What To Do When Solid Wood Cabinet Doors Start Warping (Solved!)

Wood absolutely loves water. And it will take any opportunity to drink up that H2O wherever and whenever it can.

This is why you always need to do such a good job sealing your wooden work pieces. Especially as that sealer is the only thing stopping wood from snatching at even the lightest mist of moisture in the air around it.

So, why are your solid wood cabinet doors warping?

If a solid wood door starts to twist and warp it is because moisture, (either due to high humidity or some nearby dripping water), is getting into the wood. The wooden material of the door sucks up all of that moisture like a sponge, causing its wood fibers to swell, expand, and twist. This is what causes warping.

There are a few actions you can take to fix warping issues. And there are even measures you can take to prevent warping from occurring in the first place.

Lets take a further look at this problem (and what we can do to stop it from happening)…

solid wood cabinet doors warping

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What Actually Causes Cabinet Doors To Warp?

The number one reason for wood warping is moisture. Now, how that moisture gets into the wood will vary.

If your door is situated near a water source such as a sink, then water can splash back onto the door.

On the other hand, if your door is situated in a bathroom, then all of that regular shower steam could be the cause.

At the end of the day, the core of the problem lies in woods ‘moisture content’ (MC). If the moisture content in wood is greater than the moisture in the air around it, then warping will start to occur.

What does ‘Moisture Content’ measure? Moisture content (MC) measures the amount of water in wood. Fresh green wood has a natural moisture content of 100% at the moment the tree is cut down. How do we work out moisture content percentage? Well, we do that by dividing the weight of water inside the tree by the weight of the tree in its estimated totally dry (0% moisture content) state. When you multiply that number by 100, you will arrive at the MC percentage.

Can A Warped Cabinet Door Ever Really Be Fixed?

Warped doors can seem like an impossible problem, but there is a possible solution.

You can try mending a warped door by doing some adjusting to its hinges. By modifying the door hinges we hope to hide the bowed distortion that is otherwise obvious in the door.

Can you always ‘unwarp’ a door? Its not always the case that fiddling around with the hinges will solve everything. In some cases the twisting is so severe, (especially when it comes to very old cabinet doors), that you will have no choice but to replace the door completely.

How Do You Straighten A Warped Wooden Door?

You can straighten a bendy door using door straightener bars (otherwise known as door tensioner’s). And the Häfele brand currently sells quality straighteners that are designed specifically to fix age-twisted doors.

So how do these items work? Well, you fix the straightener bars onto the cabinet door. They then straighten the door by applying tension to pull the wood back into place.

They can be used as a preventative measure too, as you can mount these on the cabinet door to stop it from ever twisting in the first place.

Still, there are a couple of drawbacks to this solution;

  1. Door straighteners are generally best used for stabilizing large doors.
  2. While they can take on doors made of both light and heavy materials, they aren’t recommended for hardwood doors.

Check out the latest prices for Häfele Door and Panel Straighteners over on Häfele.com

And then once you have your panel straightener set, check out Freebird Interiors tutorial below on how to put those bars to use.

How Do You Stop A Door From Warping In The First Place?

Well, sure, hindsight is always 20/20. However, at the end of the day, prevention is better than a cure.

And simply taking the steps beforehand, (to prevent your door from taking on moisture), is always the best option.

So, if you want to stop all door warping in its tracks, then you can do a few things;

  1. Let It Fully Dry

If you are crafting the cabinet doors yourself, then you should give the lumber time to dry before you start making your cabinet.

How long this takes depends on whether the wood is pressure treated or not. But, as a general rule of thumb, it can take anywhere from a few days up to a few months for wood to dry.

We go into depth about how to dry wood quickly right here on The Woodwork Place. Click here to learn ‘How To Dry Pressure Treated Wood (Quickly And Without Warping)’.

  1. Seal The Wood Completely

Use a quality polyurethane sealer. Sanding and staining the door will get you the look you are looking for, but it is that poly finish that is going to protect the wood from rot.

And whichever sealant you use, make sure you apply at least two coats. And take extra care to properly coat and seal the top and bottom ends of the door. These tend to be the areas that some woodworkers miss when sealing, (and are usually the easiest way for moisture to get into the wood).

  1. Keep Away From Water

This may not always be possible (kitchen cabinet doors are an interior design staple). Still, if you can, try to situate your cabinet door further away from the ‘splash-zone’ of nearby sinks and baths.

Will Plywood Cabinet Doors Warp? Yes, if not properly sealed, cabinet doors made from plywood can warp just like any other wood type.

Related Post: What Is The Best Type Of Plywood For A Painted Cabinet? (Solved!)

Final Thoughts

Whether you’ve built your cabinet, or your cabinet came pre-installed in your home, warping can all too easily occur as time passes and water starts to build up inside the door.

So, what should you do if those cabinet doors twist so much you simply can’t ignore them any longer?

  • Warping is usually the result of moisture getting into the wood. So check to see if a water-source nearby (dripping pipe, sink, bathroom steam), is the cause of moisture build up.
  • Double check to see if the door is properly sealed at the narrow ends (the very top and bottom ends of the door).
  • Affix door straighteners to the surface of the cabinet door. The tension they apply can help to unwarp the door.
  • And if all else fails, replace the cabinet doors with new ones.