Inset Cabinet Doors vs Humidity - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 01-24-2013, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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Inset Cabinet Doors vs Humidity

I'm in the planning and design phase of making my own kitchen cabinets. I would like to do face frame cabinets with inset doors and drawers. My house does not have AC, I live in New Jersey and it gets humid. Should i be concerned that the 1/8" common gap between the drawers/doors and the frame could swell shut?
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post #2 of 26 Old 01-24-2013, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Hollyfeld View Post
I'm in the planning and design phase of making my own kitchen cabinets. I would like to do face frame cabinets with inset doors and drawers. My house does not have AC, I live in New Jersey and it gets humid. Should i be concerned that the 1/8" common gap between the drawers/doors and the frame could swell shut?
What kind of wood are you planning on using? Are you going to cut the wood in the drier part of the year or the more humid?

George
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post #3 of 26 Old 01-24-2013, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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I haven't reached the point of determining what wood to use, but I would like some advice on that too. Right now, we are leaning towards painting the cabinets.

From what it looks like, I might be doing this in the Spring and summer, so lets shoot for summer and say it's going to be humid.
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post #4 of 26 Old 01-28-2013, 09:25 AM Thread Starter
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I thought this would be a legitimate question. 86 Views and no other opnions?

If i posted it in the wrong section, please let me know.

Should I not have mentioned that I might paint my cabinets?

Wrong forum to ask about kitchen cabinets?
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post #5 of 26 Old 01-28-2013, 09:51 AM
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I have almost no experience with this but I'll throw in my .02 in the hopes of keeping it alive since I have a similar project coming up. 1/8th seems like a big gap unless your talking about the total and splitting to 1/16th on either side. I don't think the swelling will be much of an issue. Traditional doors are built with a panel floating inside of a rail and stile frame. You don't mention what your door style will be but if it's this then the panel is made either with MDF if painted. Or it's a glue up of hardwood. (there are other ways too I sure). MDF shouldn't move much. And the glued up panel will have minimal movement. In either case, since it floats in the frame the swelling would be absorbed by a little play inside the frame. This however is a good reason to consider stainning a sold wood panel prior to inserting since the contracting panel might show an unfinished line. You may want to pay attention to the relative humidity and moisture in your wood relative to when you build the doors. In the dry part of winter perhaps you wan't to leave a little extra gap. In summer a little smaller. But I also resort to the idea that fine cabinet making has used solid wood and inset doors for centuries, so I presume if done right it should work.
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post #6 of 26 Old 01-28-2013, 10:15 AM
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Wood primarily moves across the width of the face with changes in humidity. If humidity changes, the wood will move. It's not as much about inset vs overlay, it's more about the construction and sizes used as well as species. Some species are prone to greater movement than others. If you have 3" wide faceframes and 4" wide stiles and rails, you face much more movement potential than 1 1/2" faceframes and 1 1/4" stiles and rails.
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post #7 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 10:10 AM Thread Starter
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I have almost no experience with this but I'll throw in my .02 in the hopes of keeping it alive since I have a similar project coming up. 1/8th seems like a big gap unless your talking about the total and splitting to 1/16th on either side. I don't think the swelling will be much of an issue. Traditional doors are built with a panel floating inside of a rail and stile frame. You don't mention what your door style will be but if it's this then the panel is made either with MDF if painted. Or it's a glue up of hardwood. (there are other ways too I sure). MDF shouldn't move much. And the glued up panel will have minimal movement. In either case, since it floats in the frame the swelling would be absorbed by a little play inside the frame. This however is a good reason to consider stainning a sold wood panel prior to inserting since the contracting panel might show an unfinished line. You may want to pay attention to the relative humidity and moisture in your wood relative to when you build the doors. In the dry part of winter perhaps you wan't to leave a little extra gap. In summer a little smaller. But I also resort to the idea that fine cabinet making has used solid wood and inset doors for centuries, so I presume if done right it should work.
Thanks! I'd like to go with the traditional doors built in a Mission style. The MDF could be used as the panel and i suppose I should paint the panel before inserting. Are cabinets typically built, installed and then painted?

The more I get into this, the more I see I need to learn!
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post #8 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 10:17 AM Thread Starter
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Wood primarily moves across the width of the face with changes in humidity. If humidity changes, the wood will move. It's not as much about inset vs overlay, it's more about the construction and sizes used as well as species. Some species are prone to greater movement than others. If you have 3" wide faceframes and 4" wide stiles and rails, you face much more movement potential than 1 1/2" faceframes and 1 1/4" stiles and rails.

Thanks for the info! I need to start considering what type of wood I am going to use. Thanks for the tips on the sizes too.
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post #9 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 12:06 PM
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Panel shrinkage / preconditioning

Holyfeld: The moisture content of the stock you are cutting is an important factor. I would suggest bringing the wood into your shop and running a dehumidifier for about a week before beginning construction. Try to reduce the moisture content to the lowest percentage your cabinets will see when installed. I'll try to attach a picture file to illustrate improper drying of stock before construction and finishing. Of course, the fact that this house is heated with Geo-thermal heat didn't help either. Convinced the owner (son) to install a humidifier on the system and keep the RH at about 50% helps immensely in controlling shrinkage in the winter. A zero outdoor temperature can easily push the RH below 10% indoors and shrinking every stick of wood in the place over time. As others have mentioned the shrinkage "With the grain" is less than "Across the grain" so the inset panels will shrink in the horizontal dimension more than in the vertical direction. Can't download pic. See Kuh's Pictures.

