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#2031648 - 02/12/13 05:46 AM How badly does steam affect a piano
oboemaroni Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/11/13
Posts: 3
New poster here... I have a Yamaha U3, and the only place I I have space to put it is in the kitchen/living room. It's about 4 metres away from the cooker, and as I live in a shared house I'd say at least once or twice a day the room gets moderately/very steamy from people cooking. I have just bought a dehumidifier but it doesn't seem to be doing much (and is quite noisy, which means my housemates will probably start switching it off). My question is how damaging are intense but short periods of high humidity? Will the piano absorb moisture straight away or does it take a few days of constant hugh humidity to make a difference? I'm quite stressed out about the piano getting damaged but there's not really anywhere else to put it. The only other place further away from the cooker is next to a radiator! Also I'm reluctant to fit something like a Life Saver/Damp Chaser as I anticipate selling the U3 in favour of something smaller in a year or so. Any advice gratefully received.

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#2031665 - 02/12/13 06:43 AM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...Any advice gratefully received...."

Move.
_________________________
Clef


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#2031671 - 02/12/13 07:02 AM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
oboemaroni Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/11/13
Posts: 3
Moving isn't an option for me financially, at least in the short-term.

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#2031672 - 02/12/13 07:04 AM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi oboemaroni - Welcome to Piano World!

First of all, don't panic yet. The interior RH of any environment will be affected by all sorts of transitional swings due to such things like cooking or showers. It is the overall, long term stability which matters most.

I would suggest that you purchase an indoor, recording hygrometer. They are about $25.00 at any local hardware or home improvement store. It will show you the temps and RH averages across a selected time span. RH 40-50% is optimal.

Once you know what you are actually dealing with, you can take the proper steps to address the situation.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2031906 - 02/12/13 02:59 PM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
Well, oboemaroni, this sounds like one of those open-plan kitchen/livingroom combos which are so popular with architects, who wish to make the living space seem as big as possible. Many people have pianos (some of them, nice ones) in such rooms. It is a compromise, but these rooms are, themselves, compromises... and it can work out.

You were wise not to put the piano near the radiator in February. As MM suggested, an inexpensive hygrometer could be useful, to give you some metrics. RH of 45 - 55% is nice for a piano, and the steadier the better. A really steamy atmosphere is not desirable, but it is more common that the air in winter is actually too dry inside the house.

The effect of an oscillating RH is, mainly, that it will challenge your piano's tuning stability... and you're right, that the long-term seasonal changes will have a greater effect. What bothers me more, personally, is the aerosolized cooking oil droplets which will condense on any cooler surface--- window glass, walls, furniture, fabrics, pianos. So when you move (eventually), look for a kitchen with a door that closes. It's possible that a fabric cover might give your piano some protection; you could even make a handsome one yourself, or with help from someone who sews. A breathable cloth cover will forestall damaging moisture which might condense on the inside of a plastic membrane, and you can wash it once in awhile.

All of us live with compromises, and simply try to do the best we can; stressing out over it will not help. I think you are lucky to have a piano. They are, actually, pretty durable devices.
_________________________
Clef


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#2031919 - 02/12/13 03:14 PM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3462
How large is the shared room/kitchen?

My living room is about 24 m2 and humidity goes up by around 10% if I go cooking (just for myself) and leave the kitchen door open (adding another 6 m2).

In winter I sometimes do this deliberately as humidity is low. Otherwise I usually open the kitchen window and keep the door closed.

You might also consider doing that - open window and/or turn on ventilation(s) while cooking.

Additionally you might consider more or less closing the piano to dampen out the humidity fluctuations. I was thinking covering the back with thin plastic (thin enough to avoid change of the sound), like a airtight cushion a few cm away from the sound board (do not hit the sound board witht the plastic).

I'm not sure how well that would work. Maybe you can put a measurement device with recorder on the soundboard and check the effectiveness of these fixes.
_________________________

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#2031933 - 02/12/13 03:40 PM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
SteveM732 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 25
Loc: Beaverton, OR, USA
Do you have a vent fan and/or a window that can be cracked open when the steam is being produced? Even if you do, good luck getting your roommates to change their habits.

Even if you can't stop the steaming, wood absorbs and releases moisture relatively slowly (compared to how long it takes to make dinner) so it tends to take on a moisture content that is related to the average humidity of the room and won't swell up the moment the air gets damp.

