How To Straighten Warped Wood

How To Straighten Warped Wood

It can seem as though wood will warp at the slight humidity or temperature change, and warped wood can be incredibly annoying, especially if it is in your own home.

You might want to have it straightened out but are put off by the expensive costs of fixing or replacing it, and you don’t want to pay to purchase or rent the pricey equipment that you think you will need. 

Thankfully for you, we have written this handy guide on how to straighten out any of your warped wood yourself, without any expensive tradesmen, labor, or equipment. Read on to learn all you need to know about fixing and straightening warped wood before you crack on. 

Why Does Wood Warp In The First Place? 

Wood can warp when it has been exposed to moisture and when it is exposed to heat. This warping occurs when the moisture content in wood is unevenly changed – so water and heat can affect it quite strongly.

If either is applied unevenly, and part of the board gets damper or dies faster than the other, that area will grow or shrink faster than the other area. This discrepancy causes stress on the wood and can cause it to warp or bend. 

How To Straighten Warped Wood – Method 1: Using An Iron

How To Straighten Warped Wood - Method 1 Using An Iron

You can use a simple bit of laundry kit here; all you need to do to straighten your warped wood with an iron is: 

  1. Wrap the warped wood in moistened towels. Use one or two large towels, run them under the tap, then wring them out thoroughly. Wrap them around the offending piece of wood (ensuring that the entire warped area is covered.
  1. Place the towel-covered wood onto an ironing board, or another flat, hard surface, with the raised bubble of the wood warp facing up and the concave or inward curving surface facing downwards. The wood surface on which you put the wood should be sturdy and able to withstand the high heat of your iron. 
  1. Heat your iron to its hottest temperature, then turn on the steam mode. This should take around two to five minutes. Do not use a dry iron: for this method to work, there has to be steam. 
  1. Press your iron down onto one end of the covered wood, then gradually move up the entire surface, applying an even pressure the whole way. Hold the iron on each spot for 5 to 10 seconds before moving it on.

Each spot should overlap a little bit so that you know that the whole piece has been covered. To be safe, never leave the iron unattended, as it can both the towel and the wood beneath it. 

  1. Repeat as necessary, checking the progress of the wood as you go. If the problem you have been trying to fix has been corrected, you can stop here. You can repeat the process if any warping remains until the warp is gone. 
  1. Once the warp has gone, then you can turn the iron off and unwrap the wood. Let the wood dry completely before you use it. 

How To Straighten Warped Wood – Method 2: Using Sunlight 

You can also unwarp straightened wood naturally and for free using sunlight. To use this process, you should: 

  1. Wrap the wood in moistened towels, ensuring that they are entirely covered. You can also use sheets or rags, but the material must be able to retain moisture and large enough to cover the warped wood.

To wet the towel, run them under water until they are soaked through, and then wring out as much of the excess as possible. As a quick rule of thumb, the towels should be damp when you wrap around the wood but shouldn’t be drenched.

  1. Place the covered wood in a warm area that gets plenty of bright, direct sunlight. The concave (or inwardly bent) side should face downwards.

Though it might seem like common sense, we will reiterate that this method will work best in dry, hot, sunny weather, and you are less likely to get the desired results when you try this in cloudy, damp, or cold conditions.

  1.  To get the best results, put the covered wood atop a fully rigid surface, like a driveway or deck; it won’t be as effective if the wood sits on a soft surface.
  1. Let the wood dry out until the warping vanishes (bearing in mind that you may have to use a spray bottle to re-wet the wood frequently). 

How To Straighten Warped Wood – Method 3: Using Pressure

  1. Cover the wood in paper towels that have been wet and then slightly wrung out. You should arrange them only on the warped wood’s concave (inwardly curved) side. The paper towels have to cover the entirety of the warped area.

By concentrating the moisture on this side of the wood, you are directing the moisture back to the wood’s original flat position. This is because the concave side will absorb more moisture, whereas the convex side will dry out. 

  1. After you have draped the wood in damp paper towels, you should wrap it in plastic wrap. This will slow the evaporation process, keeping the paper towels and the wood moist for a longer period. 
  1. Place the wood in a wood clamp (probably with one clamp at each end of the plank), over clamping them slightly so that the warped are begins to straighten out. You have to work carefully while tightening the clamps, as you stand the risk of splitting the plank of wood. 
  1. Leave the wood alone for one week, keeping it clamped and damp in a warm location. It is important that you keep the wood as warm as possible – ideally, temperatures should be as high as 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius) – but this heat level can be challenging to maintain.

Just keeping it in the hottest room in your house should usually do the trick. You can keep it in direct sunlight under a heat lamp or an electric blanket for six to eight hours a day so that it stays warm. 

  1. Remove the clamps and wrappings after a week, and allow the wood to dry fully. Check the progress of the warp – if it has disappeared, then you use the wood as soon as it has dried, without the need for any additional pressure. 
  1. If any warping does remain on the wood, then you should return the wood to its clamped position and let it dry out in this position for two to three weeks.

During this stage, the temperature can be cooler but still quite warm (around 77 degrees Fahrenheit/25 degrees Celsius). The room should also have quite dry air in it, as a humid room can re-warp the wood. 

Final Thoughts

Warping wood is not nearly as complicated or expensive to sort out as it seems; all you require is water, heat, and a little bit of elbow grease to straighten your piece of warped wood.

Now you can assess which of these methods sounds like the best for your item, lifestyle, and resources. Don’t forget to share your results in the comments!


Diarmuid Brock

I'm a carpenter by day and an amateur woodworker by night. I don't believe in limitations, and I love to help others. I'm here to answer your questions and make your life simpler. I craft and create with all-natural, reclaimed, and repurposed materials.

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