What is the most common flooring problem in Vancouver? Well, approximately 90% of the time the answer is: the moisture in your environment. Moisture, moisture, and more moisture is almost always the issue. I hate to oversimplify, but it is true, most problems with flooring are due to moisture concerns in the building the flooring was installed in. The second issue is due to improper installation, but these can go hand in hand. If the installer doesn't properly install to allow the floor to move, then problems occur. Follow manufacture install guidelines and be aware of NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) industry-standard installation instructions to avoid this issue.
Industry jargon uses two terms: MC – Moisture content, which measures the moisture within the floor itself, and the phrases RH (relative humidity)… moisture in the air of the location, specifically the room the flooring is installed in. So this is all about the floor’s moisture content vs the room’s moisture content, and what will happen as they adapt to each other. A third term, to remember for later, is acclimatization. This is key to a successful install, and I will touch on that later.
This article is to just make you aware. It isn’t advice for you to follow and buy a certain product, and it isn’t to scare you. It is to remind you that you have to know your own space, you are responsible, and if you decide to make an exotic purchase (coco palm flooring, yes it exists and yes it looks pretty cool) you need to be aware of the potential risks. Most floors that have problems in North America, are because of moisture issues. Trust us. We’ve sold to every Province and every State and have done this for over two decades. We aren’t scientific experts in moisture, but we are experienced flooring people.
At the end of the article, we will say what we recommend in Vancouver (hardwood floors, engineered hardwood flooring, laminate flooring, LVT or SPC vinyl flooring, tile floors, stone tile floors, carpet, bamboo or cork flooring).
When buying, you must consider your city, your location, the rooms your flooring product will be installed in. The temperature fluctuates in all regions, some much more extreme than others. Season to season, huge swings. Our seasons don’t go from 38C to -30C as we can see in other parts of Canada. We are lucky to live in Greater Vancouver. Our warehouse is in Richmond, and I can tell you, my wooden garage door sometimes easily closes, and in other seasons, it is a very tight fit. Why? Wood is nature, and nature moves. Guaranteed. I will say that again, this has nothing to do with the quality of the product. It’s about the type of product. If you buy nature, you buy wood products, nature moves as environments change. Always! So, it is up to you, and no one else the type of flooring you decide to buy. Just make sure you buy the right product for your environment, factoring in all 12 months of the year.
To understand the terms better, I will use an extreme example. Colorado, USA. Picture nature, mountains, beautiful log cabins. Popular in that region are solid hardwood floors. Now, follow our two key terms, MC and RH. If you try and install a tropical hardwood floor (let’s say from South East Asia) and the MC (moisture content) inside the flooring was 18% (very high, because South East Asia is very hot and very humid) and the RH in other regions (like Colorado) suggests the floor should have an MC of 5% or 6% to remain stable… then disaster is virtually guaranteed to occur. The product is from nature, and nature moves. If it dries too quickly, it will crack. Wood that has been felled is green, and a kiln is used to If the flooring is not placed in a kiln in the factory and MC is properly balanced down (ie: close to 5%) before the product ever reaches Colorado, then your floor will react. Reactions of hardwood floors that move can be: cracking, buckling, crowning, cupping… all terms that mean your flooring could be permanently destroyed. Your beautiful floor will quickly become a throw-away… and you can’t blame anyone other than the decision to buy that particular floor.
I am not a scientist and can’t say I know the exact numbers of how nature works. That said, I was taught that moisture content changes 1% in wood for every 5% change in relative humidity. I have seen on my moisture reader a swing in seasons of 20% in locations. That means the flooring could change MC as much as 4% (RH readers are available at any major building general store, Home Depot or on Amazon, for about $3). Now, this depends on the wood type, the amount of time the wood has been in the kiln, the quality of the factory staff doing the MC balancing, wood treatments, among other factors. But note, this is a formula in nature and if wood takes on moisture, it reacts accordingly.
So: Best flooring for Greater Vancouver region? Which ones do we prefer the best in this region? Hardwood floors, engineered hardwood flooring, laminate flooring, LVT or SPC vinyl flooring, tile floors, stone tile floors, carpet, bamboo or cork flooring?
How to ensure the best chance of success, and not void your flooring warranty? Acclimatize. This is required for most flooring types. It means 2 to 7 days in the room(s) that the product will be installed. The longer the better. Don’t buy laminate in the morning and expect to install that same night. The more wood the product has, the longer you should let it acclimatize. Solid hardwood should get a full week, laminate flooring can be 2 or 3 days.
Assuming you are buying high-quality flooring (poorly made flooring no matter the materials will cause you problems), but assuming top-quality flooring, then we suggest for Greater Vancouver floors: laminate flooring, SPC vinyl flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, ceramic & porcelain tile, natural or strand woven bamboo floors, Canadian grown hardwood (like maple or oak from Quebec) and carpet. These are the product types we have seen the most successful in this region.
To return to the coco palm flooring mentioned earlier. I bought some planks from the Philippines into our office and let it acclimatize. Wow! It twisted and turned like nothing I have ever seen in my life. The MC in the flooring was insanely high, to begin with, and when it adjusted, it looked like a popcorn twist. I wouldn’t recommend it without assurances the product was well balanced to the right MC levels in a kiln for the Vancouver flooring buyer.
Good luck, reach out to your regional flooring experts to help guide you in your decision.