Hardwood flooring issues: what is stability?
Colour and texture are important considerations for those thinking of installing a hardwood floor, but they are primarily issues of taste and style. The two most important structural considerations that homeowners usually need to keep in mind are hardness and stability. Hardness is the capacity of a wood surface to withstand impacts and shocks without suffering damage such as dents, dings and scratches. However, what, precisely, is stability?
Stability refers to the ability of a wood to resist dimensional changes over time. These dimensional changes generally derive from two related causes. As wood ages, it tends to become drier. Most hardwood sold as flooring will already have been thoroughly dried, but even so, some species continue to dry for a long time and can experience slight shrinking as a result.
Conversely, if a strip of cut wood is exposed to moisture or humidity, it can absorb water. This will tend to make the wood swell slightly, leading to an enlargement of dimensions such as width and depth. This is more of a problem in humid climates or in places that receive significant levels of rainfall. The same floor in Arizona, located in the dry Southwest of the United States, will behave differently if transported to the rainy climes of Northern Scotland.
Among commonly installed flooring species, Red Oak has the highest stability rating while woods such as mahogany and wenge possess significantly less stability.
Homeowners should consider both stability and hardness when they make a flooring decision. Hardness can influence how well a floor stands up to floorboard sanding, a necessary process that floors should periodically undergo.