Humidity questions

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Hey everyone, I recently moved from South Florida to Charlotte and am building a house with a loft that will serve as a music room. In FL, the humidity stayed relatively high enough that the AC in the house kept everything 40-60% humidity and I kept all my instruments in their cases. I know the climate here in NC is different. It’s important to me that I take care of all my instruments, so I’d appreciate feedback in the following regarding humidity.

1. How risky is it to hang ukuleles on the wall? How much more protection does keeping them Inside the case give each instrument humidity-wise? I know I need to check in te location of the vents as well as sunlight, but was wondering if people intentionally keep everything inside the case.

2. Is it better to have individual humidifiers in each instrument or better to try to keep the entire room humidified at a certain rate (or both).

3. Any other tips or insight from people living in the same area?
 

rhiggie

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I also line in NC (Durham) and for me, in the winter, I keep all my instruments in a closed spare bedroom with a room humidifier running set on 50%. With forced air hear here in the winter I've seen humidity in my house (also new) drop into the 30's. I also have 2 hanging cases down in my main living area by Acoustic Remedy, with my "easy grab ukes" that are sealed and have 2 humidity control packets in each one. The humidity in them stays 50-55% year around and I trade out the packets twice a year and rehydrate the oldest sets. Of course you can hang a Blackbird out in the open as well (I'll have a Clara to sell shortly). Great quality with no humidity/temp concerns. Welcome to NC, wish you were closer to Raleigh/Durham, we have some pretty active ukulele groups.
 

Peter Frary

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I think the risk differs according to individual instruments. A luthier made instrument with French polish has little sealing and will absorb moisture or dry out with humidity changes. This type of instrument needs to be protected if you want it to survive. On the other hand, an instrument with a polyester based finished is almost bulletproof, especially if sealed on interior surfaces. Some even have a sealing on the fingerboard, albeit it tends to wear off with use. My gig and teaching instruments are well sealed and can be played on the beach in high humidity and take splashes of beer and other fluids without flinching.
 

rustydusty

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I get that people want to take the best care of their instruments as they can, but I don't know how necessary the humidifiers are. I lived aboard boats for 26 years, kept guitars and dulcimer on the boat in all conditions, and have never had a problem. Some of my guitars I've had for over 30 years, and served time busking from Cape Cod to Key West and are still in great shape. Now I live in a house on the water and some of these are on the wall year round and I've never seen any changes. On the other hand, none of them get stored in the attic or out in my shop...
 

ripock

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there's no need for guessing. Just get a hygrometer and if your environment is too dry, humidify. Otherwise don't. I will add that I got lazy last year and was keeping one of my ukes out and my 14th fret sprouted and that B note on the A string was muted. I had to have it repaired. So it can happen.
 

Bluesy

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Another North Carolinian here. In winter, gas heat will suck all of the humidity out of our home. I use Boveda packs to keep my solid wood ukes at proper humidity levels and monitor them in the winter months with Inkbird Hygrometers. These are small enough to tuck into a case.

Inkbird Hygrometer

We have a whole house humidifier system, but I find that the ukes still need extra humidity in the winter to stay between 45-55% (where they sound happiest). During the summer, I've seen the humidity levels in the house skyrocket to almost 70%, which I want to avoid. The Boveda packs have been a stress free way to keep the instruments in equilibrium.

Bluesy.
 

badhabits

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Outside humidity is only part of the picture…if you’re using HVAC it could be very different inside your home
 

donboody

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Ah yes, the annual season of humidity anxiety. Just last night I was getting nervous about humidity. Good luck everyone.
 

rustydusty

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I'd be interested to how many people have instruments that have been damaged by humidity fluctuations...
 

Kenn2018

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I'd be interested to how many people have instruments that have been damaged by humidity fluctuations...
I loaned a 2013 Pono ETSH-PCC Cedar/Ebony tenor to a friend to decide if he wanted to buy it. He kept it through a long Wisconsin winter of sub zero temps, in his music room which he kept at 50° F. Unfortunately, his room humidifier broke and so the room was bone dry for almost two months. When he returned it, he said to check it over, one of his guitars had developed a crack in it's back. I did so, no cracks. I placed an Oasis humidifier inside the Pono and left it in it's case for 2 weeks. When I took it out of the case, a 2" crack at the seam between the two halves of the back, had started at the heel. I took it to be repaired and they did a great job. So, played the Pono a few times and got distracted by a new acquisition. About a month later I took out the Pono, and the entire back seam and the seam between the body halves had opened up. The only thing holding it together was the interior back brace & butt block! Yet the repaired 2" was still holding tight.

I didn't want to put any more money into the tenor. I gave it away. It still played quite well!

While talking to the Martin repair tech later, I asked him what he thought. He felt that the sudden high humidity exposure from the Oasis humidifier was too much and the wood swelled too quickly. Said I should always rehydrate from extreme changes slowly and gradually.

Other than some fret sprout, that's the only damage I can directly attribute to humidity changes.
 

Kenn2018

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Hey everyone, I recently moved from South Florida to Charlotte and am building a house with a loft that will serve as a music room. In FL, the humidity stayed relatively high enough that the AC in the house kept everything 40-60% humidity and I kept all my instruments in their cases. I know the climate here in NC is different. It’s important to me that I take care of all my instruments, so I’d appreciate feedback in the following regarding humidity.

1. How risky is it to hang ukuleles on the wall? How much more protection does keeping them Inside the case give each instrument humidity-wise? I know I need to check in te location of the vents as well as sunlight, but was wondering if people intentionally keep everything inside the case.

2. Is it better to have individual humidifiers in each instrument or better to try to keep the entire room humidified at a certain rate (or both).

