Wood is a natural “hygroscopic” material, meaning it absorbs and exudes water in order to balance itself out to its environment. Think of wood like a sponge. If there is moisture in the air, the wood will absorb it and expand. If the air is dry, then the wood loses its water and shrinks. All solid wood products, including your live edge table, will do this as the seasons change from winter (dry) to summer (humid).
To help keep movement to a minimum, its best to keep your table in a climate controlled space to help maintain a consistent humidity level. Hovering around 50-55% is recommended. It’s common to see small cracks form, especially in the winter as the wood is drying out and shrinking. As humidity levels rise again in the summer, the wood will expand and the cracks will close up. This is a totally normal process known as seasonal wood movement and cannot be prevented. Did you know that from summer to winter, your table can expand and contract in width up to a quarter inch!
This is one of the reasons why we don’t offer river tables. Wood moves, resin doesn’t. You risk the chance of cracks and separation.
We choose to produce most of our live edge tables from more than one piece of wood vs single width live edge slabs as tables created from multiple pieces of wood are better regulated on their movement and are more dimensionally stable. Proper solid wood building techniques will place boards with grains running in opposite directions side by side so they can work against each other and minimize cupping and warping.
To limit wood movement, it is important that wood is properly dried and acclimated. There are lots of companies out there that claim their wood is kilned dried but in reality, it’s not properly dried throughout. Using our own commercial kiln, we kiln dry all of our slabs to 6-8% moisture content which is suggested for our part of Canada. After kiln drying, all of our wood is stocked away and allowed to equalize within our showroom, woodshop and warehouse. We were fortunate to work with some leading wood scientists from UofT when starting our company who assisted us in creating proper drying schedules for some of the unique species that we work with.
Unfortunately many of the imported live edge woods have given wood slab tables a bad reputation for cracking and splitting. The reason for this is that they are not dried for our climate but rather a tropical climate. Once they come over, they continue to dry and can suffer some major defects such as large cracks, cupping and even splitting in half! This is not true in all cases but tend to be more common of products sold at big box stores or chains. This is often reflected in the cost.
Don’t be afraid to ask them how their wood is dried and to what moisture content as this could be the difference between your table lasting forever or suffering major defects within the first year.