Hardwood flooring increases the value of your home, while making it more comfortable.
Aside from being natural, warm and attractive, it’s durable and comes in a range of colours and grain styles.
Despite these benefits, however, certain problems can (and do) occur during and after its installation.
Hardwood flooring is expensive, and you may have a hard time replacing it when it gets damaged. That’s why it’s best to acquaint yourself with its most common problems and how to avoid them.
Hardwood floors are easily impacted by temperature and humidity. Installation and finishing mistakes, using too much liquid cleaner and wearing high heels can also affect its performance. This post discusses some of the most common problems your hardwood flooring may face and what to do about them.
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Cupping happens when the edges of a hardwood board are raised slightly higher than the centre. A damp basement, changes in moisture level, improper cleaning and a lack of proper acclimation are some of the most common causes. Wood is hygroscopic, which means it acts like a sponge and absorbs moisture from its surroundings. When dampness increases, hardwood planks swell; as the moisture level drops, they shrink.
Solution: In many cases, if damage isn’t severe, the problem can be fixed by reducing the moisture level. Determine the source of moisture, such as a damp basement, faulty drainage/ventilation or a problem in your HVAC system, and get it fixed professionally. Use proper hardwood cleaning products, get a humidifier and clean spills immediately to avoid cupping. Once the root cause of moisture is removed, your floor will regain its shape and natural beauty.
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Like cupping, crowning is caused by exposure to excessive moisture. In this case, the centres of the boards are raised higher than the edges, making them look like a series of small, arched mounds. This occurs when moisture is left to sit on top of a hardwood plank rather than its edges. Probable causes of crowning include clogged dryer vents, damp subflooring, unattended spills and faulty refrigerators slowly leaking fluids.
Solution: Consider installing a humidifier or dehumidifier to keep humidity at a constant level. You may also need to ventilate the basement by running a fan. The floorboards will shrink and regain their original shape as they dry, and it’s necessary for this to happen before any repair work can take place. Depending on the age of the hardwood and type of damage, the boards may need to be re-sanded and/or recoated.
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Buckling occurs when hardwood planks expand across their width, sometimes even causing them to lift upward and detach from the subfloor. In this case the floor looks uneven and the planks may show separation at the joints. Faulty installation methods (like using the wrong glue), environmental factors (like excess humidity) and a lack of acclimation are some of the reasons behind buckling.
Solution: A floor with only minor damage can sometimes be fixed by finding and eliminating the source of the leak. Chances are the boards will then return to normal. However, serious buckling will require replacing the hardwood. The subfloor and floorboards need to dry completely first before any reinstallation can take place.
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This is a common problem for hardwood flooring with a high gloss finish. As the protective layer wears off, the surface becomes vulnerable to scratches, dents, scrapes and other damages. All hardwood floors lose their shine over time, but doing so within a few years of installation means something went wrong. Perhaps the finish was done in a hurry, the floor wasn’t sanded thoroughly, or it wasn’t cared for properly. Improper sanding can cause the finish to settle at the bottom of the sanding grooves, while the surface is left with little to no finish. In due time, this breaks down.
Solution: A slightly worn floor may simply need a recoat, without sanding off all the old finish. However, when it has many scratches and dings, it’s best to sand the entire floor to bare wood and then refinish it.
The fear of dealing with common hardwood flooring problems should not keep you from installing this beautiful and durable product. Hardwood has many benefits that far outweigh drawbacks like cupping and buckling. An efficient installation and cleaning routine will ensure that your hardwood floors look gorgeous for years to come.