Heritage Wood pp 165-181 | Cite as

The Influence of Low Temperature on Moisture Transport and Deformation in Wood: A Neglected Area of Research

  • Charlotta Bylund MelinEmail author
Part of the Cultural Heritage Science book series (CUHESC)


The aim of this paper is to compile knowledge on how wooden objects respond to cold, fluctuating indoor environments. Indoor environments, in less-climate controlled historic buildings, may be both cold and humid during winter as well as severely fluctuating on a daily and seasonal basis. The paper discusses both moisture transport as well as deformation of wood. It has been shown that moisture diffusion is retarded by low temperatures, due to lower vapour pressure, in comparison with higher temperatures. Some studies demonstrate that a change in moisture content and subsequent deformation is not aligned. In a fluctuating environment, wooden objects rarely, or never, reach a moisture content which is in equilibrium with the ambient air. Hence, the assumed maximum deformation will not be reached. This tendency is further enhanced by cold environments. High relative humidity, often associated with low temperatures, has a higher breaking strain than in the lower humidity ranges. It is possible that these combinations are the reason why wooden objects are in a fairly good state of preservation is less-climate controlled buildings. Focused research on these conditions are rare. Combined studies of moisture transport and deformation, in situ and in laboratories are needed to increase the knowledge on how to make the best preservation strategy for wooden objects in historic buildings and to reduce energy consumption.


Historic buildings Wood Relative humidity Low temperature Moisture content Energy efficiency 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Preservation and PhotographyNationalmuseumStockholmSweden

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