The Effects of Heat on Architectural Woodwork

The Effects of Heat on Architectural Woodwork

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With proper design, care and storage the effects of temperature and humidity can be avoided, or at least lessened. Adhering to the AWI’s section 200 will guide and support you in the care and storage of your architectural woodwork.



What Are the Effects of Heat on Architectural Woodwork?

Temperature alone doesn’t affect wood greatly – but relative humidity does. All wood products contain some moisture and exchange this moisture with water vapor in the atmosphere according to the relative humidity. If humidity is high, wood absorbs more moisture and swells. If it’s low, wood releases moisture and shrinks.

According to the Woodworking Network, a 1% change in moisture content can result in a 0.5% to 1% change in the size of the wood. This moisture content change occurs when relative humidity changes by just 5%. Therefore, dimensional problems such as movement, shrinkage, expansion, and warpage are the most common effects of humidity on architectural woodwork.

These problems can be the result of faulty design and unsuitable or uncontrolled amounts of humidity during storage, installation, or use. Indeed, if controls aren’t in place for sustaining a constant, suitable relative humidity in a building, the woodwork could possible fail.


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How to Avoid the Negative Effects of Heat & Humidity on Architectural Woodwork

There are various ways to ensure that your architectural woodwork isn’t negatively impacted by heat and humidity. Correct design, construction, and installation will all contribute to the overall quality of the woodwork, but humidity control is the important aspect of preventing dimensional problems.

  • Maintain Relative Humidity
    Relative humidity must be consistently controlled; as we’ve seen, extremes in humidity or sudden, repetitive changes are likely to cause issues with the woodwork.
  • Avoid Localized Heat
    Try not to expose the woodwork to high, localized heat sources such as hot plates. Even direct sunlight will change the look of your woodwork over time.
  • Maintain the Woodwork’s Finish
    Don’t use abrasives, chemical or ammonia cleaners to clean architectural woodwork. Instead, use a damp, lint-free cloth to dust the surfaces, and a mild flax soap to remove oil or grease.
  • Avoid Direct Contact with Moisture
    When correctly finished, architectural woodwork is fairly moisture-resistant. However, if moisture accumulates on any wood product, it will eventually cause damage. Make sure you wipe surfaces clear of accumulated moisture. This will also prevent stains on the wood as a result of oxidation.

You will find a lot of handy information and guidance about the care and storage of your architectural woodwork in the AWI-200, a section recognized by QCP. This chapter covers the important features of installation, storage, site conditions, and relative humidity requirements.


Give your clients peace of mind by ensuring all your work meets the architectural woodworking standards and/or specifications. Contact us to find out more.



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