When my wife and I bought our house, the hardwood floors were almost brand new – they’d be installed less than a year before we bought the house. Yet in several rooms, the hardwoods were “cupped” – it looked like they were swollen, and there was a rippled effect as you looked across the floor.
This was because of the humidity differential. The humidity in the crawlspace area of the house hadn’t been accounted for when the hardwood floor installers put in the new flooring, and this caused the hardwoods to buckle.
Thankfully, we did some drainage work and installed a vapor barrier underneath the house, and within a couple months we had nice, smooth hardwoods once again.
Moisture in your crawlspace can be bad news for a variety of reasons, but one of the most drastic problems can come from the humidity differential – including buckling hardwood floors.
This “differential” is the difference between the humidity in your house, and the humidity in your crawlspace. Since your air conditioning unit dries the air in your living quarters, keeping it tolerable in the hot Arkansas summers, without some form of encapsulation or vapor barrier, the crawlspace stays moist. The bottom of your hardwoods swells, while the top dries out. In the end, the hardwoods warp, swell, and buckle, and you’ve no longer got a nice, smooth finish.
It’s important to fix this before the problem becomes irreversible.
What a vapor barrier does is provide a wall against moisture seeping up from the earth and in through your crawlspace walls. It essentially helps extend your conditioned living space into the crawlspace, evening out the humidity differential and allowing your flooring to revert to the initial installed condition.
Often, you’ll find plastic laid down underneath the house, but it isn’t applied properly. If it isn’t taped securely, tucked around the corners, and cover the concrete block walls of your crawlspace as well, it’s not doing its job. We’ve run across many crawlspaces with plastic haphazardly laid all over the place: that’s not going to stop moisture from seeping up into your crawlspace.
Make sure that your vapor barrier is sealed, taped, and securely fastened so that it keeps humidity out!