Last edited by Kuh Shise; 01-29-2013 at 12:09 PM.
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post #10 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 12:40 PM
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Mission style will be traditional style and rail construction around a center panel. I think it is usually stainned. But if you paint it, you can do it either way. Cabinets purchased from a professional (either stock or custom) would be painted/finished in a booth before hand and then installed. If you paint them yourself you could install and then paint. If you use MDF I certainly wouldn't worry about painting the panel before hand. MDF does not shrink/swell and is very stable.
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post #11 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 01:57 PM Thread Starter
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Holyfeld: The moisture content of the stock you are cutting is an important factor. I would suggest bringing the wood into your shop and running a dehumidifier for about a week before beginning construction. Try to reduce the moisture content to the lowest percentage your cabinets will see when installed. I'll try to attach a picture file to illustrate improper drying of stock before construction and finishing. Of course, the fact that this house is heated with Geo-thermal heat didn't help either. Convinced the owner (son) to install a humidifier on the system and keep the RH at about 50% helps immensely in controlling shrinkage in the winter. A zero outdoor temperature can easily push the RH below 10% indoors and shrinking every stick of wood in the place over time. As others have mentioned the shrinkage "With the grain" is less than "Across the grain" so the inset panels will shrink in the horizontal dimension more than in the vertical direction. Can't download pic. See Kuh's Pictures.
Kuh, thanks for the post. My workshop is going to be located in the basement and it gets really dry down there in the winter. I have a dehumidifier for the summer months and it works great. i'll have to figure out where I can stack my stock and let it acclimate proper.
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post #12 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 02:04 PM Thread Starter
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Mission style will be traditional style and rail construction around a center panel. I think it is usually stainned. But if you paint it, you can do it either way. Cabinets purchased from a professional (either stock or custom) would be painted/finished in a booth before hand and then installed. If you paint them yourself you could install and then paint. If you use MDF I certainly wouldn't worry about painting the panel before hand. MDF does not shrink/swell and is very stable.
My wife and I have been tossing ideas for the kitchen back and forth for a long time. The kitchen is small and the existing footprint cannot be changed. We pick out a color scheme with stained wood, and then we get to thinking that the wood cabinets would have to be stained to match the trim around the doors and the trim around the ceiling and then the entire kitchen seems to have too much wood in it. We pick painted cabinets and then the entire scheme turns 180 degrees.

We saw some outdoor teak furniture at a show this past weekend and i started envisioning a cabinet front that looks just like that. If i could get a teak colored wood with that smooth sanded finish in a kitchen cabinet, that would great.

The mission style has this simple look to it that we both really like.
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post #13 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 03:33 PM
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Which further proves something I've discovered... The easy part is building it... The hard part is figuring out exactly what it is you want to build!
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post #14 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 05:19 PM
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MDF should not move much. If you are going with rail and stile doors and slab MDF drawer fronts then i would recommend buying rail and stile bits for your router table from Freud as they give you step by step instructions with the router bits for making your doors. Also will answer your problem with expansion due to proper instructions. Paint the doors after you put them together. 1/8" reveals are pretty common in winter a 1/16" in summer as said by a previous post.
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post #15 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 06:48 PM
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When I am building inset cabinets the time of year usually determines the gap I use. In the summer months when it's hot and humid I use a 5/64" gap and in the winter months when it's cool and dry I use 3/32". If you plan on using poplar or a soft wood then the gap will need to be bigger. Hardwoods like maple, oak and cherry fair well with these gap sizes for me. Make sure you are using a film type finish to slow the moisture exchange of the wood. If you use only an oil finish you may have to leave a bigger gap also as it doesn't slow the transfer of moisture to the wood.

Measure Twice Cut Once -- It's a lot easier to cut more off then it is to cut MORON.
Finishing is 3 parts chemistry and 1 part VooDoo http://lrgwood.com
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post #16 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 09:42 PM
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And a 5 degree back bevel with tight gaps helps too.
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post #17 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 09:51 PM
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Still gonna bind if it swells.

Measure Twice Cut Once -- It's a lot easier to cut more off then it is to cut MORON.
Finishing is 3 parts chemistry and 1 part VooDoo http://lrgwood.com
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post #18 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 10:32 PM
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LEO, how about cedar in an out door kitchen in Alaska? 1/2" gap?
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post #19 of 26 Old 01-29-2013, 10:43 PM
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Gonna be a big gap.

But on something like that you might use a board and batten door. You nail the two outside boards to keep the width fairly stable and let the movement occur in the center of the door.

Measure Twice Cut Once -- It's a lot easier to cut more off then it is to cut MORON.
Finishing is 3 parts chemistry and 1 part VooDoo http://lrgwood.com
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post #20 of 26 Old 01-30-2013, 12:31 AM
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Inset Cabinet Doors vs Humidity-2013-01-24_17-39-49_720.jpg

I am using a Amerock full inset, half wrap, ball tipped brushed nickel hinge special ordered from some place in san diego , on this box enclosure for a flat screen tv on a fireplace in a pavilion.
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