Why am I seeing gaps in my wood and cracks in my grout?
You finished your home renovation in Port Washington and said a final farewell to your general contractor, who was with you from the beginning! You are enjoying your beautiful forever home when you start to notice some spaces in that beautiful decorative molding, gaps in your wood flooring, or perhaps in the bathroom grout. Of course, you are going to call your contractor, but before thinking they did a lousy job, let’s look at why this can happen.
Let’s start with wood flooring and molding. Unless someone hit into it, humidity is the biggest cause of cracks or gaps. Wood tends to absorb moisture from the atmosphere where it is kept. Wood likes to maintain moisture equilibrium so as seasons and the level of moisture in the atmosphere change, wood expands and shrinks.
In spring through summer and all the way to fall on Long Island, moisture levels rise. Those hot, humid summer days make us drip, but wood tends to absorb moisture from its surrounding in order to maintain equilibrium. As a result, wood expands.Then bam, it’s winter in Manhasset! That first cold snap hits and the heat goes up inside. The humidity drops causing wood to shrink. Homeowners mayonly see cracking or spaces on molding that is higher up- the crown or applied detail on the ceiling,the first winter after it’s completed. Lower winter humidity and the fact that heat rises, makes those upper moldings more susceptible to gaps.
Another cause for gaps happens when you have a quick change in temperature from hot to cold and vice versa in quick succession. This induces strain in the wood that causes it to crack along the width. What can help? We know that a rapid change in temperature, consistently, can cause cracks/gaps to develop, and so a way to tackle this problem is to try and maintain a consistent interior temperature all the time. If work is being completed in a house that is not conditioned with heat or AC yet and there is an extreme temperature change (like 60 degrees one day down to -10 the next!) wood will react.
Temperatures in most finished homes are stable. You can do this through regulatory devices and structures such as the air conditioner, the windows, the home heater etc. Always try to maintain a moderate temperature using these devices. Your contractor will likely ask you to keep heat/AC on once wood trim or flooring is installed even if you aren’t living in the house yet.
For humidity, when transitioning from one season to another, maintain a stable climate inside using an air conditioner or a humidifier and dehumidifier. Try to maintain a humidity between 25 – 55% year round.
Grout is another substance that “settles” after new constructionand also occur overtime through normal wear and tear. Even if you don’t feel it, a house is constantly moving ever so slightly. This can be from settling, fluctuation of temperature, humidity, among other things. Over time, these small movements can start to cause cracking in grout or tiles. This is most common after new construction.
Tiles and grout are most commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms. This means they are constantly cleaned with bleach, sprays, etc. and overtime too harsh of cleaning supply can be damaging. This can lead to the deterioration of the grout causing it to become fragile and then crack and crumble.
The tile surfaces in your house are probably in use each and every day. Taking a shower, preparing food, getting spilled on and cleaned all can ultimately lead to the deterioration of the grout. Of course, this is over a long stretch of time. But it is still a factor that can lead to cracked grout.
If you just have a few isolated areas of cracked grout, it may be fixed easily. Your contractor will assess the situation and determine how best to address the issue.
Seeing cracks, gaps, and other imperfections in wood molding, flooring, or grout after a renovation is completed is a good reason to call your contractor. Humidity, temperature fluctuations, settling, and usage are typically the culprits. And remember, if a remedy is needed, it may take several weeks or longer to schedule a repair due to material and labor shortages these days!