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How Heat and Steam Damages Wood Cabinetry

“If maintained properly, wood RTA cabinets can last you a lifetime.”

Why Install Wood Cabinets?

The top reasons for wood cabinet kitchen design are cost, durability, and versatility. You could buy metal cabinets, but those are expensive and make you feel like you are living in an episode of Hell’s Kitchen rather than your home. 

You could buy laminate cabinets, but those are irreparable if scratched. You could purchase thermofoil cabinets, but those need a heat shield if they are near the oven or stove. 

However, authentic, solid wood RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinets exude high-quality design for a fraction of the cost. They add a nice, soft finish to the color and texture scheme you have in your kitchen.

All wood RTA cabinets are much more easily repaired than other cabinets. All you need is a little wood stain, and off to the races. You can even repaint or restore them in a few years to shake things up. If appropriately maintained, wood RTA cabinets can last you a lifetime.

But, there are some safety precautions you have to take with all wood RTA cabinets. Namely, you need to be cautious about heat or steam. Over time, heat and steam can damage your wood RTA cabinets.

How does heat affect wood cabinets?

First, a bit of science. Everything is made up of atoms. When atoms vibrate, they produce heat. Even if something like a piece of wood looks stationary, it has some molecular movement. Let’s use water as another example.

If water achieves a temperature below 32°Fahrenheit, it would have limited molecular movement and be solid ice. Room temperature water would reach a temperature of 72°Fahrenheit and would be liquid. If the water were heated to +212°Fahrenheit, its molecules would vibrate faster than they would at room temperature and be steam.

While this transition is easy to see in water, it’s not so easy with wood. But it’s there all the same. Wood comprises molecules, some of which are water, and heat can cause the wood in your RTA cabinets to expand.

Expansion doesn’t sound bad, but they might not rotate appropriately on their hinges or even fully close if they expand enough. Just getting exposed once to heat won’t do it. Consistent fluctuations between hot and cold can lead to warping or cracking. 

How does steam affect wood cabinets?

If steam interacts with wood RTA cabinets, it can also cause expansion. But, there is another issue. When moisture is hot, it floats through the air. When it hits the cool surface of your wood cabinets, it will condense back into liquid water.

If you wipe down your wood RTA cabinets after using the stove or consistently use a vent hood, your wood RTA cabinets will last for many years.

But, if the water is not cleaned up and sits on the cabinets, it could collect mold or mildew spores floating through the air. If allowed to go untreated long enough, molds or mildew could colonize the wood RTA cabinets.

They could be sanitized, but the molds and mildew will leave a stain. This would have to be re-primed and painted to be repaired.

Tips to Keep Your Wood Cabinets Looking Beautiful

  1. Dry heat can come from your oven or stovetop. The wood RTA cabinets surrounding your oven need to be able to withstand the kind of heat it throws. The best way to ensure heat doesn’t damage your cabinets is to make sure they are sealed or painted. 
  2. Also, cover your oven or stove with a heat shield. Don’t use the “self-cleaning” function too often because this gets much hotter than usual and can warp your wood faster.
  3. Moisture leaves wood 10x faster through the ends than any other surface. Make sure you seal your end grains specifically for this reason.
  4. If you own wood RTA cabinets, use the vent hood when building liquids on the stovetop. This will keep the steam from collecting on the cabinetry. Also, don’t drape wet towels over the cabinets and dry-wipe down the cabinets every time you see condensation.
  5. Buy a dehumidifier and place it in your kitchen. It can help keep your cabinetry at a consistent humidity level. If your humidity level swings too wildly, make sure any doors or windows to the outside are closed, as this is where humidity emerges.

Buy High-Quality RTA Cabinets

We have thousands of high-quality RTA wood cabinets ready for delivery.

Here at National K&B, we have high-quality wood RTA cabinets that are made to last. We are Austin’s #1 Wholesale Cabinet Dealer and are proud of it.

We are committed to working with dealers, builders, contractors, investors, designers, and realtors–anyone in the construction industry. We have a vast selection of custom cabinetry in Austin in our 30,000 sq ft warehouse and showroom.

We can’t wait to collaborate with you.

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