3. Any other tips or insight from people living in the same area?
Your instruments do not care how the humidity is delivered. In-case humidifier. Room humidifier. Whole house humidifier. Outside weather. It's all the same. As long as the humidity falls within the range you want, and is consistent, all is good. (Keeping the instruments away from air vents.)

Most of the humidity is absorbed and released by the unfinished woods in your uke. The interior of the body is rarely finished. Usually these woods are more porous and have a higher rate of absorption than the other unfinished wood areas such as the fretboard or the bridge.

Some humidity is absorbed through the finish. With Poly being the least absorbent and an oil finish as one of the most.

I have room humidifiers and in-case Boveda Humidpaks. The humidity, even during the ultra dry winters, stays pretty consistent at 50% RH ± 4%.

Ukulele Magazine had a good article about humidification a few months ago.
 

donboody

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If my uke is laminate can I basically ignore humidity advice or no. I put my ukes in cases w humidifiers every year, but id prefer to keep them on the wall. Room im in stays at 40-50% humidity.
 

rafter

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If my uke is laminate can I basically ignore humidity advice or no. I put my ukes in cases w humidifiers every year, but id prefer to keep them on the wall. Room im in stays at 40-50% humidity.

Sort of. Laminates are less susceptible to humidity changes because of the glue holding the wood together. However, it's still wood, and can still crack. And there are problems unrelated to splits in the wood. Like the neck and fretboard becoming affected by dryness. It wouldn't matter if the body was laminate or not. I have laminates that I keep out in drier months and put away in favor of solid bodies in more temperate months.

As Kenn2018 pointed out, the greater risk is quick and drastic changes in humidity. There are upper and lower limits for how well an instrument can handle humidity, but I think you usually have to be more wary about the changes.
 

nunsandi

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I keep all my ukes in a room with three hygrometers in various places. About 10 are out of cases, on the wall, and on shelves. The humidity is kept at 50% +/- about 3% almost all year round. This time - between heating and cooling it sometimes gets to +/- 5% at its worst. For me, it's worth the added humidifier and dehumidifier for the HVAC to not have to do anything else to keep the ukes happy.

rafter, HMS in the past would send out a slip of paper with its all-wood ukes reading that one should keep their uke between 35% and 65% humidity. I notice they don't seem to do that anymore, but still I would guess you're safe with the laminate.
 

ripock

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Relative humidity is indeed relative. I used the link that VegasGeorge provided and my locality's average relative humidity is 0.0% and that is the way I like it. My skin feels creepy at higher levels of humidity and like to sit outside when it is 90 degrees and not sweat. In the summer we use swamp coolers for a few hours a day to get over the hottest part of the day and that injects moisture into the house. During those months I do not use humidifers because the hygrometer says it is already over 50% in the ukulele cases. In the winter I use Oasis humidifers to keep things moist. As I said earlier in the thread, just get a hygrometer and respond to it. Remember, if you're not assessing, you're only guessing.
 

Ed1

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[SNIP]

However, please look up relative humidity. It is relative. It is a % calculation or measurment and is not a real number. It depends on airpressure (barometer), temperature (thermometer) and the amount of water molecules in a gaseous form in the space. Changes in air pressure and temperature will change the amount of gaseous water molecules in the room. If the temperature drops, you can have the same relative humidity, but the absolute humidity or real humidity can be very low, and worse still, all the water molecules precipitate into liquid water which is a nice home for mold and mildew and it wets stuff. If you read the simple science behind humidity, you will learn a lot about how to make your spaces comfortable for your family and your instruments.
Good points. If one keeps one's house at a constant temperature, then thinking about relative humidity should be enough, right? My room with the ukes is at a (relatively) constant temp and humidity. Does that mean the water molecules in the room are about the same (excluding pressure changes)? I haven't given the humidity question a thought for a long time. Should I? I wouldn't want to ruin a uke because I didn't think this through.

I guess most folks don't go for a constant temperature and relative humidity inside, especially if they leave the windows open as much as possible.
 

necessaryrooster

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Sort of. Laminates are less susceptible to humidity changes because of the glue holding the wood together. However, it's still wood, and can still crack. And there are problems unrelated to splits in the wood. Like the neck and fretboard becoming affected by dryness. It wouldn't matter if the body was laminate or not. I have laminates that I keep out in drier months and put away in favor of solid bodies in more temperate months.

As Kenn2018 pointed out, the greater risk is quick and drastic changes in humidity. There are upper and lower limits for how well an instrument can handle humidity, but I think you usually have to be more wary about the changes.
So, could you potentially damage a uke by taking it from inside to outside if you live somewhere that is hot and humid outside while you're running the a/c in your house? Like, say you live in the southeast US during the summertime. Simply stepping through the door of your house (in either direction) is going to be a noticeable change in humidity. Could that ruin a uke?
 

Teddy

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So, could you potentially damage a uke by taking it from inside to outside if you live somewhere that is hot and humid outside while you're running the a/c in your house? Like, say you live in the southeast US during the summertime. Simply stepping through the door of your house (in either direction) is going to be a noticeable change in humidity. Could that ruin a uke?
It takes more time imo for anything to happen. Just a day or two isn't going to cause it to crack.

To the OP, I live in the Midwest where it's naturally humid, I keep my instruments hung on a wall, currently a Taylor 310 (2003 - original owner), KTM from 2013 (owned for 3 years), and some electrics you see. I also owned a Martin 000-15 (2008 to 2020) that was hung as well. I personally have never had an issue when any of these instruments in my years of ownership.

When I lived in Colorado, I kept them cased/humidified but the air out there is just so dry.


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