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The Effect of Swamp Coolers on Hardwood Floors

Swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers, are an alternative form of air conditioning that uses the evaporation of water to cool your home or business. The units add humidity to the environment instead of removing it like a refrigerated air conditioner does. Swamp coolers are commonly used in dry areas like the desert. The units do have an effect on your home’s hardwood floors though.

Hardwood Planks

Swamp coolers can damage your home's hardwood flooring as well as aid in the development of mold.

A swamp cooler can add too much humidity and moisture to your home’s hardwood floors, resulting in the flooring planks swelling and changing in shape. This damage is permanent, and it might not affect the entire floor. High humidity and moisture can also cause your hardwood flooring to crack and separations to appear at joint locations — where the flooring meets the baseboards and where one or more pieces of flooring are connected.

Subflooring

Too much humidity and moisture from a swamp cooler also can damage the subflooring under your hardwood floor. Moisture can rot the wood under the planks, cause mold to form on the subflooring and cause the subflooring to swell and push the hardwood planks out of place.

Preventing Damage

If your home is being built or remodeled, you can stop a swamp cooler from destroying your home’s hardwood flooring by installing a moisture barrier between the subfloor and hardwood flooring. The moisture barrier controls the amount of moisture that collects between the flooring layers. If your home is not a new construction or remodel, apply a polyurethane finish to your home’s hardwood flooring to delay the effect of humidity on the floor’s planks. Also, install a thermometer that includes a humidity reading so that you can monitor the relative humidity in your home and shut off your swamp cooler if it becomes too humid.

Mold

Swamp coolers put moisture into your home’s air, which increases the possibility of mold developing. Periodically check your home’s walls and flooring, especially around the edges of the swamp cooler’s vents, for mold, and remove any mold immediately. Left unchecked, mold can cause respiratory problems and can damage your home’s furnishings, walls and hardwood flooring.