The Importance of Acclimation

The definition of acclimate is to accustom or become accustomed to a new climate or environment; adapt.

If you live in Maine and travel to Miami, Florida in August when it is very humid, it might take you a few days to get used to, or become acclimated to the new environmental conditions. Flooring is no different. Where it was manufactured is likely to be quite different from where it will be installed in terms of temperature and humidity levels. Also factor in the extreme conditions the flooring may be exposed to during shipping.

Acclimation has become so difficult in the flooring world especially in new construction because no one wants to cover the expense of covering the HVAC cost or the flooring has become pushed up front into the construction schedule.

The HVAC system should be operating at least one week before installation. Resilient flooring, adhesives, patches and the subfloor must be acclimated at a temperature between 65 degrees and 85 degrees F for 48 hours before, during and after installation. After installation, maintain a constant room temperature between 55 degrees F and 85 degrees F. These guidelines help to prevent excessive expansion and contraction of flooring after installation. Continual extreme deviation from these conditions can affect the dimensions of any and all resilient flooring.

Cold conditions can affect the drying and curing properties of adhesive and patching materials and resilient flooring become stiff and brittle and difficult to work with. If it becomes too hot, adhesive and patches may experience shorter working times and become more difficult to work with.

Hardwood and Laminate are porous on a microscopic level, even though it may look quite solid. These tiny openings allow air inside, carrying with it whatever humidity there may be. The more humid the air, the more likely the Hardwood and Laminate flooring will swell; the less humid the air, the more likelihood the Hardwood and Laminate flooring will shrink. While this swelling or shrinking may be very slight, it could be just enough to cause issues with locking systems or to the tongue and groove affecting the installation.

Acclimating allows the Hardwood and Laminate flooring to become unified with the temperature and humidity that is identical to the conditions found in the area in which they will be installed. Once acclimated, the flooring will be uniformly conditioned and the locking systems and the tongue and groove should not be compromised.

  • The temperature should be between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • The humidity level in the space should be between 35 and 55%.

By maintaining these conditions, this gives not only the resilient flooring products time to become conditioned to the buildings environment, but also the subfloor. For example; in new construction the first time the HVAC is turned on, the entire structure begins to dry out. As it dries out, things start to move or shrink and the flooring will move with it.

The pictures below, the Vinyl Composition Tile did not gap or buckle on its own. It followed a changing subfloor.

The hardwood floor below is following the subfloor, known as panelization from subfloor movement.

Other issues associated with lack of acclimation:

Plywood Underlayment show through is when the dry underlayment panel is installed on a damp/wet subfloor. The dry underlayment picks up the excess moisture from the subfloor and expands. The joints of the underlayment are flashed with more moisture from the patching compound. Then a full spread water based adhesive is spread on the underlayment adding more moisture to the underlayment panel. Meanwhile, the underlayment panel is securely fastened down to the subfloor every 4 inches throughout the panel and has nowhere to expand except at the panel edges. This causes the edges of the underlayment to slightly peak upwards and show through the vinyl flooring. Acclimation of the underlayment can help reduce this effect.

Is having proper temperature and acclimation a perfect world? Yes it is! But please remember your customer, the Builder or General Contractor is expecting a perfect flooring installation. By having the correct environmental conditions and acclimating the flooring is an important step in achieving the goal of your customer.