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Help with wood in old house

We renovated our 194 year-old house about 10 years ago. Now lots of the old woodwork, especially the doors, look like they are coming apart. Could it be because of the paint that was used? Stumped. Would love some advice.

Re: Help with wood in old house

Coming apart? As in literally falling off the wall? Or just looking a little gapped at the joints? This winter which thankfully seems to be ending, was really extreme for a lot of people in the northern and eastern segments of the US. So a lot of woodwork joints were stressed by shrinkage and such. All you can do is tighten up the nails as best you can, and caulk and repaint. 10 years is a pretty good service interval on painted woodwork anyhow.

Re: Help with wood in old house

The panels in the doors have gaps in them, and so does the wainscoting on the walls. Keep in mind that this wood is 193 years old. Can the weather still affect it at this point? Thanks

Re: Help with wood in old house

The wood is simply old. What can you do?

193 years is very good for these wood trims. Heck, some concrete won't even last this long.

Replace them.

Re: Help with wood in old house

How wide are the gaps? Does the wood seem to be deterioating, warping or just moving. Small gaps can be caulked and touched up with paint since it sounds like your woodwork is painted. Caulk is somewhat flexible and can move a little with the wood. Even so, there are some areas of my house, which is only 40 yrs old, that have to be caulked every few years because wood shrinks and expands with weather and humidity and other factors - settling of the house etc.

Re: Help with wood in old house

Wood will continue to shrink in the winter with the low humidity and expand in the summer when it starts to swell again. This is a continuing cycle and you really have a gem with such old details still intact.

What kind of renovation was done? Structural, hvac, just some painting?

*If the wood was previously stained and you painted it, the cracks will be more noticeable with paint. Also some people consider this is a big no-no with such quality woodwork, but its your house.

*If a central air system was installed, the house may not be breathing the same as it used to. Although I would think this would cause the wood to be more stable. Adjusting the humidity during the winter may cause it to shrink less.

*If structural work was performed, the home may have settled as the new lumber shrinks and the work settles with the seasons.

As others have mentioned, just as any other part of your home, woodwork does require maintenance in securing any nails that have come loose, and dare I say it, caulk and paint to seal any cracks that have opened up. We have been through a tough winter this year so it would be noticeable now. If you wait until the spring/early summer you will likely notice things tighten up again.

Re: Help with wood in old house

If the panels in the doors have split, it is an indication that during finishing they were glued in place by the finish. Panels need to float. The same may be the problem with the wainscoting.


Re: Help with wood in old house

Did you change the HVAC system ?

Re: Help with wood in old house

During my paint contracting years in the Chicago area, movement around the wooden panels in doors was common. The old, brittle, ragged oil paint would have to be feathered out, primed and repainted. Less common was joints actually coming apart. This was most common in homes with hot water heating. It creates an extremely dry environment in deepest, darkest, coldest winter. You must artificially bring up the humidity into the 30 to 40 percent relative humidity range through use of a humidifier. This is relatively easy on a central hot air system, but a problem with hydronic systems. Most people with hydronic systems simply opt for a couple good portable units.

Old fashioned metal radiator covers used to have a galvanized metal tray that set on top of the radiator core. The metal top would have a trap door to allow the tray to be filled. It was filled with water to raise humidity and would have to be repeated filled during really cold weather.

If there is one advantage of the relatively cheap molded doors, it is that they are more stable. The "panels" don't move or crack and they have less of a tendency to bind up aginst a tight jamb than a wooden door with the changing of the seasons.

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