How to keep your staircase (and yourself) in good condition during the 'dry' winter months!

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Not just yet but all of a sudden winter will be coming home. Days are getting shorter, temperature drops and all of us, if we haven’t already, will turn our heating on and start chopping logs for the wood burner. Back to the cosy indoors after the long hot summer. This combined with the wind changing direction from the West to the East - Northeast, and thus containing a lot less moisture as it comes from over land, can cause a very quick drop of air humidity.

 

Under such conditions and in modern, well insulated homes it is not unlikely for the air humidity inside a house to drop below 30% and in some extreme cases to 15%. This affects us human beings, with the most tangible indication being dry skin and chapped lips. But it also adversely affects, and this is not very well known, all natural materials and more specifically wood that is used or kept in a house like your staircase but also skirting boards, wooden flooring, musical instruments and furniture (both antique and new).

 

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It will cause wood to split, warp, crack and creak because the moisture that is “stored” in wood is taken out too rapidly and makes wood shrink too quickly.  

 

What do you need to do…..? A brief guideline:

 

Must do’s for all of us:

 

  • Buy a hygrometer (prices range from £15 to £50) and have it on all year round to monitor in an easy way what the air humidity is. Ideally around 50%;
  • When you see it starts dropping below 50% you will need to humidify the air with an air humidifier. Important here is that you buy one which has a capacity that is in relation to the size of the room. In other words if it is too small it is pointless;
  • Make sure the humidifier is “topped up” regularly and never runs dry;
  • Keep it clean;
  • Keep it on all the time during the winter months i.e. when you have the heating on.

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Must do’s when you have a new project (refurbishment or new-build) coming to completion in the next few months:

 

  • New-builds but also refurbishments contain a lot of water because of mortar used for the bricklaying, wet plaster finish, screed, etc. This excess water has to “leave” the house first as this will affect natural building materials like wood;
  • To do this the heating must be turned on but not full blast on the first day but rather increase the temperature gradually;
  • During that time keep the windows open so the excess moisture can escape. Failing to do this will cause excessive condensation and can lead to mould developing on walls;
  • Monitor the air humidity and make sure that it is around 50% before wooden finishes are installed;
  • Once you have moved in, please follow the "must do’s for all of us".

 

So do you need a hygrometer in your home? Well, we think everyone can benefit from having one, and since they are easy to use, widely available, and very affordable, there's really no reason not to have one. 

 

Have a great winter, keep warm but not too dry!

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