Humidity’s Impact on Solid Wood Cabinets

By Katie Van Blargan, Meridian Customer Service

Summer 2023 has been one of the hottest on record, and along with that intense heat, comes the grueling humidity. While we can be comfortable turning up the AC, the solid wood products in our home are still impacted by the humidity in the air.

Did you know that wood is hygroscopic? This means that wood is technically like a sponge. If there is water in the air, it’s being absorbed into the wood, causing expansion. This is important information to share when customers are requesting solid wood products. If customers want painted cabinets, perhaps taking a look at MDF panels, which provide a bit more leeway when it comes to expansion and contracting, should be considered.

Below is a chart that shows the percentage of moisture absorbed in various levels of humidity, and the impact customers can expect on various cabinet panels. Sharing this information with your customers allows them to make informed decisions and helps to manage their expectations.

Moisture Effects on Wood Expansion & Contraction:

Panel Size 2% Change in Moisture Content 4% Change in Moisture Content 6% Change in Moisture Content
6” Wide Center Panel 1/16” 3/32” 1/8”
12” Wide Center Panel 3/32” 3/16” 1/4”
18” Wide Center Panel 1/8” 1/4” 3/8”
24” Wide Center Panel 3/16” 11/32” 1/2”
30” Wide Center Panel 7/32” 7/16” 5/8”
36” Wide Center Panel 1/4” 1/2” 3/4”

Moisture & Relative Humidity:

Relative Humidity of the Air Moisture Content of Wood
26-31% 6%
32 – 38% 7%
39-45% 8%

For woodworkers who build cabinets, fine furniture, and other wood products a normal range of wood moisture content should be between 6% – 8%.