As we go deeper into the winter months, it is certain that it is only going to get colder, and eventually, snow will begin to fly. While many of us are cozy in our warm homes, there are thousands of contractors out there trying to finish up projects, be it measures to protect homes from the harsh elements of winter or just a project in anticipation for the warmer weather in the spring.
While it is unclear just how much snow we will get this year or just how low the temperatures will drop, one thing can be certain: wood projects should be built anticipating such extreme changes in the weather.
As the temperatures drop and the humidity goes lower, wood begins to shrink. If it is indoors, the shrinkage can be more extreme as harsh cold weather outside forces us to crank up our heaters. When warm, dry air is forced across a hardwood floor, it is certain that shrinkage will happen in the drier atmosphere indoors.
If you are installing a hardwood floor now in the winter months, you should certainly take into account shrinking and expanding. Because the wood is the narrowest it will be during these cold months, you should recognize that in the spring, when it warms up, the wood will expand. If you do not plan for such expansions, a hardwood floor is certain to buckle.
By consulting a guide, such as the Woodshop Widget, you can help determine the gaping you should use to allow for spring expansion. This guide can help determine how much movement will occur over time. But remember, it is certainly just a guide, and other factors can affect shrinkage and expansion, so all of these factors should be taken into consideration when building.
While it certainly may take a great deal of time to plan for movement in your wood project, it is essential. Now is the only time that you will be able to plan and anticipate changes in the wood. If you simply install the wood without considering shrinkage or expansion, you will certainly see damage within the first season change. Warped floors that buckle can only be fixed by taking out planks or redoing the entire floor. A cracked or split counter top will not only be unsightly, but it will certainly be costly to repair or replace.
If you are planning to build in the winter, it is your best idea to build with a plan in mind for expansion as the months become warmer. If not, you are certain to spend time and money on repairs. Consider the species used and use the guides available from J. Gibson McIlvain (see chart in upper left of this page as example) in order to have a beautiful, long-lasting project.
If you have a smartphone, the Woodshop Widget is a great tool that the experts at J. Gibson McIlvain themselves use as a movement calculator, depending on the specific species being used.
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums. Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.