Warped wood can be extremely challenging to repair especially when you don’t know what caused it to happen, but this is by no means the end of the road for your precious floorboards or favorite piece of furniture, if you don’t have a clue about how to fix warped wood, let us have a look at some of the ways to identify and fix warped wood and how to avoid running into this issue in the future.
Why Does Wood Warp?
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Loads of people feel that wood is a living medium, that it adds character and a feeling of coziness to a setting that materials like concrete, tiling, and laminate simply don’t. If we use this metaphor as a guide and consider what conditions cause damage and “warping” to other living things, it can help us better understand what causes wood to warp and how we can prevent it from happening. Let’s have a look at some of the conditions and forces which can cause your wood to warp.
Long Term Exposure to Heat
As human beings, we have tolerance levels to various forces daily life exposes us to. The same can be said for virtually all types of wood, and like people, different types of wood have different tolerances to different forces. We have been using wood to erect shelters since the first man picked up the first stick, and as a result, we have learned that wood does not like to be exposed to concentrated heat for long periods.
Essentially what happens to most types of wood when exposed to heat for long periods is a process called thermal expansion, this reaction is common in both planks of wood and most types of metals.
Thermal expansion is common in most organic materials, as the presence of concentrated heat causes the molecules to move erratically and ultimately expands the space between them. Considering that all wood is made out of these wood molecules when these particles move further away from one another is can result in the once dense or “whole” piece of wood trying to separate from its-self. The The result is exactly what you would expect: wood that has been warped, split, or raised.
This can result in you having to repair and/or replace the individual pieces that have been affected by heat expansion, or in server cases having to replace the entire suite of wood if the damage is excessive, however, there are ways of both preventing and repairing wood that has been affected by this sort of damage.
Prolonged Exposure to Humidity and Downpour
Water is one of the most precious resources we have at our disposal, and although it is limited and highly sort after, too much of it can be a bad thing in some instances. Similarly, to how consuming too much water can cause your belly to swell up petty quickly, wood that has been exposed to either too much water or a moderate amount of water for a prolonged period can swell up too.
Both engineered woods and naturally occurring woods have really good water protection, which is easy to understand considering that the purpose of wood fibers, when they are part of a tree, is to retain water, however, once you have repurposed these pieces of wood for construction purposes this attribute can count against you.
Wood is very susceptible to water, especially around exposed edges. However, this does not mean that wood does not retain water. Wood that has had water pass through or over it does not dry evenly. You should keep in mind that the water has caused your piece of wood to swell up considerably, if your piece of wood increased in size uniformly, it should then dry out or decrease in size in the same manner, right? Well in a perfect world yes, unfortunately, due to some parts of the wood being more exposed to the elements than others, and some parts being denser than others, the rate at which moisture evaporates from the piece of wood is uneven.
The uneven evaporation puts too much stress on wood fibers, stretching them and constricting them until they become completely warped.
Does Wood Warp in Different Ways?
Yes. Wood It is a multimillion dollar industry. Therefore, if something goes wrong, it can cause huge financial losses for companies. Working with raw materials can be tricky because you are often at the mercy of mother nature to provide quality material, this is not to say that there aren’t precautionary measures one can take to ensure the wood is of good quality and safe from water damage, but there are limits to this control. Let’s now take a look how wood can be warped.
Bow warping is arguably the most common type of warping. This occurs when the wood’s face is warped inwardly or backwards. This type of warping occurs when wood that has been fixed to a flat surface becomes warped by either prolonged exposure to heat or prolonged exposure to water. This will often leave the wood in a vaguely “c” shaped form and if nails or adhesive have been used to affix the wood, the wood will often tear away from the adhesive or tear itself through the nails.
Kink warping is relatively common compared to bow warping. This can be characterized by only a particular section of a slat of wood being warped, and typically occurs when only one part of the slat in question is exposed to excessive heat and/moisture. The warping happens toward the end of the slat, making the edge (typically a fourth of the full length of wood) “kink” at a roughly 45-degree angle.
You could find this type of warping when the wood is only partially treated with water-resistant coatings, or if tension/torsion is applied to one end of the wood while exposed to excessive heat and/or moisture.
Crooked warping is the least common type of warping. This can be described by carving the entire length of the wood’s edge. Essentially instead of the face of the wood bending toward or away from you if you were looking at it lying flat down, the face will curve either to the left or the right. This typically makes the wood useless for construction purposes unless it can be treated and will often result in the wood breaking any adhesive or other locking mechanisms affixing it to a surface.
Twist warping is one of the weirder kinds of warping you will see and can happen to most long cuts of the wood board. This kind of warping looks like it has been caused by a twisting force that was applied in opposite directions to both ends of the board. This often happens when woods are stored incorrectly and dry out unevenly, therefore it is rare to find this kind of warping on board that has already been installed or affixed.
Although this defect can be fixed by heat treatment, it is difficult to repair. It must also be closely monitored as the drying process must be controlled. Clamps must also be used to hold the wood’s shape.
This type of warping is less common than the ones we have looked at so far, particularly outside of commercial woodwork. Cup warping refers to the curving of the board’s edges toward the center of its slat. This is only possible with thin, wide-faced pieces of the board. These edges will dry faster than the center. You could use heat treatment to resolve the warping of this manner due to the boards typically still being structurally sound, but it will take some time and patience, fortunately, it is unlikely that this type of warping will occur to a board that has already been installed.
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How Do You Fix Warped Wood?
We have covered the different ways things can go wrong for you and your wood, and we have even covered how to prevent warping from happening, but what happens if your wood has already been warped? There are a few techniques you can apply depending on what the situation demands, so let’s have a look at how to fix warped wood.
The Iron Method
The iron method is a tried and tested way of getting nasty bubbles and kinks out of your board. The method is as effective as it is simple, all you need to get started is a towel, a small bucket of water, an iron, and of course you warped piece of wood. Once you have all of your tools, find a table you can work on that won’t be drastically affected by moisture or heat, then place your wood along with your bucket of water on the table. Once your towel is wet, soak it in water. Then, you need to ring it as much as possible so it stays damp. Put the towel on top of your piece and turn on your steam iron.
Once it is ready simply go over the affected area of the wood with the iron for roughly five to ten minutes until its shape is to your liking. Take off the cover and let dry.
The Sunlight Method
We would not recommend this method if unwarping your board is time-sensitive. The sunlight method is great if you don’t have iron available and is an age-old way of getting rid of kinks in wood. The towel method requires the use of some towels, a small bucket of water, a flat table resistant to water, and your warped piece of wood.
The towel method is the same as the previous one. Submerge the towels into the bucket of water and then ring them up until they are damp. Wrap your piece in towels and place it facing the table. Place it in an area that has the most amount of sunlight for the longest period, and repeat the process over three to four days, stopping when you have achieved your desired shape.
The Heat Method
The heat method is more of an overall term for heat application. The easiest and most time-saving way to fix wood with a warping problem is heat. You can heat the wood using sunlight, heal lamps or steam. Steam irons and steam irons are also options. Heating the affected section or the entire piece of wood can help make the wood a bit more pliable, therefore you can either apply weight or secured your board with clamps to achieve your desired shape.
Remember working with the heat on wood can be a trick, as you don’t want to apply too much heat, you don’t want to apply too little heat, and you want the heating process to be consistent as to avoid further warpage.
The Pressure Method
Pressure is usually a force you think of once the wood has been installed, but it can also be used to correct warpage. This method is also not recommended for those of you who have to solve your warpage problems in a timely manner, as it can take several days depending on your experi