Nothing dresses up your RV kitchen better than having beautiful oak panel door fronts on your RV refrigerator that match (or complement) the rest of your kitchen cabinets.
Though they require little in the way of maintenance, they’re not altogether maintenance-free. Wood is a living, breathing product that changes with the weather.
For example, if you take a board from the lumber company and leave it untreated, in a matter of months it will curl and warp — practically becoming a pretzel. At that point, it will be useless for anything beyond firewood.
After spending 8 months in the heat and humidity of Florida, when I relocated to the deserts of Arizona for the winter, it took only a few weeks for the wood door panels on my refrigerator to warp! It was severe enough to interfere with the latch of the door. (While driving down the road, the refrigerator doors would pop open on corners.)
I realized that the moisture of the Southeast was evaporating too fast for the wood to remain stable.
Once the outside surface dries out, even though there is still moisture deep inside, the outside will shrink — causing the wood to warp.
The best way to prevent this problem is to regularly treat all wood surfaces in your RV with an oil-based furniture polish or wood preservative.
However, if you get careless (like I did) and the wood door panels on your refrigerator do warp, all is not lost!
How To Repair Warped Wood Door Panels
Here’s what I did to repair the warped wood door panels in my RV refrigerator:
#1 – Remove the panels. This is a project that will take some care. In my case, the 23-year-old plastic trim didn’t hold up to the stress of being pried out. Old plastic crumbles very easily. The wood door panels were also held in place with silicone sealer on the back side — though it was not very effective and posed little resistance to removing the panels.
#2 – Lay the panels on a flat surface and treat both sides with a very heavy coat of something like Liquid Gold spray wood polish/conditioner. The point is to get the wood to absorb as much of the oily product as possible.
#3 – After an hour or two, give both sides of the wood door panels a second treatment. Doing the back side is very effective — because there is likely no finish on that side and the bare wood absorbs the treatment much better.
#4 – Leave the door panels on the flat surface overnight — preferably with some weight on the high side, such as some heavy books.
With luck, by morning the majority of the warp will be gone. If not, retreat and leave the panels with weight on them for another 24 hours. You can’t apply too much oil treatment — the more that soaks in, the more protection for the future!
My Experience Reinstalling Refrigerator Door Panels
I reinstalled the wood door panels on my RV refrigerator the next morning — without redoing the silicone adhesive on the back side. (If they should warp again, I want them to come off as easily as possible.)
I replaced the broken plastic trim with a length of 3⁄4″ aluminum flat bar that I purchased at the local hardware store.
I used appropriate length sheet metal screws to fasten the flat bar to the door, adding a bit of pressure to the panel — which should help keep them straight until the oil treatment penetrates all the way through the wood.
Initially, I considered replacing the beautiful oak wood panels with some inexpensive Luan plywood cut to size and stained to match the cabinets in my RV kitchen.
But I’m sure glad that I decided to try correcting the warp first. It was really easy and the oak panels sure do add a touch of class that I would’ve hated to lose.
Just remember, wood does dry out and change shape. Treating the wood with a good oil-based polish will go a long way toward preventing future warping!