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What is Wood Checking?

by Gwyneth Egan 12 Aug 2022 0 Comments

Have you ever noticed a crack in a wooden table? Why do these cracks happen? 

Wood checking is a completely natural process that has to do with the physical properties of wood. 

What is wood checking?

Wood checking looks like cracks on the surface of a piece of wood. You might see this on wooden furniture, cabinetry, or flooring. Checking is a natural process that occurs as a result of wood reacting to the moisture or humidity of its environment. All wood furniture is subject to this process. 

Wood is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air. When wood is placed in a humid environment, it absorbs moisture and expands. Conversely, wood releases moisture and shrinks when it is placed in a dry environment. 

Changes in moisture levels that cause shrinking and expanding can create pressure in a piece of wood. Wood tends to hold moisture in its core, so when the outer layers dry and shrink but the centre remains the same size, this can cause wood to crack or check. 

Checking is natural and common, even indoors. As seasons change and air conditioning or heating units get cranked up, the humidity levels inside your home can change. Your wood furniture may produce checking as it reacts to the changes in humidity.

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Is Wood Checking Bad? 

Wood checking is not a problem! You do not need to be concerned about checking wood if you notice it on your furniture. Checking does not compromise the structural integrity of your furniture, nor should it be considered a flaw. Checking is merely the wood releasing pressure due to changes in humidity. Think of it as your furniture relaxing. 

At Log Furniture and More, we dry the wood used in our furniture in large, heated rooms for months to make sure that 99% of checking is completed before your product arrives at your door. We also stress test our logs before production to ensure that your wood furniture is sturdy and durable. 

Check out this video to learn more about checking and the wood drying process (make sure to turn on closed captions).

Because checking is a natural process, the markings are entirely unique, making your furniture truly one of a kind. Not only does checking add character, but it also adds to the rustic feel and aesthetic of wooden furniture. Keep in mind that just as checking can appear when humidity levels change, it can also become less noticeable with changes in the environment’s moisture. Oftentimes, checking of wood is temporary. 

While many people view the checking of wood as adding character to their furniture, some people prefer to cover it up. If you want to hide the appearance of checking, you can add caulking into the cracks. This is purely an aesthetic preference, as checking does not impact the performance or integrity of your furniture.

wood Checking on a headboard

How To Take Care of Your Furniture

While it is very difficult to prevent the natural process of checking, what you can do is take care of your wood furniture to make sure it stays in great condition. Use tablecloths, placemats, and coasters to protect the surfaces of your wooden furniture from cups and plates. To keep furniture clean, dust frequently and use a damp cloth followed by a dry cloth to wipe down surfaces. 

Final Words

Wood checking is a natural and normal process that is nothing to be worried about. To keep your furniture in good condition, take care of it by protecting it from heat and water and cleaning it regularly. 

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