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Our city is known for its stunning natural beauty and distinct four seasons.

But one aspect of winter in Missoula that can be surprising, especially for newcomers, is the dryness. While the snow may paint a picture of a winter wonderland, the reality is that winter in Missoula brings with it significant drops in humidity.

This dry air, while refreshing for some, can wreak havoc on your home’s interior, particularly on your precious hardwood floors.

The Science Behind Dry Air and Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb and release moisture from the surrounding air. When the air is dry, as it is during Missoula’s winters, the wood in your floors loses moisture, causing them to shrink. This shrinkage can manifest in several ways:

  • Gaps appearing between floorboards: This is the most common and noticeable consequence. As the wood contracts, small gaps develop between the individual floorboards, creating an uneven surface and potentially allowing dust and debris to accumulate underneath.
  • Cracking: In extreme cases of dryness, the wood can begin to crack, which is not only aesthetically displeasing but can also compromise the structural integrity of your floors.
  • Cupping: This occurs when the edges of the floorboards curl upwards, creating an uneven and potentially hazardous walking surface.

How Humidifiers Can Help

A humidifier combats dry air by adding moisture back into the atmosphere. By maintaining a consistent level of humidity (ideally between 30% and 50%) in your home, you can help prevent the negative effects mentioned above and keep your hardwood floors looking their best:

  • Reduced gapping and cracking: With adequate moisture content, the wood in your floors is less likely to shrink and contract, minimizing the risk of gaps and cracks appearing.
  • Preserved appearance: Maintaining proper humidity levels helps your floors retain their natural luster and beauty, preventing them from becoming dull or brittle.
  • Improved structural integrity: By preventing excessive shrinkage and cracking, humidifiers can help ensure the long-term structural integrity of your hardwood floors.

Choosing and Using a Humidifier

When selecting a humidifier for your Missoula home, consider the size of your space and choose a model with the capacity to effectively cover the area. It’s also important to choose a humidifier that is easy to maintain and clean, as regular cleaning helps prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Remember, using a humidifier is not a substitute for proper ventilation in your home. Proper airflow is crucial to prevent moisture buildup and potential mold problems.

By understanding the impact of dry winter air on your hardwood floors and taking proactive measures like using a humidifier, you can ensure that your beautiful floors stay beautiful for years to come.

Choosing the Right Hardwood Floors for Your Home

There are some hardwood floors composed of engineered planks that are more adaptable to environmental changes.