Wood is very sensitive to water and changes in relative humidity. As the weather changes from season to season, so does the humidity in your home and also the moisture content of your wood furniture. This situation causes the wood to expand and contract with every change in the humidity.
The purpose of the finish is to minimize the effects of moisture changes by sealing the wood. Wood likes moderate conditions of around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of around 45 percent to 55 percent. Most homes today have air handling systems that provide a humidifier in winter to add moisture when the air is “dry” and an air conditioner in summer to remove moisture when the air is “wet”. If you do not have this optimum condition but keep the temperature and humidity steady, even if they are to high or to low, it is much better than frequent and/or sudden changes.
Furniture can deteriorate quickly if stored in a basement (high moisture), attic (high heat), garage or non -climate controlled storage units or warehouses (continual changing conditions). Excess heat and dryness can cause wood to split and/or crack. Keep your furniture away from all direct heat sources like radiators, wood stoves and air ducts.
If you need to put your furniture near a heat source, use a shield or diverter to deflect or direct heat away. Wood is most likely to check (crack) when the climate in your home suddenly changes from hot and humid to cold and dry. Frequent and sudden changes in humidity and temperature are especially bad.
Here are a few suggestions for dealing with humidity and your furniture:
(1) Furniture can best handle temperature and humidity changes when they occur gradually. Sudden changes like opening a vacation home, or putting items into non-climate controlled storage in winter directly from your warm home can be problems for your furniture.
(2) When air conditioning your home, it is best to keep the intake of outside humid air to a minimum. Don’t open the windows to “air out” the house on fair days.
(3) Add a humidifier or vaporizing unit to your heating system to help stabilize the humidity level during the cold dry months of winter.
(4) Use dehumidifiers in damp rooms and during prolonged rainy seasons to remove excess moisture from the air.
Until next time – Wood Menders