How Humidity Affects the Wood in a Home: A Homeowner's Guide - Frederick Air, Inc.
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How Humidity Affects the Wood in a Home: A Homeowner’s Guide

Most homeowners think of their own comfort when they’re heating and cooling their home. They adjust the thermostat to create the perfect temperature for themselves but give little thought to how that affects the home’s structure and the items within it. The same holds true for the humidity levels within the house. Some people use a humidifier to add moisture, while others use a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air. While these machines will make the home feel more comfortable, it’s also important to consider what adding or taking away moisture will do to the home and its contents.

Humidity In The Home

During the warm summer months, heat and humidity cause the wood items in a home, from the floor to the trim, and everything in between, to absorb moisture and swell. As the temperatures cool, the humidity lowers, and the wood releases the built-up moisture and shrinks. This cycle of expansion and contraction causes wood to crack and split, effectively ruining fine furnishings and wreaking havoc on the rest of the home. Therefore, it is important to understand how humidity affects the wood so that a homeowner can better manage it to protect their investments.

Related Reading: The Pros and Cons of a Whole-House Steam Humidifier

Doors, Cabinets, and Trim

When the doors, cabinets, and trim were first installed in the home, they fit perfectly in their place. There were no gaps around the door, and it closed tightly, not allowing any air to flow through. Likewise, the cabinet doors opened and closed with ease, completely closing off the contents of the cabinet.

Over time, however, changing humidity levels have changed the shape of the doors, and the trim work around them so they don’t function as well. The simple solution to the problem is to maintain a constant humidity level, somewhere between 40% and 60%. In the winter, this may mean using a humidifier, in the summer, a dehumidifier may be in order.

Hardwood Flooring

In most homes, the majority of the woodwork is underfoot as hardwood flooring. It looks beautiful, is easy to clean, and durable enough to withstand the rigors of family life. It’s also highly susceptible to humidity changes, which can cause it to warp, crack, and gap. Left unchecked, these issues become impossible to repair, meaning the homeowner will have to replace the damaged boards or the entire floor.

Again, the key is to maintain a fairly consistent humidity level inside the home year-round. A hygrometer, or humidity measuring device monitors the humidity levels and alerts the homeowner when levels are low, indicating it’s time to add moisture to the air or to lower them when it gets too high.

Furniture and Accessories

Furniture and other home decor is a reflection of a homeowner’s good taste and high standards. As such, it’s expensive and often made from the finest woods by master craftsmen. Even if a homeowner oils it and keeps it dust free, if they’re not attending to its moisture needs, they’re wasting money. The same holds true for musical instruments such as guitars, ukuleles, violins, and other wooden instruments.

Continually changing humidity causes the wood to become dry and brittle. In the case of furniture, it may break when used, and instruments are more difficult to tune and play. The proper level of humidity, however, will preserve and protect these valuable assets for years to come.

Structural Elements

High levels of humidity inside a home for long periods of time can cause issues with the structure of the home.

A common problem is when moisture builds up within the drywall causing damage and even mold. Left unchecked, that moisture will work its way into the framework of walls, floors, and ceilings. Over time, it will cause the wood elements to rot which threatens their integrity. It will also damage insulation in an attic, which means it won’t work as well to maintain a steady, comfortable temperature inside.

Conclusion

No matter what style of home a person lives in, it’s imperative that they manage the humidity level of the indoor air. Not only will it help to maintain the woodwork, furniture, and accessories, it will also benefit the structure itself. As an added benefit, by increasing the moisture in the winter months, the home will feel warmer, meaning the homeowner can lower the heat setting and still be comfortable.

We can help you acquire the perfect humidity level for your home. Contact us today so that your home is ready for the dry winter months ahead.

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