Hardwood Floors and Cold Weather: Should You Be Concerned?
The winter months can be highly unpredictable here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some winters are fairly mild temperature-wise, while sometimes (like recently) we have sharp cold snaps, along with snow and ice. Sometimes we have generous portions of both warm and cold weather in the same week! What effect can cold temperatures (or fluctuating temperatures) have on your hardwood floors, and should you be concerned about them?
Here’s the good news: Wood is a natural resource that grows and lives outdoors. (We merely “borrow” some of it to make furniture, containers, tools and attractive floors for our homes.) As a result, wood is naturally flexible, porous and pliable, designed to withstand a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels. The bad news, if you want to call it that, is that wood floors expand and contract as they adapt to these changes. For example, differences in temperature and moisture levels between one side of the floor and the other may cause some temporary “cupping” or curving of the surface. In addition, home heating tends to dry out the air inside the home; the lack of humidity may cause the floor boards to shrink, and in some cases to separate from each other.
That said, when a wood floor is properly installed, changes in temperature and humidity are usually little cause for concern; your floors will almost always return to a place of balance as the seasons change. However, if you have concerns about extreme weather changes and how they affect your floor, here are a few tips that can help.
“Winterize” Your Home
Cold drafts coming through doors and windows can definitely have at least a temporary effect on your floors (not to mention cold wood floors are uncomfortable to walk on). To reduce these effects, apply weather stripping to windows and doors, or invest in energy-efficient windows and insulation. These steps will help keep the temps consistent inside your home so your wood floors won’t be exposed to such drastic changes in temperature. For additional protection, consider using a humidifier during the winter to replenish moisture content in the air.
Protect Your Pipes
Cold isn’t the only thing you need to watch for when protecting your floors. In sub-freezing temperatures, water pipes can freeze and burst, sending water over (or under) your wood floors and causing them to warp or crack. Protect your floors, your pipes and the rest of your home by taking precautions. Let faucets drip when the temps fall below freezing, and insulate exposed water pipes whenever possible.
Use Floor Mats and/or Remove Shoes
One indirect danger to your floors has nothing to with the actual temperatures, but with the salt and sand we spread on our roads and walkways to melt the snow and ice. These can wreak havoc on a wood floor, causing scratches and eroding the finish. Protect your floors by putting rugs and floor mats over high-traffic areas—or if your “sock feet” can stand it, go one step further and remove shoes before entering the home, storing them in a mud room or foyer to keep unwanted sand and salt off the floors.
To learn more about the best care for your hardwood floors in Tulsa weather—both in winter and any other time of year—give Renaissance a call at 918-298-4477. We’d be happy to talk with you.