Question regarding moisture level in wood

LuckyJoeJuly 19, 2014

I had a new wood floor (4" white oak) installed as part of a kitchen remodel back in February (Colorado), and over the months I have seen cupping in one area and bumps/unevenness appearing in a few others. I purchased a hygrometer so that I could start measuring the humidity in the house (both on the main floor and in the basement), and it seems to be reading between 33% - 53% depending on the weather. I also purchased a Ryobi pinless moisture meter so that I could take some readings from the wood on the floor. In the affected area (it's about three planks), the reading is about 11% - 14%. All the other measurements are about 7%.

Are the pinless meters generally reliable? If so, what could this mean, that only three planks, in one area, have a reading that is twice what the rest are?


This post was edited by LuckyJoe on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 18:00

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Pinless will work generally but are not as good as the pin probes.
Where are the affected planks in relation to the kitchen? Near a dishwasher, fridge? Stove?

Is the wood discolored at all? Does the cupping come and go or permanate? And how long after the install did you notice? Pics would be nice as well.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:22PM
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The wood is not discolored. The cupping started (slightly) as soon as the weather started warming up, and it has gotten noticeably worse. The install was done in February, and I first noticed it as I was sweeping/damp-mopping the floor at the beginning of June.

The first photo is looking down the affected planks toward the door (hence the light) where there is a small amount of aberration, the second shows area of the same planks that are most affected by the cupping. The affected area is right next to the stairs, in the middle of the room - away from any sinks or doors.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photos

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:20PM
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Do you have access to the subfloor from level below? You def have an issue with moisture and based off where the appliances are. Either you need to gain access to the subfloor from below. And if its a finished ceiling that means tearing a hole into. Or you tear out the affected floor.

I would suggest sanding the area but without determining the cause of the moisture its more than liking to cup again.

Is there radiant heat in the floor? Any chance you have drain pipes or water lines running thru that area?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 1:03AM
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No radiant heat in the floor. I'm not sure about the water lines/drains, since the basement is finished. Would this be a job for a plumber? I did need to have some plumbing work done (pipes moved, both for the sink and the refrigerator), and now I'm wondering if there's a leak.

Other than replacing the area with the affected planks (which I assume, may need to be done anyway), what would be the downside to taking up the floor?


    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:42PM
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What type of subfloor is under the wood flooring? Wood joists, concrete with sleepers and plywood or just plywood over concrete?
One might get a little cupping and movement with seasonal changes, especially in the first year. The second picture looks more serious than normal movement.
Was the floor prefinished or site finished?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:01PM
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The downside would be having to replace sand and finish(if site finished) the mess and whatnot.

Im not sure a plumber is necessary right this moment. You'd hate to get them out there only to have them not find a problem.

Thing is the damage is done. The wood may go back to normal once the moisture returns to normal but generally thats not the case. I would continue to monitor the moisture levels and observe the cupping. If it gets any worse or the moisture levels dont receed then i would make plans to either rip up the wood or tear a hole in the ceiling below.

I hate not being able to be able to give better advice but this is one of the draw backs of trying to help online.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:50PM
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Since there is a (finished) basement underneath, it is some type of composite material, and the installer put some black (felt?) over it before laying in the new floor. The floor was site finished. I've measured the humidity in the basement, and it ranges between 40-50%.


Your input is much appreciated.

I've had my floor installer come out and look at it. There is definitely a moisture problem, and we may have found the source - I'll fix it and watch. In the mean time, he did cut a whole in the wall right where the aberrant boards are, and discovered that there is no evidence of moisture, at least at the end of the floor. I will be checking the underside tomorrow since the ceiling in the utility area in the basement is not finished, and the affected area isn't far away from that.

This post was edited by LuckyJoe on Tue, Jul 22, 14 at 22:04

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:58PM
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You cant just tell us you think you found the source of moisture and not share it!! Haha! Cmon i curious!!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 11:35PM
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I might disagree with gregmills here. I've seen lots of floors that got wet and completely flattened out once they dried. The sooner it dries out, the more likely it is to return to it's former state. You might still end up with some cracks between the boards that would need to be puttied. A dehumidifier could help pull the moisture out more quickly.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:26AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Could be sweating uninsulated duct work.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:38AM
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YES! Please tell us if you found the source. I'm dying here!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 6:02PM
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