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Home > Help Desk > How To Information > Care and Feeding of Wood Millwork

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Care and Feeding of Wood Millwork



It's often said: "There's a right & wrong way to do everything, and it's usually quicker to do it right the first time!" To this we add the Vintage corollary: “Take your time. Enjoy the work as you proceed. Life is not merely results, however grand, but mainly the thoughts, actions, and individual moments leading to a goal. Your added bonus... the joy, the satisfaction, and the memory of a job well done!"

THE RULES
1. Unfinished woodwork is vulnerable! Apply finish as soon as possible.

2. Never expose unpainted millwork to direct sunlight!

3. Always protect unpainted millwork from moist conditions. Never store on the ground, on masonry, on concrete, or where rain can blow in.

4. For exterior millwork, always use premium oil-based primer and oil-based paint. Paint all surfaces, including the ends, prior to exposure to direct sunlight.

5. Never install wood items (even if painted) in contact with the ground, masonry, or concrete.



STORING
Moisture Content - It's just natural! Wood expands or contracts with changes in the surrounding humidity. All of our woods except Cedar and Yellow Pine are properly kiln-dried to 8% - 12% moisture content. Cedar is typically air-dried and Yellow Pine is properly kiln-dried to 15% - 20% moisture content. Rapid changes in this internal moisture level (particularly rapid drying) can cause cracks and warping. Fortunately, there is an easy way to minimize such possibilities.

Avoid Rapid Drying - Since rapid drying of excess internal moisture is generally the culprit, you need to avoid excess moisture and limit the rate of drying. Both these goals are met by proper storage and by completely finishing all surfaces, including ends.

Storage Location - It's critical to protect millwork from direct sunlight prior to painting to avoid rapid drying. This is, in our opinion, the single most important factor in avoiding cracks. Even a few hours exposure to direct sunlight causes rapid drying. Store items in a dry area away from excess heat. Never store on the ground, on masonry, or on concrete and never install wood (even if painted) in direct contact with the ground, masonry, or concrete. The natural tendency of masonry or concrete to absorb moisture can create a "wicking" of moisture out of the air or the ground and into the wood.


FINISHING
Oil-based Paint - We feel only oil-based primer and oil-based paint are adequate for exterior millwork. Latex paints don't provide the thicker, harder surface protection exterior trim requires. Likewise, stains, while fine for interior work, don't adequately inhibit internal moisture changes. Multiple thin coats of paint are better than one thick coat.

End Grain - It's very important to paint the ends, as end grain absorbs moisture easily. After checking for proper fit, but before installation, completely paint (including final coat) all surfaces of each piece.

Wood Preservative - If wood preservative will be used under the primer, it's important the wood be allowed to re-dry completely (and slowly) after treatment and before priming.

Stain - Should you decide to stain your exterior millwork (we strongly recommend oil-based paint for exterior use), it's very important to use an exterior-rated clear protective top coat after staining. This will need to be reapplied frequently.

Many soft woods, particularly Pine, tend to absorb stain unevenly. Pre-stain wood conditioner (Minwax makes one) will minimize streaking and blotching. Also, for smoother final results, sanding sealer can be applied over stain. Lightly hand sand the sanding sealer before applying a final protective top coat.

The Punch Line - We can't emphasize too strongly the favor you'll do yourself (and the next generation) by properly painting and maintaining your exterior trim. Following the above guidelines should avoid most problems. However, if a small crack does develop, you can smile and say to yourself, “This is real wood... not plastic, steel, or otherwise, but the genuine, beautiful, unique (and renewable) result of one of God’s greatest creations... the tree!

Questions? Give us a call at 903-356-2158.

PS - Don’t forget to send a picture when your project is finished. We love sharing your success.

Also see Installation Recommendations.

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