How and Why Wood Moves
Regardless of its age and finish, wood is basically going to move forever. Understanding how wood moves and knowing what to expect when you have a wood countertop will make it a lot easier to safeguard your investment.
When a tree is cut down, it’s full of water. We let it dry, but it can only dry out as much as the surrounding humidity allows. At Maryland Wood Countertops, we have a regulated area where wood is dried before it’s milled down for your project. Once it’s “dried” and milled, it can be sanded and finished with your desired finish. But many people don’t realize that even when the piece is finished, it can still absorb more water.
Wood, even when finished and being used as a countertop at home, is still a living, breathing thing. Think of wood as a sponge. Sponges have pores/pockets that absorb water and humidity, making them expand. This is the same with solid wood.
Wood does not move in all directions equally. Wood is fairly stable along its longitudinal direction, parallel to its grain and moves much more tangent to the grain. Radially, water retention and excretion will cause a piece to grow and shrink. For this reason, quartersawn lumber is more stable than plain or flat sawn lumber.
Sapwood Vs. Heartwood, Grain Structure Affect Wood
Many other factors also influence the way a piece of wood is going to move, let alone an entire countertop of wood. For example, the amount of sapwood or heartwood that a particular board may have is a factor. Sapwood is more susceptible to change than heartwood, so that means that it’s going to move more often and more rapidly than the heartwood.
The grain structure, whether it’s open grained, or contains more closed-off pores, along with defects in the wood also have major contributions to how the piece of wood is going to move. Open grain may have more character, but there will be more movement.
Ever wonder why pieces of wood bow or cup? This could be because there’s a higher percentage of retained water in the center of the piece then there is on the exterior.
Variables include the location of the piece from the tree (inner pieces will move more than pieces that are located on the outside of the tree) as well as the age of the wood and the size of the piece.
A major contribution to cracks and checks in wooden countertops and tabletops is the installation process. If the piece is not allowed to move, the absorption of water throughout a piece could cause added tension to the piece, causing cracking. If the countertop is properly installed by experts to allow for this growing and shrinking, this should not be an issue**.
Have questions about wood countertops? Would you like a custom quote on a project for your home or business? Call us today! We can provide same-day quotes and can answer any questions you may have about our products and services.
** Please see our write-up on installation procedures for more information on how to install your top without risking cracks, checks and splitting.