One of the things we enjoy in the Midwest is the change of the seasons. Expansion and contraction of wood is expected and normal during changes in the weather. Wood is a natural material that seeks to be in balance with its surroundings. Cabinetry, which is kiln-dried, will take on or give off moisture with changes in the humidity.
Natural expansion and contraction of cabinet doors and drawer fronts may open up joint lines. This can be prominent especially in painted finishes where unfinished portions of the wood can be exposed. When wood swells, miter joints open up from the outside. The opposite is true for when the wood shrinks, opening up on the inside corner.
Solid Wood Door Center Panels
Low humidity levels will affect solid wood door center panels as well. When the center panel shrinks, an unfinished line may become visible along the edge.
Keep in mind that each species and piece of wood and has its own unique traits. To learn more about wood characteristics, please visit Merillat Cabinetry’s website at http://www.merillat.com/our-products/product-types/cabinetry/about-wood-cabinets/wood-characteristics/index.html
Temperature and Humidity Levels
In order to prevent excessive expansion or contraction in your wood cabinetry, it is recommended to maintain a controlled environment in any room that it is installed. Keep the temperature within 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels within 30 to 50%. This will help sustain the natural moisture level in your cabinetry.
You can also look for signs of high or low humidity without a device for measurement. Fogging and condensation accumulating on windows or moisture and mold occurring on walls and ceilings indicate too much humidity. Increased instances of static electricity or dried and cracking millwork and paint indicate low humidity levels.
Increasing Humidity Levels
Adding moisture to the air can be as simple as placing a container of water on top of, or next to, a radiator. Leaving wet towels and clothes out to dry are other ways to introduce moisture into the air through evaporation.
Portable humidifiers are easy to use and are available in a variety of styles and prices. Cool mist and warm mist systems are similar to the evaporation method. Control and measurement of relative humidity will be necessary.
For the most control and performance, a forced air humidifier can be added to a furnace. Water vapor is distributed directly into the heated air and circulated throughout the house via the furnace air duct system.
Decreasing Humidity Levels
Make use of a dehumidifier when necessary – particularly in basements and during the summer months. They will act as an excellent source of ventilation if your basement does not have windows that can be opened. Some dehumidifiers are also designed with HEPA and carbon filters which will help with eliminating odors and keep your basement dust free.
Reduce the amount of water entered into the air through steam while cooking by running exhaust fans and using covered pots. While bathing, open a window to allow fresh, drier air to enter the bathroom. If your bathroom has an exhaust fan, running it during showers or after a bath will pull the moisture out of the air.
Running an air conditioning unit during the summer will introduce cooler and drier air into your home. It will also provide your family and pets with comfort, health, and safety and meet the environmental requirements of electronics and appliances.
These tips will help minimize the expansion and contraction of your cabinetry and other wood furnishings and accessories in your home. Enjoy the seasonal changes, and add these few tasks to your home maintenance list.
KSI Kitchen & Bath is a leading home design and remodeling firm specializing in kitchen and bath design.