A word of caution, never let your contractors install your new floor as soon as the cartons arrive at your home. Any new floor, whether it’s hardwood, engineered wood, or laminate, needs to sit in your house for at least 48 hours in the room it will be installed in order to acclimate or to become accustomed to a new climate or conditions.

For example, if you live in the Southwest where it’s very dry, and decided to take a vacation exploring the rain forest in Brazil where’s it’s intensely humid, it might take you a few days to get used to, or get acclimated to, your new environment.

Your new flooring is no different. Its home environment, where it was made, is likely to be quite different from where it will be installed in terms of humidity levels and temperature. And there’s also extremes the flooring is exposed to during shipping and storage in a store or warehouse.

Therefore, flooring needs a little time to get acclimated.

All wood flooring will expand and contract with humidity and temperature. Solid wood moves the same way laminate does even though has a fiberboard core. All wood, including fiberboard, is porous on a microscopic level, even though it may look quite solid. These tiny openings allow air inside the core, carrying with it whatever humidity there may be. The more humid the air, the more likelihood that planks will swell; the less humid the air, the more likelihood the planks will shrink. While this swelling or shrinking may be very slight, it could be just enough to cause otherwise snug locking systems to buckle or gap across the floor.

Acclimating allows the planks to become unified in the temperature and humidity that is identical to the conditions found in the room in which they will be installed. Once acclimated, the planks will be uniformly conditioned and the locking system will not be compromised. So you can see why acclimation is so important. In fact, skipping the proper acclimation process will void many warranties on flooring!

Prepare yourself, as well as your floor. We realize that installing a floor is exciting but sometimes inconvenient. Either you can’t wait to see the finished floor, or more realistically, you have a full to-do list to accomplish in a specified amount of time. For that reason, we encourage you pick up or schedule delivery of the cartons a week in advance of the day you set aside for installation. It may be inconvenient to have a room cleared for a week to make room for acclimating cartons of planks properly, but that beautiful floor you can’t wait to see will be well worth the wait; a buckling or gap-ridden floor will not.

We also know that you’ll find a surprising amount of discussion and differing opinions about the amount of time to allow for acclimation. Remember, because acclimation is sensitive to geography and highly individualized to temperature conditions, chances are slim that whoever you choose to listen to is using the exact same product in the exact same conditions as you. And because manufacturing methods and components vary by company, we urge you to make sure your installation professionals follow the manufacturer’s instructions and resist any urge to cut corners based on outside advice.

So how do you acclimate laminate flooring?

Place the cartons in the middle of the floor, laying each box flat, side-by-side, in the room in which you intend to install them. Keep them away from the exterior walls. Allow them to sit a full 48 hours before installation.

Some manufacturers will tell you to keep the boxes closed and stack them side by side, while others will tell you to open the boxes and stack them in a checkered pattern to allow more air flow. Just make sure you and your installation professional follow the manufacturers’ guidelines.

Often, a new floor is part of a room makeover or addition where new paint and new heating is a factor. The most critical condition is that the indoor environment be stable and constant; acclimating and installing your new floor is pointless in an open environment (i.e., with open windows or exposed, framed-in walls). What is required are the constant living conditions in terms of temperature and humidity before beginning the acclimation and installation process.

So plan ahead so you can easily allow enough time to let your floor get used to its new environment and give you a beautiful performance for many years to come.