1/8/2021
With the onset of winter weather across much of the United States and Canada, MFMA advises owners, architects, school officials, and facility managers that it is normal to see some contraction of maple flooring strips, especially in newly installed floors. Cold temperatures and low humidity levels can have negative effects on your maple floor. Brutal winter weather can result in a reduction of indoor relative humidity levels which in turn can lower your maple floor’s moisture content below recommended levels. Wood is a hygroscopic material. When exposed to varying temperatures and humidities, it will release or absorb moisture until it is at equilibrium with the surrounding atmosphere.

The appearance of shrinkage cracks during winter months is not unusual. These cracks will normally close in the spring and early summer, as the floor picks up moisture from the air. If cracks persist, and the indoor atmosphere has been maintained between 55 and 75 degrees and between 35-50 percent indoor relative humidity (or no more than a 15 percent fluctuation between highest and lowest average IRH), contact your flooring installer or the MFMA immediately. 

The most important part of that recommendation is the 15% fluctuation. Based on the facilities geographic location it might not be possible to maintain 35%-50% and a temperature between 55 degrees and 75 degrees. An excellent example of this would be maple floors in Arizona. It is very unlikely that a facility with a maple floor in this geographical location will be able to maintain 35%-50% IRH. However, if they maintain an average high and an average low IRH that are not separated by more than 15% on average for the year, they will not see excessive movement in the floor system.

More information can be found in our position statements on SHRINKAGE CRACKS, SOLID PAINTED AREAS ON MAPLE GYM FLOORS, HUMIDITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL RECOMMENDATIONS and REFINISHING.

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