This is one of the questions most commonly asked by homeowners considering installing engineered wood flooring. Knowing that solid hardwoods are heavily prone to expansion and contraction, the question is are engineered wood floors the same?
Compared to solid timber, engineered planks have a more stable structure due to their layers of hardwood combined with plywood. This means they are able to withstand atmospheric changes more than solid hardwoods. However, as with all real woods, engineered planks naturally change shape due to variations in humidity and temperature within the home. As engineered wood is not an artificial product, it will react to seasonal changes the same way our bodies do.
When the weather is humid, planks absorb moisture causing them to expand. Alternatively, during cold seasons, planks shrink as they become dry. Although engineered planks resist these seasonal changes more than solid hardwood, you should still expect a small amount of expanding and contracting. With this in mind, there are steps you can take in anticipation of possible expansion.
To prevent serious problems with your engineered floor in later life, expansion gaps should be left around the edge of the room, wherever the floor meets a fixed object such as the walls or a doorway. This will allow engineered planks to naturally expand and contract without causing disfigurement to the overall floor. Without an expansion gap, planks may be forced upright, leaving you with an uneven and unstable floor.
In general, leaving a space of 10-15mm is adequate, however always ask one of our flooring experts as gaps may vary depending on the type of wood and the size of your room.
Other tips to reduce expansion and contraction
One of the simplest things you can do is adjust the relative humidity in your home to maintain the shape of your engineered floor.
In the summer, the aim is to keep the moisture out of the air before it is absorbed by the wood floor. An affordable hygrometer is a good gadget to have, as this monitors the amount of air moisture indoors. A dehumidifier or air conditioning will then extract this moisture, keeping your planks at their ideal temperature.
In the colder months, a humidifier will stabilise the increased indoor heat, reducing the chances of gapping between planks.
To sum up, the expansion and contraction of engineered planks is likely to be minimal compared to solid wood but it’s always best to leave that small expansion gap during installation to counteract any small movements. You can also maintain the relative indoor humidity to prevent spreading and separation of planks.