My wife and I installed about 900sf of Oak in our new home last year
and so far it is great. I think we live on the other end of the
humidity scale because here (extreme SE KS) it is pretty humid year-
round, especially summer. However, we temper with air conditioning.
The product is a pre-finished 3/4" oak, with a micro-bevel edge that
was manufactured in SW Missouri; so it never got far from its
manufacturing origin. We listened to the manufacturer and his main
advice was "acclimate, acclimate, acclimate" We did most of the home
finish during the winter and we took delivery of the flooring a full
month ahead of installation. Up until it arrived, we were letting the
house cool during the night and warming it back up to 55-60 degrees
during the day to save money. When the wood arrived we reprogrammed
the thermostat to keep the house at 65 degrees until we moved in a
couple of months later (we normally keep temp at 70 degrees during
day). The boxes sat in the house closed, two deep, and criss-crossed
for a week to allow air circulation among them. Then we opened them
and shifted the contents around a bit. We were anticipating about a
week to install, so a few days before we started we removed about 1/3
of the contents from the cartons. and blocked them off of the floor
with scrap strips. We laid roofing felt on the floor and nailed the
flooring on 8" centers (on joist, and one between) with a pneumatic
flooring nailer. As we used material, we removed similar amounts from
the cartons and spread them out, so everything had a few days of open
I kept a pretty close eye on things for the first few months expecting
to seem some activity as we headed into spring and I was disappointed
- nothing really happened. We did hear an occasional night-time
"creak" for the first few weeks after moving in. After a full year
the floor looks great. There are a very few places where the edge gap
might have opened slightly and most of these are near the wall where
we had to surface nail (versus tongue nail). We also have a very few
squeakers but again, most are close to walls. I am convinced the
acclimation process paid off.
We too looked at engineered products but I couldn't sell myself. My
concern wasn't off-gassing as much as long-term viability. A hardwood
floor should last 'forever'. Granted, you have to refinish every
15-25 years (ours has a 25 year finish warranty (yeah, right!)). Many
of the engineered products wouldn't allow more than one sanding, if
any. That puts it into the category of expensive carpet.
Regarding off-gassing and odor of our pre-finished product, we never
noticed any odor when we opened the cartons. When we built our last
house we had a hardwood installer install and finish bare material.
The smell during finish was truly eye-watering and lingered for some
time after completion. We had none of that with pre-finished.
Hope this helps. I think the main lessons are get the material into
the house early, put down a good underlay and don't skimp on nails.
If you hire someone to do it make sure the installer is qualified and
does it right. Living with the opened containers, for several weeks,
might be a little uncomfortable but it will pay off.