Correct moisture content for teak in cabinets
October 27, 2020 | 4:55 pm CDT

Q. What is the correct moisture for teak used for cabinets?

Answer. As with any wood species, the in-use moisture content in a kitchen in much of the U.S. ranges from a wintertime low of about 6.0 percent MC (30 percent RH) to a summertime high of 9 percent MC (50 percent RH).

This is true for all species. We know from experience that swelling is more tolerable than shrinkage, so we target around 6.8 percent MC. With teak, we have less movement than with most other species, so the exactness of MC is not so important, so we will find that 1 percent MC wetter is not serious.

However, teak does move when MC changes, summer to winter, so the 6.8 percent MC is still a reasonable target. In addition to the target MC, we also need to be concerned about the variability of final MC. An excellent standard deviation is 0.3, but in some, but not all, cases 0.5 SD is okay.

With teak, we should be able tolerate 0.6 SD. If you are not familiar with SD, with a target average of 6.8 percent MC, a standard deviation of 0.3 means that the deviation of MC around the average is plus or minus 0.9, or at 6.8 percent average MC, then the range will be 5.9 percent MC to 7.7 percent MC. At 1.5 SD, 5.3 percent MC to 8.3 percent MC. At 1.6 SD, 5.2 percent MC to 8.4 percent MC.

Note that an electric moisture meter with pins cannot measure below 6-1/2 percent MC, so you will need to use a pinless meter. Also, note that the sample size for measuring the MC of an incoming load of lumber requires at least 15 readings, with 30 being a more accurate sample.

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Gene Wengert

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 35 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.