Monday 31 March 2014

House Climate

House Climate: how to keep your home and floor 'healthy'

All homes have their own indoor climate. With that we mean the amount of moist in the air (humidity), the temperature, the type of heating and the amount of ventilation. Some factors you can control yourself, some are caused by outside conditions.
Timber framed houseIn a comfortable home with slight humidity variation through the seasons, wooden floors react by expanding and shrinking. These changes may be noticeable.
During warm, humid weather wood expands. During dry weather wood shrinks - usually during Winter. Just think of when you have the clearest views from a hill top: when it's cold - when the air can't contain much moist = low air-humidity = Winter. And since this is also the normal "heating season" your indoor climate can have an even lower humidity.
This seasonal movement is a normal characteristic of wooden floors and it never stops, regardless of the age of the wooden floor.
  • If you notice gaps appearing between your boards in Winter then 9 times out of 10 there is nothing to worry about, these gaps will disappear again when the humidity gets higher.
    If your floor is expanding in a normally dry season, then you might have a moist problem (leak, large spillage of water or perhaps one of your pets had an 'accident').
  • If your floor is shrinking in a normally 'wet' season then the problem might have been caused by the moist contents in the flooring itself: higher than normally allowed (standard Oak normally between 8 - 12%) or the wood hasn't been stored 3 - 7 days in the room were it is installed to acclimatise to the normal house climate.
ForestSome types of wood react more than others. Beech is known as a 'very nervous' wood. It can expand or shrink 7mm per meter width. By 'steaming' beech (giving the floor also it's characteristic pinkish/salman colour) the reaction will be less.
Solid wooden floors react more than Wood-Engineered floors. The crossed backing of Wood-Engineered floors stabilises the reaction. This makes this type of flooring preferable in areas where there is more moist (kitchens, bathrooms), were temperatures can change quickly (conservatories) or on underfloor heating.
Most important to keep your wooden floor (and in fact also yourself) healthy is to allow for a stable humidity in the house.
  • When humidity is higher (Summer, Autumn) wooden floors expand. A simple way to prevent excessive reaction is to open (a) window(s) every day, even for 10 - 15 minutes, to allow the cumulated humidity to disappear. Alternatively, when you are away for a whole day: keep a small window upstairs open and keep all other internal doors open.
    In Winter and early Spring, the heating season, try to keep the humidity between 50 - 60 %. This can be done by having plants in house, ceramic water containers on radiators etc. When the humidity in house gets very low (30 - 40%) you will notice this yourself (dry skin, lips and even sore throats). A simple 'trick' to increase the humidity rapidly is to place damp (NOT dripping wet) tea-towels on radiators.
  • Monitor the typical average air-humidity in your home by using an indoor minimum-maximum Hydrometer
When you have underfloor heating you might notice these conditions during most seasons. To help minimize the effects we recommend the use of a humidifier (preferable with humidity monitor).