Splitting and Cracking in Wood No Need to Worry

Splitting and Cracking in wood is completely normal

Splitting and Cracking in Wood

Splitting and Cracking in wood is completely normal and is only the timber displaying its natural properties.

Wood is a Natural Material

Let us try to understand why there is Splitting and Cracking in Wood.

Wood is a natural organic product that is greatly influenced by its environment, continuously striving to reach an equilibrium with its natural habitat and to do so, timber expands and contracts, it swells and shrinks, and this is the normal behaviour of wood.

This trait needs to be fully understood and expected when buying and using any timber product for your garden.

In some cases, cracks can appear enormous, however, remember this is entirely natural and once the inner core has dried, the crack will start to close up.  Similarly, as humidity and moisture increases, water will be absorbed by the capillary action of the wood, and once again, the cracks will start to close together.

Splitting and Cracking in the timber will NOT affect its structural integrity or inherent strength.

If however, you are concerned, I recommend the use of a High-Quality Timber Treatment as this will restrict the moisture both entering and leaving the wood.

Many folks go to the garden centres to purchase a new wooden shed or carport, they see a few cracks in the wood and decide that the product is damaged or faulty and reject it as it is defective.  By the laws of nature, this is NOT true; wood can not be defective!

If you see splitting and cracking in wood, it is not a ‘defective’ product, nor has the strength been impaired, it is only the timber displaying its natural properties.

Wood and Water

Wood has many remarkable characteristics, one, for example, is it is hygroscopic, which means that similar to a sponge, it absorbs water and swells in moist, and damp conditions, releasing the moisture content when the temperature rises and the air becomes drier.

My house has wooden sash type windows, and if yours is the same, you will probably agree that they open up with much more ease in summer than in winter.  Why is this?, well, it is due to the damp conditions outdoors making them swell into the frames (for me, this is not such a bad thing, since it helps to keep the cold out).

So, why does wood absorb water? If you remember that the tree trunks purpose is to carry water from the root system to the branches and onwards to the leaves: it’s pretty much like our arteries and veins, a liquid superhighway.

A freshly cut piece of fresh timber also known as “Green Timber” on average contains high amounts of hidden water. Some species of woods can absorb and retain several times their weight in water absorbed into the wood by the very same system that transported water from the roots of the tree to the leaves on the branches when the tree was a living, growing organism.

Splitting and Cracking in Timber a liquid superhighway

Click on Image to Enlarge

What are the Benefits of Dried Wood?

  • Decay organisms generally cannot thrive in wood with a low moisture content.  Many wood loving insects can only live in green timber.
  • Dried wood has higher thermal and insulation properties.
  • Impregnation Liquids and Wood Stains penetrate better when applied to dried wood.
  • Dried wood is commonly a lot stronger than “green wood”.

Seasonal Changes in Wood

Wood will always expand and contract and as we see the seasons changing, so will we see the changes in the moisture content of the air.

These changes in humidity are all that is required to affect wood.

Treatment with a high-quality product can slow this process down, adjusting how fast the retained moisture gets in and out of the wood. Wood shrinks by different amounts in different directions, there is however very little movement in the grain lengthwise. There is some shrinkage radially and a greater amount tangentially (

Wood contracts and expands at different rates in all directions, with less movement in the grains that run vertically. Some change will be observed radially and a larger amount of movement will be seen tangentially (through the growth rings).

Here’s a picture of a timber post, you will see that splits and cracks are appearing, continuing to do so at varying rates. Currently, this wood is still drying out, trying to find its equilibrium with its current environment. The core of the post is damper than the outer, however, once this has dried out to the same level as the atmosphere most of these cracks will disappear.

In Summary

Wood is a natural organic product that is greatly influenced by its environment, continuously striving to reach an equilibrium with its natural habitat and to do so, timber expands and contracts, it swells and shrinks, and this is the normal behaviour of wood. When buying any wooden product for your garden, this must be fully appreciated and expected.

Sometimes cracks can open up at an alarming rate and can often be quite large, however, keep in mind that this is completely normal and when the heart of the wood has dried out, the cracks will close together. Similarly, as and when the moisture levels increase so will the amount of moisture absorbed by the capillary action of the wood and once more, the cracking will reduce and in some cases disappear.

Splitting and cracking in the wood will not have any detrimental effect on the structural integrity or inherent strength.

If however, you are concerned, I recommend the use of a high-quality timber treatment as this will restrict the moisture both entering and leaving the wood.

Many folks go to the garden centres to purchase a new wooden shed or carport, they see a few cracks in the wood and decide that the product is damaged or faulty and reject it as it is defective.  By the laws of nature, this is NOT true; wood can not be defective!

If you see splitting and cracking in wood, it is not a ‘defective’ product, nor has the strength been impaired, it is only the timber displaying its natural properties.

Part of the beauty of wood is the texture and graining of different species of wood and in my humble opinion so are the cracks and splits we observe over time.

I love the fact that cracks appear, disappear, move, grow, and shrink. I love the fact that I am witnessing nature at its best, adapting to change.

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