Installing tongue and groove flooring #1: Is it OK to do it in the cold weather

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Blog entry by Ken Fitzpatrick posted 12-20-2011 06:17 AM 3843 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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While re-doing my barn/workshop I have reached the point where I will be putting in a new tongue and groove floor. The shop is not heated around the clock, only when I go out to work. It gets pretty cold here in New England so it is not uncomon to find the shop at about 20 degrees or maybe even a little less. Once the heat is turned on it warms up to 70 in about 30 minutes. My flooring is in our garage adjacent to the barn and it too isn’t heated.

My question is this. Can I install the tongue and groove flooring (6” pine) without heating the shop 24 hours a day for several weeks to acclamate the flooring. My sense is that if I install without keeping the shop and wood warm 24 hours a day I’m going to have a problem next summer when it gets humid and the floors expand with the heat.

I guess I’m looking for advice from anyone who has done this before. I don’t want to ruin all my flooring by installing it under the wrong set of circumstances.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear some thoughts on my dilema.


-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

6 comments so far

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3430 days

#1 posted 12-20-2011 12:18 PM

Hi, Ken:
I am sure that many others know a lot more than I do, but I have installed tongue and groove flooring before and you are always supposed to leave a gap around the perimeter of the room to allow for expansion. I believe that we left about 1/4” or so and then trimmed out the room to cover the gap. I would think as long as it is kept dry in there, it would be sufficient and not buckle. I am interested in what the ‘experts’ say on this, too. Good luck!


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3014 posts in 3948 days

#2 posted 12-20-2011 01:26 PM

I’ve done lots of floors, mostly oak. First what Sheila Said about the gap at the edge, then after that, I’ve never had an issue with buckling. They say let it acclimate a day or two in the room your doing it in. I do that because they say to. I’ve just never seen wood swell that much. Then again I’ve usually had medium heat/humidity levels when I’ve installed. I also don’t know how a soft wood like Pine would react differently than the hardwoods I installed. Either way, at 6” it should go fast.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View jeffbranch's profile


110 posts in 3163 days

#3 posted 12-20-2011 02:58 PM

I would go to the largest flooring retailer in your area and make contact with their installation manager. Describe your situation and seek his advise. As a rule, significant changes in temperature can cause problems. You want the flooring material to acclimate at the typical temperature of the room. Major changes from what is typical can be problematic. I work for a flooring manufacturer and I have seen amazing buckling.


View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4534 days

#4 posted 12-20-2011 07:43 PM

Thanks Sheila and Craftsman for the input. I agree about leaving the space around the perimeter of the room for expansion. The reason I wrote this was I feel like Jeff that there could be a problem with buckling and I certainly don’t want that. Thanks Jeff for suggesting to me the obvious that I just didn’t see.

-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

View canadianchips's profile


2627 posts in 3507 days

#5 posted 12-20-2011 09:08 PM

You shouldn’t have to heat the shop for several weeks to acclimatize the wood. I do recomend installing the floor with the room at an average of 50-60 degrees though. Perhaps heating the shop for 3-4 days will be minor compared to RE-DOING the entire floor. When wood warms up it expands, when humidity is higher wood expands,

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4534 days

#6 posted 12-21-2011 05:30 AM

It was my intent to turn the heat on to 65 while we were laying the floor. I just wasn’t sure about acclimatizing the wood for however long is needed and what would happen when the heat goes off after installation. I attended a class this evening at the New England School for Archtechtual Woodworking (finishing) and I asked everyone in the class their opinion. Several had layed floors before and they said that all I needed to be concerned with was that I leave a sufficient boarder around the entire room to account for expansion. They said it wasn’t so much the temperature as it is the humidity. Their opinion was go ahead and install it. When summer comes and the floor expands the boarder should take care of it. There should be no buckling.

I’ve decided to heat the shop 24 hours a day for a week and complete the job that way. I’m hoping 2 days will be enough for the wood to acclimate to the warmer temperature to install it.

Once again, thanks for all the input.


-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

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