hardwood floor is recently installed, Examine the individual planks for signs of improper installation, such as uneven spacing or misaligned joints. Poor installation and maintenance can also cause this. There can be a number of reasons for hardwood floor gaps, but the most common are seasonal change and humidity level in the air. Besides this, if there are other reasons, then it is good to call a professional and let them inspect your hardwood flooring.
Step 2: When you should take action
As per our professionals, as soon as you catch a crack or gap between planks, you must monitor it. If they start small and close up in a short time, there is nothing to worry about, and it’s all-natural. But in contrast, if the gap remains the same or increases, it needs instant action or repair. It is advised to take immediate action on the first-sight gap, and it ensures your flooring has a long and safe life.
Step 3: Address the seasonal gaps
During summertime, the use of an air conditioner maintains the humidity level and prevents hardwood floors from becoming too saturated with moisture. However, it is challenging to manage the humidity level on winter days. At any point in the year, you don’t want the weather to cause your humidity levels to fluctuate lower than 40 percent or higher than 50 percent. The more constant your humidity levels are, the lower the risk of seasonal gapping becomes.
Step 4: Tackle the Non Seasonal gaps
You don’t think gaps in your hardwood floors are the cause of seasonal change, or you are confirmed after an inspection by a professional. When the gaps are there all year round, you need to fill out the gaps immediately to prevent future issues. Not sure what to do? Let’s check out the options available:
Option 1: Wood Strips
Cover the gap with rip-cut, narrow wooden strips. Look for similar new ones that match the installed ones, or you can also use the leftover floorboard from the time of installation. Fix the wooden strip in the gap using wood glue, a hammer, or a mallet. After measuring the gap area, the strip must be cut to get the exact fitting.
In the end, to achieve the finished look, sand or stain until it matches up the look with the rest of the wooden flooring.
Option 2: Wood Putty
This is the simplest option among all the others. You can find the product easily at your nearby hardware store. Pick the product that matches the color of your floorboard, otherwise, you will ruin the aesthetics of the floor.
Apply the wood putty in each gap in a circular motion. Then, remove the excess wood putty with a blunt knife. Leave the area to dry after you clean the surroundings with a cloth. This option is best as long as gaps between floorboards don’t expand.
Option 3: Natural Rope
This option does not as looks natural as the remaining others. However, it is better than keeping the floor with gaps. To prepare for gap filling, begin by eliminating any old wood putty, moisture, or accumulated dirt. Utilize a vacuum to effectively remove any debris lodged in the gaps. Next, select the type of natural rope you desire, such as cotton or jute, as synthetic ropes are unsuitable since they do not absorb wood stains. Pour your chosen wood stain into a bucket and fully saturate the pieces of rope by dipping them into the stain. Allow any excess stain to drip off, and then proceed to let the ropes dry.
Once the ropes are dry, stretch them along the length of the gap and insert them into the open space until your floors are even and filled. You may need to use a knife to trim the rope as necessary.
Step 5: Reach out to the professional
Don’t be hasty and jump to the repairs. First, let the professionals inspect and give their opinion on the state of your hardwood flooring. Might they say that these gaps will be filled without using any repairs or tools with a change in humidity level? This will save you from repair money and the hassle of repair or reinstallation in case of extensive damage.
All the testing and fixing can be done by yourself if you have proper knowledge and skill with tools. However, calling a professional and getting the finished look is always recommended. They have the required experience and expertise in the industry.
If your floors are cracked, or there is a sign of shrinking. Do not hesitate to give us a call and our professional will visit your place for proper inspection. We will suggest the remedy based on our years of experience in the industry. Don’t worry if, in our opinion, there is a problem, and we have got the solution to fix your hardwood floor as good as new. We are here to help you, a call away!
Q1: How do I know if the gaps in my hardwood floors are a sign of a more significant problem?
A1: If the gaps are consistently widening, if there is noticeable buckling or warping of the boards, or if you see signs of moisture damage (e.g., cupping or staining), it’s advisable to consult a professional for a thorough inspection.
Q2: Can I prevent gaps from forming in an existing hardwood floor?
A2: While you can’t prevent gaps in an existing floor entirely, you can minimize their occurrence by maintaining consistent indoor humidity levels and addressing any gaps promptly when they appear.
Q3: Can I fill gaps in hardwood floors myself?
A3: Yes, you can fill small gaps in hardwood floors with wood filler or putty specifically designed for the purpose. However, it is advised to seek a professional hardwood installer for larger gaps.
Q4: Is it normal for hardwood floors to have gaps?
A4: Yes, it’s normal for hardwood floors to have small gaps, especially in regions with significant humidity changes. Wood naturally expands and contracts, leading to minor gaps. However, larger or excessive gaps may indicate an issue.