Why Do Wood Floors Buckle? Avoid and Fix It

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wood floors buckle

When a wood floor is properly installed, it can have a timeless look. It is not only pleasing to the eye but holds value for years to come.

Sometimes, changes may occur. For example, changes in the humidity and temperature can cause the wood to expand or contract and buckle.

When wood buckles, you may experience cupping or swelling. Cupping is when the edges begin to curl up and swelling is when the plank begins to swell up.

In this article, we will explore some of the causes that result in a wood floor buckling.

Why Wood Floors Buckle: Basic Idea  

Some of the common issues with wood flooring, that cause it to buckle are:

  • Leaks and Spills
  • Poor Acclimatization 
  • Humidity 
  • Bad Installation

What Are Some Common Issues with Wood Flooring?

common issues with wood flooring

Wood floors buckle when they get wet. This can be from the moisture in the air or it can be from an external source. 

These external sources can be from a pipe that’s leaking or poor ventilation in the room. It can also be from a concrete slab that did not dry correctly or poor drainage.

In humid environments or warm climates, buckling is unfortunately unavoidable. 

This is because when it is warm, the heat results in an increase in humidity. The wood will absorb this humidity in the air even if there is no visible leak. 

Leaks and/or Spills

Leaks and spills are sources of consistent moisture that affect the wood planks and get absorbed into the planks themselves. The best practices to deal with these are simple and easy to implement with regular inspections.

The first would be to wipe up any spills immediately, before the wood has a chance to absorb the moisture. 

Next would be to regularly check any water sources for leaks or cracks. Water sources can include, for example, your toilets, sinks, washing machines and pipes. 

Following this, make sure that there is proper ventilation in areas where the appliances would be situated, to prevent condensation buildup.

You should then check that there is no groundwater intrusion and that there is proper drainage on your property. 

Lastly, ensure that the concrete slab subfloor has been allowed to dry properly. This would come down to proper installation of the subfloor itself. 

Poor Installation

Incorrect installation of the wood planks and the concrete subfloor can lead to a variety of problems arising. 

For example, if the wood floor was improperly glued down it could separate from the subfloor. The adhesive could have been insufficient or the incorrect one was used.

You also need to make sure that when the wood floor is installed, that there is an expansion gap. 

An expansion gap allows the wood to expand due to humidity. It is important to make sure that this gap is around the width of a quarter.

Usually when buckling occurs, it is from a mix of poor acclimation and installation.

Improper Acclimatization

improper acclimatization 

Acclimation occurs when the wood is allowed to adjust to the new environment it is going to be set in. 

This allows it to adjust by absorbing the moisture until it has an equal moisture content as the air around it. 

This is done by storing the wood in similar conditions to the one it will be installed in. For example, the wood is stored for about two weeks in the same room before installation occurs.

Improper acclimation is when the wood is not allowed to steady and adjust to the environment it will be installed in. This will result in the wood floor expanding after installation.

High Humidity 

Unfortunately, buckling is almost completely unavoidable in high humid environments. That is why proper acclimatization is important. 

Usually, high humidity is unavoidable as it is a natural occurrence. That is why if you live in a humid area, a wood floor is not recommended. 

In areas of your home, there are some considerations to take into account. In small or windowless rooms of your house, fans and proper ventilation are important to control the humidity. 

Other things to take into account are whether there is a drainage problem. This can create a lot of humidity when it is warm, or if there is water in the crawl space or basement.

 Frequently Asked Questions

faq wood floors buckle

  • Will buckled floors go back down?

Buckled floors will not go back down by themselves. 

If there is minimal buckling, you can try to dry the area and see if it returns to its original shape. If it doesn’t, then you can put a heavy object on the area to settle it back into place.

Another solution is to dehumidify the area. Once you have done this, you can do spot repairs on those small areas.

  • Can heat cause floors to buckle?

Heat by itself cannot cause the wood floor to buckle.

It can cause the wood to expand a bit but not much. It is only when heat is combined with moisture that it will buckle.

  • Do wood floors expand in summer?

Summer has months that are usually very high in humidity and heat. 

This can cause the wood floor to expand because the moisture content in the air is higher than normal. If you installed the wood floor in winter, then it potentially has not adjusted to the change in moisture content.

Conclusion

Wood flooring has a timeless and classic appeal. With proper care and diligence during the installation and acclimation process, many of the problems can be avoided later on. 

Regular checks of appliances and your property can prevent buckling issues from creeping up. However, the best prevention for buckling is making sure the climate you live in and your home itself are appropriate.

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AUTHOR

Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

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