Do New Hardwood Floors Need To Settle? (Explained!)

Hardwood floors look amazing! And this interior design upgrade can add a touch of rustic elegance to your home.

But why does your hardwood floor still feel so ‘bouncy’ after a new installation? Does it mean that new hardwood floors need time to settle?

Brand new hardwood floors need to acclimatize to the room they’re installed in. In other words, a hardwood floor needs to settle by calibrating its moisture content to the temperature and humidity levels of its surrounding environment. This process can take up to a year (depending on the environment).

And just what is this so called Moisture Content? Well, moisture content is a measure of the amount of water inside a piece of wood.

For example, freshly cut wood has a moisture content of around 100 percent. While lumber yard wood – that has been kiln dried after treatment (KDAT) – has a moisture content of less than 20%.

Now, hardwood floors need time for their moisture content to properly balance out. And how long this process takes can depend on everything from indoor humidity levels to the time of year.

So keep reading to discover how new floorboards can become acclimatized more quickly…

do new hardwood floors need to settle

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Do Hardwood Floors Settle?

Yes, they do. Hardwood floors will always need a bit of time to settle and get used to their new environment.

Now, if those wooden boards were acclimating before they were installed, then they should settle in quite nicely.

However, problems can occur when hardwood boards haven’t been given proper acclimation time before installation. In those cases, those wooden boards will warp and twist as the flooring settles in.

Basically, wood warping is mostly because of moisture. But how moisture gets into the wood will differ.

If you got hardwood floors in a wet area, like a bathroom, water can seep into the wood.

In short, wood moisture content is the root of the problem. Warping starts when that hardwood floor has more moisture in it than the surrounding air.

We go deeper into this in our post on solid wood doors warping (similar issue): What To Do When Solid Wood Cabinet Doors Start Warping (Solved!)

Can You Walk On Hardwood Floors Right After Installation? You can lightly tread across the boards after 24 hours. However, you should wait a few days before moving any furniture into place.

How Do You Acclimate Hardwood Flooring?

The acclimation process is a task that should be done by the installation company or contractor.

The installation contractor will prepare the floor boards by storing them on the job site. In addition to that, they should also monitor the environment so that the humidity levels stay around 35 to 60 percent. And, they will also cross-stack the boards so that they can ‘air out’ evenly.

Cross-stacking and airing out floorboards beforehand is key to acclimating hardwood floors. It is the best way to make sure each and every board gets enough air circulation to reach moisture content equilibrium.

How Long Should Wood Floors Acclimate? The acclimation process takes a minimum of 3 days, but it can take longer depending on wood type. For example, Pine wood flooring can take anywhere from 5 to 14 days to acclimate.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Install New Hardwood Floors?

When hardwood floors are acclimating, they are basically trying to even out their internal water content with the water in the air.

So if you install wooden floorboards during a hot or humid season, then they’ll take longer to settle.

Ideally, you need to install hardwood floors when the weather outside is moderate. So Springtime and Fall are the best times to have installation done.

If that is not possible, then try to regulate the indoor humidity levels of the room. You’ll want to get humidity levels down to around a 45-65% range.

You can do this by using a dehumidifier or air conditioner to help reduce humidity. Or you can use a cool steam machine or vaporizer to help increase humidity.

Can Hardwood Flooring Acclimate In The Box? If the box is wrapped in plastic – or is otherwise contained in a way that prevents air circulation – then that flooring cannot acclimate. However, if the container has been opened, hardwood flooring can acclimate inside the box.

What Happens If You Don’t Acclimate A Hardwood Floor?

You can run into all sorts of problems if that hardwood floor hasn’t had time to acclimate. The wood can start to swell, shrink and warp. All of which can combine to create wide gaps between those floorboards.

The floor can also buckle and begin ‘cupping’, which is a real ankle-twisting issue. Why? Well, because cupping is when floorboard edges twist up causing the board to form the loose shape of a ‘cup’. And those cups are an all too easy way to get tripped up when you least expect it.

Bottom line: If hardwood hasn’t had time to acclimate and adjust, you’ll end up with a messed up floor and a messed up finish.

Can You Install Hardwood Floors In The Winter? Yes you can, but installing at this time of year has its own difficulties. You will need to carefully moderate the humidity in the room – before, during and for a few days after installation. Otherwise, those wooden floors could swell and end up cupping.

Will Cupped Hardwood Floors Ever Flatten Out?

Well, cupping comes about as a result of a very muggy environment. All of that extra water in the air will get into the hardwood, and cause it to twist and begin cupping.

If you can bring those humidity levels back down, then thankfully, your buckled flooring will settle back into place.

In other words, cupping can be undone, provided the damage isn’t very severe.

Key Takeaway

All hardwood floors need a bit of time to settle into their new home. And if you give them a few months, they should begin to feel less bouncy.

New floorboards will need four seasons worth of weather changes before you can feel confident it has fully settled. So give it about a year for that hardwood to work out its ideal moisture content.

And remember, you can help it along by making sure the humidity level of the room stays steady all year round.