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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

Why is My Wood Floor Moving? And Other Tips for Your Hardwood Floors

Posted by Lane Cooper on Jan 24, 2024 8:54:07 AM


Hardwood floors bring timeless beauty to any home. If they are a key design element in your home remodel, it’s important to educate yourself so you're well-prepared for what lies ahead. Understanding their nuances and caring for them properly is crucial to preserving their stunning appearance over time.



In the winter months, the drop in temperature naturally leads us to rely on indoor heating, which inadvertently sucks the moisture out of the air within our homes. This decrease in humidity can significantly impact hardwood floors, causing them to contract. However, come summertime, the opposite occurs; there is more moisture in the air (higher humidity) which makes the wood expand. This means the changes in your hardwood floors will be most noticeable in the heart of winter and summer. 

As a proud owner of hardwood floors, it's crucial to understand that these fluctuations are part and parcel of owning real wood flooring. This phenomenon isn’t limited to indoor settings, even outdoor wood faces similar changes.


If the shifting bothers you, there are some remedies to help alleviate the effects. Introducing a humidifier into your hardwood-floored rooms can work wonders. During the winter, switching on the humidifier helps infuse moisture into the air, mitigating the drying impact on your floors. 

Proximity to sources like fireplaces or HVAC vents can intensify the floor's expansion and contraction, accentuating the temperature-induced changes mentioned earlier. If managing these nuances seems overwhelming, a good alternative is opting for engineered hardwood, designed to minimize these shifts. However, it's essential to consider that this choice might sacrifice the inherent quality and enduring nature of natural wood. Another option is tile floors, which can also be luxurious and elegant.

The direction of the wood grain greatly influences the visibility of changes. Wood expands across its width, not its length. Typically, hardwood floors are laid perpendicular to the floor joists, leaving little choice in their orientation. However, since baseboards are installed on every wall, the indication of expansion and contraction won’t be apparent.  The movement will happen under the baseboard and out of plain sight.

To help minimize the shifts in your wood floors, we make sure to let all wood materials acclimate to the environment before installation. This process takes anywhere from one to two weeks and lessens the visible changes once it’s installed.

When considering the grandeur and timelessness of wood floors, a slight shift in their dimensions should not overshadow their beauty. Instead, it's an aspect that contributes to their unique character. Ultimately, embracing these fluctuations and implementing small adjustments like using a humidifier allows you to cherish your stunning hardwood floors for years to come.


Before installing hardwood floors, we conduct thorough moisture tests on different wood types. These tests are crucial as various woods respond uniquely to different moisture levels. They help us gauge not just how long the wood needs to acclimate but also predict its lifespan and susceptibility to movement, ensuring greater stability over time.

For instance, kiln-dried wood should ideally exhibit less than 10% moisture content. Yet, if it's layered over a subfloor exposed to elements, it needs to align within 4% moisture of the subfloor. Wood typically ranges from 7% to 19% moisture content, and each test guides us in determining the wood’s suitability for use. 

Portland, Oregon basement with hardwood floors downstairs.


Mastering the art of hardwood floor care might seem daunting, but once you grasp the right approach, it becomes a straightforward task. Discovering the best practices ensures your hardwood floors remain in pristine condition. Consistent cleaning and proper care not only safeguard your investment but also prevents scratches, dirt buildup, and other potential issues. As for many other things, it is best to follow manufacturer recommendations or the suggestions of the installer.


As you can imagine, cleaning your hardwood floors is something that must be continuously done, because well, things get dirty! Floors especially attract so much dust, mud, and dirt from outside your home, all of which can dull the appearance. Luckily, it just takes a little effort and a thought-out routine to keep your hardwood floors looking brand new.


Daily dusting stands out as a remarkably easy method to maintain the fresh allure of your floors. This practice not only enhances the floor's appearance but also serves as a preventive measure against scratches. Opt for a microfiber towel to efficiently wipe your floors daily, ensuring a spotless finish.

A big house with light hardwood floors.


While cleaning your floors might appear straightforward, there's a plethora of misinformation surrounding the best practices for authentic hardwood floors. Begin by choosing a wood floor-specific cleaner that's pH-neutral and employ a microfiber towel for a thorough cleaning. Adhering to these steps makes for optimal maintenance.


Polishing your floors can revitalize their natural shine, enhancing their beauty further. Start by diligently dusting or sweeping the floors to remove any debris or dirt. Following this, apply a water-based polish, spreading it evenly across the surface. This process helps restore and accentuate the floors' sheen, leaving them looking radiant and well-maintained. Remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions for the best application method and frequency to achieve optimal results.


In the intricate world of hardwood floors, understanding their nuances, from seasonal impacts to precision moisture testing and care routines, proves vital for preserving their timeless allure. Recognizing the natural fluctuations, embracing remedies like humidifiers, and allowing acclimation time before installation are keystones in maintaining their enduring elegance. Remember, these shifts in wood floors' dimensions add to their distinct character rather than detract from their allure. And while care might seem intricate, establishing routines—like daily dusting, weekly cleaning with pH-neutral solutions, and periodic polishing—becomes the cornerstone in ensuring these floors remain pristine and breathtaking. With attention to detail and a dedication to these practices, your hardwood floors will continue to exude their inherent grandeur for years to come.

If you'd look to explore replacing your current floors with hardwood flooring as part of a home remodel, we'd love to connect. Reach out and let's schedule a consultation!

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Topics: Design-Build Portland, Home Remodeling, Remodeling Tips, Design, Custom Home Design, Planning a Remodel, Home Maintenance, Living in Portland, Whole Home Remodeling