How to Straighten Warped Boards: All You Need to Know

How to Straighten Warped Boards: All You Need to Know

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When it comes to working with lumber, there’s a lot of prep work needed to ensure that you have the right planks and beams necessary for completing the job at hand. Part of that prep work includes ensuring that your lumber is in the proper condition when it is needed.

Of course, such preparations can face a serious setback if you discover warping on any of your lumber.

However, warping does not need to slow down your next project. Instead, you just need to learn the right way to fixed the problem. This guide will take you swiftly through that process so that you can straighten your boards out without further delay.

You’ll also find some tips and tricks for avoiding board warping at the end of this guide as well.

How to Fix Warped Boards

The following is one of the most reliable methods for fixing a warped wood board. This technique is very effective for removing 4 of the 5 most common types of warping, including bowing, crooking, cupping, and twisting.

However, this method may not be able to effectively eliminate a board kink if it is the result of the wood’s structure (such as a knot).

Step 1: Dry and Apply Pressure

First and foremost, you need to ensure that your warped lumber is dried out properly. After all, moisture is the single largest contributor to warping (along with improper storage). So, to start, you should use old towels or shop rags to remove any excess moisture on or around the surface of your lumber.

This can often be done by applying pressure to the exterior of the boards with the rag or towel.

After removing any surface-level moisture, you’ll want to prepare an area for a long-term moisture removal process. This area should be large and well-lit by sunlight. Also, a concrete surface is ideal because it minimizes the risk of more moisture soaking into the boards (as would be the case if you just put them on grass).

Once you’ve identified a drying spot, you’ll need to obtain enough towels and rags to cover the surface of all of the affected boards.

Lay one layer of rags or towels and place the warped boards upon them. Then, add a layer of towels/rags on top.

Finally, even space bricks, cinder blocks, or other heavy and dense objects on each board’s warp. This will help maintain pressure while they dry over the next 3-4 days.

Step 2: Prepare for Ironing

Next, you’ll need to begin the process of preparing to iron out your warped boards to their flat state. To do this, you’ll want to gather up the towels used in the last step and dry them if necessary. Once that is done, lightly moisten them once more and lay them out so that they sandwich your warped boards again.

From there, you’ll need to prepare a common clothing iron. Set this iron to its hottest setting and fill it with water, if possible. Wait for the iron to be fully heated before moving to the next step.

Step 3: Commence Ironing

Once your iron is hot, take it in hand and begin to iron your warped boards through the layer of your moistened towels. Specifically, follow the ridge of your warped boards and continue to press down firmly on them until you can feel your boards becoming mailable.

Continue ironing in this manner until the warped section is fixed.

Keep in mind that all of this ironing should be occurring on a flat surface. This ensures that your boards are being pressed back into an ideally flat state during the ironing process. Also, be alert while using your iron for this purpose. Very hot steam may rise from the iron or the towels at any time, which can cause serious burns.

Step 4: Repeat Process as Needed

After completing a pass of ironing, you may find that your boards still need some work. That is okay because this de-warping process often takes time and several passes to complete successfully. So, don’t be afraid to continue ironing until a desirable state of un-warping is achieved.

Tips & Tricks for Avoiding Wood Warping

All good woodworkers should be prepared to undertake the wood warp removal process set out in the step-by-step guide above. However, seasoned woodworkers should also be aware of the best methods for preventing wood warping in the first place.

Here are just a few tips and tricks you should keep in mind while preparing and storing lumber for your next project:

  • Know your wood: Before purchasing lumber for your project, be sure to identify what type of wood it is. In other words, you should know if your chosen lumber is pine, fir, redwood, or another species of wood. With this in mind, you should take added precautions to protect your wood from ambient moisture. Alternatively, you could instead invest in a wood type that is known to be amply moisture-resistant (such as fir or redwood).
  • Control the environment: Wood boards can warp when standing in water or while lying in a moist environment. As such, precautions should be taken to eliminate as much moisture as possible in your indoor storage space. If you must store your wood outdoors, be sure to wrap it in plastic sheeting and examine it often for signs of warping.
  • Mind the grain: Your wood’s grain can actually impact how much and how quickly it absorbs ambient moisture. Standard flat sawn grains are very susceptible to moisture infiltration, for example. By comparison, a rift sawn grain can help protect a board from moisture infiltration and warping, in turn. Even a quarter sawn gran can help ensure a board is partially protected from the kind of moisture that leads to warping.

Summary

If you’ve just discovered that some of your needed wood boards have warped, don’t fret.

If you have some time and the right household resources, you can take the warps out of those boards in due time. Just be sure to use the method outlined above. And next time, be sure to follow our tips when it comes to preventing wood warping in the first place.