Winter can be a stressful time for woodwork. In cold regions, houses dry out in winter, causing wood to shrink. And whether it’s an interior pass-through door, a custom kitchen cabinet door, or a section of wainscoting, wood shrinkage often shows. If the item was painted after assembly under more humid conditions, shrinkage will pull joints open and expose bare wood that was buried when the paint was applied.

When mid-winter shrinkage uncovers bare wood in a new home, it’s a callback—for you, for your painter, or both. The fix isn’t complicated, but it is laborious. You have to prep the small unfinished areas for paint—scraping and sanding if need be, and masking to protect areas that don’t need a touch-up. Then you have to carefully paint the exposed wood, making sure to match the colors with care. Mess this up, and your pickier clients may end up insisting that you remove and repaint the entire door (or doors).

Preventing the problem in advance isn’t easy either, but it may be better than an on-site repair. The best insurance is to prime and paint wood door or wainscot parts before you assemble the component. Or, there’s an even easier way: Choose cabinet components and doors that don’t have joints to begin with, such as MDF cabinet doors. Customers may perceive “real wood” as a higher-quality product (even though it can be less stable in service), but if they want real wood with a perfect paint job, they’re going to have to pay more.