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Why do so many architects select interior architectural wood doors for their projects? Wood is one of nature’s most attractive materials and provides warmth, strength and beauty in a dazzling array of patterns. To protect that natural beauty, architectural wood door manufacturers take considerable steps to ensure wood is harvested without damaging the lumber, milled to capture the desired grain and pattern and kiln-dried to an appropriate average moisture content.

To safeguard against dimensional irregularities, wood door panels should be maintained at optimal moisture conditions up to the time of delivery. Any drastic change in moisture levels can have disastrous and damaging effects on architectural wood doors, as wood is a hygroscopic material that is influenced by changes in the moisture levels within its surrounding environment. When the door is exposed to too much moisture, swelling typically will occur in the panel and is noticeable by the opening of outer edges of miter joints. If moisture levels are too dry, the wood begins to shrink and contract at the inner edges, pulling the joints away from one another.

Some manufacturers have programs in place that verify the moisture content of the panel at the time of shipment, record it in the factory paperwork and save it in the job file. Once wood panels leave the factory, it is the responsibility of the general contractor to store doors in areas where they will not be exposed to excessive levels of moisture or fluctuating temperature changes, and where they are not subject to physical damage. One of the biggest mistakes architectural door manufacturers see in the field is contractors taking shipments too early in the construction process and not storing doors in climate-controlled areas.

Contractors should follow these guidelines on the proper storage and handling of interior architectural wood doors:

1

Store doors flat on a level surface in a dry, well-ventilated building. Doors should not come in direct contact with water and should be kept at least 4 inches off the floor to avoid contact with condensation.
2

Use cross supports under door panels and place protective coverings under the bottom door and over the top. Select a covering material that will protect doors from contact with dirt, water and abuse but also will allow for air circulation under and around the stack.
3

Avoid placing doors in areas where they are exposed to direct sunlight. Certain species (e.g., cherry, mahogany, walnut and teak) are more susceptible to discoloration if exposed to sunlight or some forms of artificial light, particularly if they are not factory finished.
4

Do not store doors in buildings where humidity and temperature are not controlled. The optimal climate-controlled condition for storing wood doors is in storage facilities that can maintain 25% to 55% relative humidity and temperature of 50 degrees to 90 degrees.

Contractors also should avoid installing architectural wood doors in buildings where there is wet plaster or cement work underway. As these wet materials dry out, they raise the moisture levels inside buildings and moisture can be absorbed into the wood doors. The best time to install architectural wood doors is after a building is watertight and its HVAC systems are operating and balanced. Maintaining the correct moisture levels throughout the construction process is critical, and any dimensional changes in the wood product are the responsibility of the contractor once the doors are delivered to a site.

To learn more about the proper care and handling of architectural wood doors and to find WDMA architectural door manufacturers, be sure to visit our website and sign up for our free webinar on interior architectural wood door standards.

Steve Orlowski

Sr. Director, Standards & Technical Activities, WDMA

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