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Hardwood Floor Cracking And Popping: Causes and Remedies

Hardwood Floor Cracking And Popping: Causes and Remedies

Hardwood floor cracking and popping is typically a result of changing humidity, which causes hardwood to contract or expand respectively leading to strange noises.

This is quite common to happen during the night when relative humidity increases, but it can also happen at any time throughout the day.

It is crucial to know when these noises are something to be worried about, and when you should ignore them. In this article, we will go through the reasons for cracking and popping noises in hardwood and what you should do if you encounter these noises.

Humidity: The Number 1 Cause of Sound

Hardwood floors form an equilibrium with the amount of moisture in the air.

If the levels of moisture are high in the air, your floor will absorb moisture to reach an equilibrium. By absorbing this moisture the planks of wood will expand which can cause popping and creaking if there isn’t sufficient room for them to expand.

Expansion is most often the cause for popping specifically, as individual planks of wood rub against each other during expansion.

Likewise, when the humidity of the air is low, your floor will lose moisture to form an equilibrium. The side effect of losing moisture content is that the wood will contract and shrink, which again can lead to popping and creaking.

When planks of wood begin to shrink this leads to creaking, especially when you walk over the floor.

Hardwood Floor Sounds At Night

If you hear popping sounds from your hardwood floor at night then don’t worry, this is actually a lot more common than you would expect, especially in new homes.

At night time, the relative humidity of the air increases, which in simple terms causes hardwood to expand as it absorbs moisture from the air to form an equilibrium. If your floor is tightly fitted, this can cause friction between individual planks of wood which causes popping sounds.

This is very common in newly fitted floors, and if this is the case you can expect it to wear off over time as your new floor acclimatizes to the surroundings. If this is happening to an old and established floor, then read on to see the best methods for preventing sounds in your hardwood floor.

Creaking vs Crackling

Creaking is a sound that occurs when you walk over your floor or apply weight to it. This can happen in newly fitted flooring that hasn’t had time to acclimatize to the surroundings or where there is changing humidity levels in the floor.

Creaking is usually not a major issue as you can use some of the methods listed later in this article to fix it, but crackling can be more difficult to address.

Crackling is similar to creaking in that it happens as weight is applied, but it has a much more distinct glass-shattering-like sound. Crackling is a characteristic sign that the finish of your floor is not changing shape with the floor itself.

Just like the floor itself, the layer of finishing can also change shape with humidity. If the finish and floor change shape at different rates this can create a layer between the two which causes the classic crackling noise as you walk over it or apply weight.

Crackling is an indicator of a more serious problem where your floor needs to be re-finished, which can be quite an expensive endeavour.

How To Stop Your Hardwood Floor Making Sounds

So, now that we understand humidity is the main reason for hardwood floors making sounds like cracking and popping, what steps can you take to prevent this from happening?

Humidity Too High

If your floor is popping due to high humidity causing the planks to increase in size then the easiest thing to do is lower the humidity.

To do this, a dehumidifier is a great option to use. There are lots of options on the market, and you can even start with a simple plastic one to start for a couple of dollars to get some moisture out of the air.

Humidity Too Low

If your floorboards are drying out and shrinking then it is a good idea to increase the humidity, but you need to be careful.

If you introduce too much humidity you can easily cause more damage than good, so you should do this in small amounts and regulate the levels of humidity using a humidistat or other similar device – aiming to keep the moisture levels between 35% and 70%.

Increasing humidity can be done in a number of ways but the easiest of which is to use a humidifier or air-drying clothes that have been washed.

Just bear in mind that this can cause a lot of damage if you don’t get it right, so only do this if you are certain it is the right thing to do. Again, the signs for this needing to be done are usually gaps between floorboards and creaking as you walk over them.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, we hope you have a better understanding of how to stop hardwood floor cracking and popping.

If you have any other tips or tricks to share then don’t hesitate to contact us here.