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Wood Furniture in Edmonton – Can it Withstand Our Climate?

decorative wood console table with five shelves holding accent pieces

You love the look of wood furniture. And you’re ready to invest in a beautifully made, brand-new piece. Or maybe, you’ve inherited some classic wood furniture that has been in your family for generations. There are a lot of upsides to wood furniture – it’s durable, long-lasting, and natural, but can it withstand our Edmonton climate?

We love Edmonton, of course, but the climate can be harsh – and unpredictable at times! We go from extremely hot to extremely cold in a matter of months, not to mention the fact that it can be very dry. And since humidity plays a pretty big role in the health of wood, it makes sense that you’d be a little concerned about how well wood furniture can hold up in Edmonton.

McElheran’s Furniture + Design has been in Edmonton for a while now – since 1994! We’ve been there for those bitterly cold days that make you wonder “why do I live here again?” to those gorgeous, long summer nights that remind you “oh right, this is why I live here.”

And throughout the years, we’ve always carried wood furniture, specifically made for customers just like you – that love wood and love living in Edmonton. Because you can have both!

In this article, McElheran’s owner, Jeff McElheran, will explain why Edmonton’s climate can be a bit of an issue for wood furniture. We’ll go over what you can look out for to get in front of any potential problems and how to make sure your wood is in the best environment possible. That way, it can last for years (maybe even generations) to come – even in Edmonton’s climate.

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What is Edmonton’s climate?

Edmonton’s climate is classified as a “warm-summer humid continental climate.” What that means is that we experience significant temperature differences between our four distinct seasons, with warm summers and freezing cold winters. Precipitation is well-spaced out, but we certainly have dry spells throughout the year, too.

How does Edmonton’s climate affect wood furniture?

If you spend any time in Edmonton, you can attest to the fact that it’s pretty dry. And our radical temperature swings seem almost … unreal. I mean, how is it possible that it can be +30ºC in August and within a few months go down sixty degrees to -30? It’s crazy!

And it’s the inconsistency that can be a little hard on your wood furniture.

Any wood product will expand and contract with changes in humidity and climate. Here in Edmonton, because of the dryness, your wood is more likely to shrink as the moisture is pulled out of the wood and into the air. This movement is usually not a cause for concern and will likely correct itself as proper humidity in your home is restored.

Now, as much as Edmonton can be dry, it’s more what we do inside our home that can affect our wood furniture. In the cold winter months, we jack up our heat sources, right? And our furnaces may not be enough, either – we’ll start using heat lamps, portable heaters, and fireplaces. And guess what all that added heat does to our home?

Yep. It dries it out, sucking all the moisture out of the air.

So, even if it happens to be a particularly humid, but cold day in Edmonton, heating your home can drastically change the environment to make it feel drier – potentially affecting your wood furniture.

Now, for the most part, these changes in your wood will go virtually unnoticed. There are some cases, though, where the dryness will disrupt how well your wood furniture functions. Doors on end tables may not close as easily as before, dresser drawers may get stuck as the wood warps, and in extreme cases, your wood could dry out so much that it cracks. But if your furniture is constructed properly with high-quality wood, those instances are pretty rare.

How do I monitor the humidity in my home?

Your wood is happiest (and honestly, it’s better for your comfort, too) when the humidity is at 25% to 35%. And the closer you can get to that 35% - even better!

There are a couple of ways that you can measure the humidity in your home or, at the very least, look out for indicators that your home’s moisture levels may be a little off.

Look at your wood flooring, door frames, or cupboards

If you have wood flooring, you may be able to see your floorboards spacing out. This is a sign that your home is too dry because your floorboards are contracting.

Or maybe you’ve noticed that some doors or cupboard doors in your home just don’t open or close as well as they usually do. If the humidity isn’t in that 25% - 35% range, it can affect the performance of those pieces in your home.

Get a humidity meter

It might seem like a hassle to go out and buy something extra, just to check the humidity level in your home. But you know what? If humidity is a big concern for you and you really have no idea where your home is currently sitting, get a meter. You can find them at most hardware stores for about $5.

What else can I do to ensure my wood furniture will be okay in Edmonton’s climate?

wood console table with three pictures on top and decor on the bottom tier, with an upholstered chair beside

Look into your furniture’s manufacturer

Do you know where your wood furniture is coming from and the manufacturing process? You don’t have to know everything, by any means, but asking a couple of questions can give you peace of mind about the quality of wood you’re getting.

To ensure your furniture was built to withstand our climate, you want to look for wood that’s been kiln dried. This is a process where wood is, essentially, baked for a while to take out some of the moisture. The wood is checked periodically during the baking process to get the moisture content down to 5% to 9%.

A kiln dried wood is baked in such a way that helps to control the expansion and contraction of your furniture. Your furniture will still experience some movement as the humidity in your home changes, but if it’s kiln dried, these shifts are quite minimal.

And it never hurts to ask about the reputation of a furniture manufacturer and how their furniture has faired in Edmonton’s climate in the past.

Get a humidifier

A humidifier is a quick and easy way to add some extra moisture into the air in your home. Especially in the colder Edmonton months when you’re blasting the furnace for heat, running a humidifier will cut down on the overall dryness.

You can also get a humidifier installed with your HVAC system, which helps to circulate moisture into the air of your home while your furnace runs.

Keep your heat sources at a safe distance

Portable heaters and fireplaces that give off intense, concentrated heat can wreak havoc on your wood furniture if they’re too close to one another. Too much heat could cause your table to warp and over-dry, which could lead to shrinkage or, worse, cracking.

Should I even bother with wood furniture in this climate?

100% yes!

You know your wood will expand and contract a bit, that’s a given. But honestly, unless you have a million heaters on full blast every day and no humidifier in your home, the shifts that your wood will go through are pretty negligible.

It’s about being proactive more than reactive. As long as you know your wood furniture has been manufactured well and you maintain that 25% - 35% humidity in your home, your furniture will fair just fine in this Edmonton climate.

Which is better in Edmonton’s climate - solid wood or veneered wood?

Now that you know that wood furniture is able to withstand our Edmonton climate, which kind of wood furniture is going to be the best for you? That’s your next step!

Read Solid Wood vs. Veneered Wood (Benefits, Problems, Misconceptions, Recommendations) to get a better feel for which one will work for you and your home.

And if you’re ready to invest in a beautiful new piece of wood furniture, schedule a visit to McElheran’s! We look forward to helping you find that perfect piece to complement your home and last you for years to come – regardless of the climate you’re in!