Painting the woodwork in your home has a transformational effect on the overall style and feel of the spaces. Taking a kitchen out of the Oak Ages and painting the cabinets a bright white or adding a pop of color creates a kitchen that feels brand new. Painting dark or dated trim around windows and doors, along with painting the baseboards, also provides a fresh feel that flows throughout the house. When these painted woodwork projects are completed, and the surface looks like new, you of course want to do whatever is necessary to keep them looking that way! We have put together a list of tips to properly maintain your painted woodwork so that it lasts for years to come.
Before delving into the things that you can do to maintain your painted woodwork, make sure that the process itself was done correctly first! If your cabinet, trim, or baseboard coatings were applied incorrectly, unfortunately nothing you do now will maintain those coatings. A major component of properly painting woodwork is surface preparation. Prepping the surfaces correctly involves the removal of any prior coatings and creating a surface that allows the new coating to adhere the way it should. If you attempted a DIY and simply painted over your cabinets or if you paid someone to complete the project and they did not do any prep work before applying coatings – you may need to look at having the coatings redone.
Once you are confident that the coatings were applied correctly, it is time to educate yourself on how to make them last! When you live in a climate that involves fluctuating temperatures, extreme heat or cold, or varying humidity levels – it is important to complete small tasks that make a big impact in maintaining your painted woodwork.
Maintain Your Home’s Humidity Level
How does Humidity Affect Wood?
Wood’s natural design allows it to absorb and lose moisture with changes in humidity of the surrounding air to balance its moisture content. When wood is exposed to air, it releases or picks up moisture until it reaches equilibrium with the humidity in the air. This is what causes wood to expand and contract…and it does not shrink or swell equally in all directions.
The type of wood also determines how much it expands or contracts. Softwoods will shrink and swell less than hardwoods as its environment’s moisture content changes. Finishes and sealants can inhibit and limit the impacts of moisture, but they are not able to completely prevent expansion and contraction.
When wood is exposed to excessive moisture via humidity in the air for a prolonged period of time, it may never return to its original size. This can lead to problems like cabinet doors that suddenly start to rub together. Maintaining the humidity levels in your home will help to prevent issues like this one.
If humidity is very low, wood will release moisture – causing it to shrink in size. In winter’s cold temperatures, cabinetry often shrinks due to the dry heat that comes from your home’s heating system. When you see gaps at the joints between cabinetry pieces, seams at the joints of painted doors, and unfinished lines around door panels – you know that the humidity is too low. Bringing the humidity back up will allow the wood to regain moisture and these gaps will typically close.
What is the Ideal Humidity Level?
Unfortunately there is no singular magic number that applies to everyone’s homes and works perfectly to prevent the wood expansion and contraction that leads to issues with painted woodwork. The ideal humidity level will also change with the temperature and climate. Typically in the North Dakota/Minnesota region, the recommended range is between 20-30%.
You will need to experiment with the ideal level of humidity for your unique home, and can monitor it via a simple humidity gauge that you can pick up at a hardware store. An excellent indicator of how successfully you are monitoring humidity in your home is by looking at the moisture on your windows. If you constantly have moisture bordering your windows, you need to lower the humidity of your home.
Keep your blinds up – at least throughout the day – to keep air circulating and prevent water from pooling on your trim.
Check your woodwork, particularly your window trim, and wipe down any water that settles on it due to humidity and temperature changes. Keeping your trim dry will prevent issues with the wood contracting and expanding.
Ultimately, there is no reason you cannot have painted woodwork in your home that will stand up to the test of time! By making sure the process is done correctly from the beginning, you are setting yourself up with a quality foundation. From there, it is simply utilizing techniques like monitoring your home’s humidity, keeping moisture off of the wood, and understanding the impact of fluctuating temperature on your woodwork to make sure that your cabinets, doors, trim, and baseboards look and function the way they should. If you are curious about what a quality custom coatings process looks like, check out the AUTHORICOAT page on our website to learn more about our proprietary process that insures proper surface preparation, quality paint blends, and a beautiful finish. If you are currently struggling with maintaining your painted woodwork, contact us! We would be happy to provide answers to your questions, and be a part of your custom coatings projects should you need to start fresh in order to obtain a product that will last.