Cabinets and Humidity: Finding the Balance

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Protecting Your Cabinets Against Summer’s Humidity

By Ryan Horvath

Cabinets and humidity have a delicate relationship. Too much humidity and your cabinets can bow and warp. Too little humidity and your cabinets can crack and split. I covered what happens in low humidity back in February. You can read that blog by clicking here. Today’s blog is covering high humidity and the effects on cabinets.

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EFFECTS OF HUMIDITY

Natural wood cabinets can expand as humidity levels rise. This happens because of the wood’s natural characteristics. As humidity levels go up, wood absorbs moisture around it. Finished cabinets, painted or stained, can slow this occurrence. But they cannot completely stop it. Unfinished cabinets will see the most dramatic changes. Since there isn’t a finish on them, these cabinets will absorb moisture faster.

You’ll notice changes against the wood grain compared to with the wood grain. You’ll also notice cracks in your finish along the joints. As the wood expands, it will pull the finish away from the joints. An example of a cracked joint line is below. The cracks are more noticeable on light colored paints. They’re harder to see on stained or dark color painted finishes. To fix a crack, all you need is a wax fill stick.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Cabinets and Humidity - Joint Line

PROTECTING YOUR INVESTMENT

Experts say that the relative humidity in your home should be around 35 to 50%. Exposure to high humidity for a long period of time can ruin your cabinets. High humidity is anything above 80%. Long exposure will lead to warping and bowing of cabinet doors and drawers. It can also damage the finish on your cabinet. It’s best to catch this issue in the early stages. Use dehumidifiers along with your air conditioning to help regulate the humidity. Once the humidity level is back to normal and maintained, you should notice a change. Keep in mind, these changes can take days or even weeks to occur.

For new cabinets, get them acclimated to the new space. If storing them in the space isn’t an option, store them in a nearby room. The relative humidity should be the same or close to it. Do not store them in the garage, basement, or any other unconditioned space. These areas are breeding grounds for moisture and humidity.

THE WRAP-UP

Check your cabinets and humidity levels any time the seasons change. Consider investing in a digital thermometer-hygrometer combo unit. The hygrometer measures the relative humidity of your house. Keep in mind that many reasons affect humidity. Proper outside drainage affects humidity. Adequate insulation and vapor barriers also play a role. Any area where humidity can be an issue, like the kitchen and bath, there should be plenty of ventilation. Follow these tips and precautions and your cabinets will last forever.

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