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Thread: how common is wood movement really?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Topeka KS

    how common is wood movement really?

    ok as a precursor to my question please be aware im very new to all this!

    anyways i see lots of talk about wood movement on certain furniture pieces because of weather and humidity changes yet personally ive never encountered or noticed this before on furniture. we have quite a bit of wooden things in our house and ive never noticed anything change size or warp or anything like that. the only thing i can recall noticing is our front door sticks pretty bad during the summer but opens fine in the winter. its an original to the house (1930s) solid wood door

    anyways i guess im just curious how often this really happens or is it more of something to be aware of possibly happening when designing/building a piece of furniture or whatever?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Sacramento, CA
    Couple things:

    Wood movement is 100% - if it's wood, it moves. To what degree depends on a few things - width, thickness, humidity differential (what it has vs. what it's surrounded by), and sometimes temperature. Temperature's usually not a problem, but humidity certainly can be. The width of your stock certainly plays a very large role in how much movement can happen. Generally, I expect as much as 1/16" for every 12" of width. It also depends on species - some will swell up more than others. The Dept. of Forrestry (i think) has a bunch of information on this. Google "Wood as a structural material". That will give you charts and tables on just about every aspect of wood.

    The other thing is - there may be a very good reason you haven't noticed anything with the wooden things in your house is that they were built with movement in mind. Properly done, nobody should ever know. The exception to this is in some styles where a breadboard end or some other cross-grain situation exists. Another possible explanation is that all the parts that COULD suffer from movement are made of plywood or some other veneer or movement-neutral material. Plywood and veneers over MDF and such are very stable and don't generally move much - which could also explain why you haven't witnessed any appreciable movement.
    Jason Beam
    Sacramento, CA

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    The Heart of Dixie
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gager View Post
    .... i see lots of talk about wood movement on certain furniture pieces because of weather and humidity changes yet personally ive never encountered or noticed this before on furniture. ...
    Thats because your furniture is designed so you don't have problems.
    God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
    the good fortune to run into the ones I do,
    and the eyesight to tell the difference.

    Kudzu Craft Lightweight Skin on frame Kayaks.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    Jeff's pretty well got that one nailed. You don't have problems because either your furniture is solid wood and well designed or is composites and doesn't care. I think we've all come across at least one piece of furniture where things have gone wrong; warp, split, loose-joint, etc.

    I am "restoring" Grandma's dresser for LOML. I am not going to repair the warped top as the failure was due to poor design. The whole piece, although old, is poorly designed and was not a good piece even when new. Just because they didn't have K-mart back then doesn't mean everything was well built.

    I live in SoCal and except for the extremes of beach, low desert and high mountains, the differences in humidity around here are pretty mild. I still design for movement as I would like to think that after I'm gone, a great grandchild might still have one of my pieces in her home in Vermont. ;-)
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Waterford, MI
    You know those sounds that often get desmissed as the house settling? That's your house going through it's annual expansion/contraction. The really loud ones are where 2 different materials are fighting against each other and finally let go with a loud pop.
    Link to my ongoing ClearVue DC Install on CV's site: http://www.gallery2.clearvuecyclones...s-Mini-CV1400/

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Monroe, MI
    This is a 24x24 table top I built a few years ago from red oak. The breadboard ends were perfectly flush when I finished it. Every winter it looks like this. In the spring when it is wet but we aren't running the heat much, it pretty much goes back to flush, but never completely. In the summer it varies depending on how much we run the AC. For reference, the dowel that pins the breadboard end on is 1/4". The breadboard is sticking out at the back by the same amount right now. The hidden part of the underside of this top is not finished, which probably contributes to the movement.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Shorewood, WI
    Ancient Egyptians cut large granite blocks by drilling rows of holes, pounding in wooden stakes, and then pouring on water to swell the wood. Furniture designed with movement in mind is fine. If improperly designed, it can behave more like the rock.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    This past spring i put 600 s.f. of 3/4" thick tongue and groove white oak flooring in my house. It was custom milled (narrow plank) and dried to 8-10% moisture content and acclimated properly before i installed it. I put it in nice and tight - no gaps anywhere. It was sanded and finished in place. All was perfect until late December, when the St. Louis summer humidity was long gone. As the floor adjusted to the lack of humidity, it shrank and popped throughout the day for several weeks. Now it's done, and i've got gaps about a hair width's thickness scattered across the floor about every 4th or 5th course. I loved it when it was still "perfect", and one of the reasons i went with the narrow plank flooring is because of it's greater stability over wide expanses - but i knew this would happen. This summer, it will swell tight again.
    It looks just fine - no one really notices the tiny gaps. Hopefully, it will carry the house through another hundred years.
    All materials move - even concrete. I have to constantly be aware of this as part of my job as an architect. I'd run into trouble from all corners if i ignored that. If you design things to accomodate the movement, you'll be much better off.
    Paul Hubbman

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Salt Spring Island, BC Canada
    When my wood furniture needs to move I use Atlas movers.

    Not much else to say as most everything has been said.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Sicamous (sic-a-moose) British Columbia Canada
    Think is should be pointed out that quarter sawn and rift sawn lumber has more stability then flat sawn.

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