For example, this summer I got some wood that was 6% in moisture content delivered into a room where wood that had been there 50 years was measuring 8% moisture and the humidity in the room was such that in theory the wood should have been 10% moisture content to be in equilibrium. Six weeks later that new wood was about 6.5% moisture and the old wood was still hanging out around 8% despite the summer humidity.

I'm thinking you should do what you can to air out the steam, have your tuner keep an eye out for rust or other damage, and not worry about it for now.
_________________________
-Steve
1969 Yamaha U3

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#2032026 - 02/12/13 06:13 PM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
oboemaroni Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/11/13
Posts: 3
Thank you all for your responses, really helpful. I bought a cheap hygrometer which has shown the humidity on average being 55-60%, but when cooking it went up to anything from 74% - 100% (!!). Weirdly the new dehumidifier doesn't seem to agree with the hygrometer, even though it's set to not let anything go above 60% it sits there without turning on while all around it steam is building up... Then turns on 20 minutes later. I think a cover might be a good idea, I am concerned about the oil droplets also. But good to know that at least the wood isn't going to instantly absorb the moisture in the air, and if the dehumidifier does at least half its job that might help. Hopefully one day I'll be able to afford to live on my own and care for the instrument properly... In the meantime I'm considering selling the U3 and getting something cheaper, so at least if it does get damaged I'm not losing as much.

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#2032048 - 02/12/13 06:44 PM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
Does your hygrometer have the ability to record the temp and RH? The ones that do can then give you the averages for a week or two. Like others have said, the wood will not respond to short lived spikes in RH.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2032050 - 02/12/13 06:46 PM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
Mark VC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/26/12
Posts: 110
There's an outfit called pianocovers.com, that will make you a fitted cover for your piano that might buffer it against these short but intense humidity bursts. They are getting in there, maybe to a small extent but they are getting in there and in general you want to minimize this with complicated high-tolerance machinery made entirely of wood. Thing is the cover is not cheap - probably roughly the cost of a tuning.

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#2032116 - 02/12/13 08:57 PM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1258
Loc: Reseda, California
How healthy are these people who produce all the steam? Maybe get them a diet book that emphasizes fresh salads, like Dr. Fuhrman's.... Are they concerned with global warming and energy conservation? Nobody eats the steam, so it's a waste of energy.
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2032273 - 02/13/13 04:52 AM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3462
>Weirdly the new dehumidifier doesn't seem to agree with the hygrometer

I guess the dehumidifier is using electronic hygrometer? I also have both and always there seems big discrepancy between electronic and normal hygrometer. I have more trust in the non-electronic hygrometer, I rarely see the electronic go beyond 60% even if it is very humid like 90%
_________________________

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#2032274 - 02/13/13 04:54 AM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3462
>In the meantime I'm considering selling the U3 and getting something cheaper,

I would keep the U3, assuming you're enjoying it laugh
_________________________

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#2032332 - 02/13/13 08:27 AM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3834
From my experience pianos in that situation will have rusty strings from the humidity after a while. Don't put it next to the radiator, that will crack the soundboard. Cover the piano when not in use, and install a piano de humidifier with a 50 watt rod (not the lower wattages) and make sure it has the HD control box so it doesn't dry out the piano too much. Repeated short exposures to steam will rust the strings, screws, and other metal parts, so cover the piano to avoid that.

Don't sell the piano - I've missed every piano I've sold, and a U3 is a great piano to own.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#2032363 - 02/13/13 09:33 AM Re: How badly does steam affect a piano [Re: oboemaroni]
backto_study_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/10
Posts: 405
Loc: Australia
I had a Yamaha UX in the hinterland of a tropical area - where humidity would go to 100% (fog) - to 20-30 when we had dry westerly winds. That piano was great - never suffered from any ill-effects, and was played daily. Never had sticking notes etc, and tuning stability was the best I've ever experienced with a piano. And we never covered it.

I'd also endorse keeping the U3 if it's working for you. A smaller piano will have the same footprint on the floor as the U3, and weigh nearly as much. And probably not be as heavy duty as a U3.

I would endorse a cover - I notice particularly with my grand that if I'm cooking something "greasy" (not often), I'll end up with a slight oily coating on the piano in the next room if I've neglected to cover it. At present, she's just covered with a lightweight calico cover which works just fine - a custom cover is being made for her.
_________________________
Alan from Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert - she's 7'4" long and ebony) & 2 Allen Organs [long story - the first is for sale] - MDS312 and CF-15.

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