There is a lot of maintenance involved in keeping your hardwood floors in pristine condition. Even with diligent maintenance, moisture, temperature and age can cause gaps between the slats of hardwood floors. Regardless of the reason, small gaps are acceptable for hardwood floors while large gaps can cause dirt and safety issues.
The Problem with Gaps
Some gaps between hardwood floors are to be expected, especially in older homes. With thinner gaps, the biggest problem can be the dirt and dust that gets stuck between the boards. It is hard to get this dirt out and it can cause a problem with cleanliness. Larger gaps in hardwood floors can mean losing dropped items underneath the floor boards. Visitors to the home may also hurt themselves if the gap is too wide.
Moisture Levels and Hardwood Floors
A big culprit of hardwood floor gaps is moisture. The higher the moisture level, the bigger the chance of gaps. How much moisture your floor can stand is based on the wood as well as the coating and stain. For instance, wood from tropical environments, such as Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, can stand a higher moisture level because of their original environment. Before installing hardwood floors, measure the moisture and humidity level in your home. If the moisture level is as high as 8 percent, you may need to choose another kind of flooring.
Temperature and Hardwood Floors
Through the course of the year, gaps will form in your hardwood floors. This can be tied to the changing of the seasons and is perfectly natural. In colder months, the wood will contract, causing gaps between the boards. In the summer, the heat will cause the boards to expand, filling the gaps. A gap of a few millimeters in the winter is a good thing, but anything bigger may be because of a problem with the wood.
Age and Hardwood Floors
Over time, hardwood floors can warp and cause gaps without proper care. Older homes with inattentive owners will have damaged wood floors. Often, there are other problems with the wood as well, including dry rot and termites. Depending on the severity of the problem, a full hardwood floor restoration may be needed. A consultation with a contractor will help determine the severity.
As mentioned, small gaps of 3 millimeters are normal for hardwood floors and do not need to be fixed. To prevent dust and dirt from entering the cracks, use a floor sealant once each year. For wider cracks and gaps in hardwood floors, epoxies and crack fillers can be a temporary fix. Some expert hardwood floor restorers use thin ropes in between the large gaps because they expand and contract with the wood.