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How to fix hardwood floor gaps caused by cold weather

How to fix hardwood floor gaps caused by cold weather

Hardwood flooring is beautiful, but did you know that changes in the weather can cause floorboards to gap?  Gaps caused by cold weather conditions are mostly unavoidable, but some simple techniques can be used to reduce gapping caused by cold weather. 

Hardwood floor gaps happen naturally, and your floor installation company will explain what to expect from solid or engineered hardwood when installed. If you think you need to fill the naturally occurring gaps in your hardwood flooring, we’ll tell you how to tell and how to do it. 

Whether you have solid or engineered hardwood, it is nonetheless all wood, a naturally occurring organic substance. This means wood floors should naturally swell and shrink slightly in response to moisture content. 

Throughout the year, moisture levels in the air often change naturally. They might also vary due to changes in your heating and cooling habits. As the relative humidity (RH) increases (usually in the summer), your floorboards will naturally absorb some of that moisture. 

In the winter, the air in our homes tends to become drier, and the moisture is naturally drawn from the wood, causing a small amount of shrinkage. Most shrinkage is minimal but can cause visible gapping in your hardwood floors. 

You can do a couple of things to prevent excessive gapping in your hardwood flooring. Mainly, you want to try to reduce the relative humidity range in your home from summer to winter. You can do this by attempting to raise the humidity level in the winter or lower it in the summer. 

Your relative humidity range should always be between 40 and 50 percent, regardless of the time of year. Since RH falls in the winter due to both natural factors and our home heating habits, you can keep a little more moisture in the air by using a humidifier or boiling a pot or kettle of water. Reduce humidity levels in the summer by using air conditioning.

You can also help reduce gapping by keeping your floors clean and dry throughout the year, reducing the amount of moisture in contact with the floorboards. 

Larger, wider floorboards will gap more than narrow boards because there are fewer joints when laying larger boards. The more joints there are in the floor, the more ways your flooring can naturally expand and contract because the gapping can be distributed throughout the floor. 

Hardwood floor gaps are a naturally occurring experience that comes with every hardwood floor. Most gaps do not need to be repaired and will naturally reduce with more humidity in the air. Gaps do not damage your floor and generally do not need to be repaired.

If the gaps in your floor are very unsightly, there are several ways to repair them. Keep reading for more.

Gaps in hardwood flooring are generally very easy to fix if you decide you need to. Here are a few solutions for how to fix hardwood floor gaps:

  1. Fill the gap with strips of wood from your original wood boards if extra boards are available. These will match the floor's original look most closely but will require sanding and staining, which may require a refinishing of the entire floor.  
  2. Fill hardwood floor gaps with wood putty. Choose a wood putty that closely matches the color of the flooring. Fill the gap, scrape off the excess, then use a damp cloth to remove excess putty. Then, just allow the putty to dry.
  3. Use another natural fiber, like rope, to fill the gaps. First, choose a natural fiber rope and stain it with your floor’s wood stain (synthetic fibers will not absorb stain). Once the rope is dry, stretch it along the length of the gap. Use a knife or other tool to press the rope into the flooring gaps.  

While each of these repair methods is easy enough to do on your own, we recommend checking with a flooring professional about your options before you try. If you decide that you need a refinish after repairing your flooring on your own, get in touch for a free estimate.