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Tackling Dry Cupping In Engineered Wood Flooring

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Dry winter air can lead to more than just dry skin and aggravated sinuses. It can also prove to be a challenge for anyone planning to install engineered wood flooring. As relative humidity levels drop throughout the season, it's crucial to consider the effects this can have on your new flooring.

The following takes an in-depth look at dry cupping, a phenomenon that can occur within a low-humidity environment. You'll also find out how you can protect your engineered wood flooring against the damaging effects of dry cupping and what to avoid when dealing with those effects.

How Dry Cupping Occurs

Dry cupping is a bit different from ordinary cupping, which usually happens to solid wood flooring that's exposed to a high-humidity environment. Instead of the wood board deforming due to excessive moisture levels within the wood, it instead deforms due to a decrease in moisture content.

Dry cupping usually starts at the top layer since this layer tends to dry out faster than the core layer underneath. As the top layer loses moisture, it begins to shrink and pull away from the core layer. This causes the corners of the top layer to curl upwards away from the core layer, resulting in the tell-tale cupped appearance.

There are also plenty of secondary effects that could occur when engineered wood flooring is stressed under a low-humidity environment:

  • Engineered wood boards can split apart, sometimes through the entire thickness of the board, due to a lack of moisture.
  • Cupping stresses can also cause wood veneers to delaminate, potentially destroying the appearance of your wood flooring.
  • Wrinkles can also appear within the finish as a result of board stresses caused by low relative humidity.

These issues can prove to be just as frustrating to deal with as the dry cupping phenomenon itself.

How to Deal With Dry Cupping

Prevention is always the best policy when dealing with moisture-related flooring issues, especially when it comes to engineered wood flooring. It's important that the installation environment has enough moisture to prevent your engineered wood boards from drying out.

According to the experts, your home's relative humidity levels shouldn't exceed 30 percent in temperatures between 0 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent in temperatures between 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoor temperatures should also be around 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. These precautions can help prevent dry cupping problems that often occur due to moisture losses.

If your engineered wood flooring has already suffered dry cupping, it may be possible to remediate it by balancing your home's relative humidity levels. However, it could take weeks or even months for the damage to be undone naturally. In some cases, replacing the affected boards may be the only way to correct the damage.

If you want to completely avoid the possibility of cupped floors during or after installation, you're better off waiting until the coming spring to install your engineered wood flooring. The spring season offers a better balance of relative humidity, which could help reduce many of the problems you'll likely face during wintertime installation.

What Not to Do

You may be tempted to sand down your flooring in an attempt to undo the damage caused by dry cupping. However, you may be trading one set of problems for another. Cupped boards may look fine after being sanded flat, but your boards may take on a crowned appearance once they've reabsorbed a sufficient amount of moisture.

There's also the fact that some engineered floor boards are less tolerant of sanding than others. That has plenty to do with the thickness of the top layer. Most engineered floors offer a thick enough top layer to withstand at least one refinishing. However, sanding to correct cupping could prove too much for some engineered floors. Talk to a flooring company like LTA Flooring for more information. 


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