When you choose to frame something to hang on your wall, you want to keep it looking its best for years to come. However, sometimes things can happen, such as a bowing or an otherwise warped picture frame. These issues can, unfortunately, have a negative impact on your display. While cheaply made frames that use sub-par materials are often most susceptible to warping issues, it can happen to just about any frame if the conditions are right (or wrong, rather).
Don’t worry, though — even if your frame does bow or warp, there’s usually a way to counteract it!
NOTE: We must emphasize that bowing is a rare problem, and this post will tell you how to deal with it should the issue arise, but a warped picture frame is not a very common occurrence.
With that being said, if you’ve been to our Learning Center before, you know that there are two main types of frames — metal, and wood. Bowing and warping can happen to either, for various reasons. We’ll cover both frame materials, as well as what to do if it happens to your frame. Let us just say that if you do find your frame bowing or warped, it isn’t something to panic about, and with a few key steps, your warped picture frame will be back to looking brand new!
How To Tell If You Have A Bowing Or Warped Picture Frame
Let’s first talk about what a bowing or warped picture frame looks like. You’ll most likely be able to tell since it’s tough to miss, but if part of your frame is slightly lifted from the rest of the wall, it’s bowing.
Warped picture frames or “warping” usually happens in wood frames when the fibers in the wood lose moisture and dry out. Because of that loss of moisture, the wood starts to pull the frame into a curve.
Similarly, in very humid situations sometimes the backing of a frame can absorb moisture and could warp, not necessarily the actual frame itself. To prevent this, it is common that after your print is inserted apply craft paper on the rear of the frame creating an extra barrier to stop moisture from penetrating.
Bowing Wood Frames
Let’s start with wood frames, as they are most susceptible to outside forces. A shift in humidity or a dip in temperature can have noticeable impacts on the material.
As we mentioned above, wood warping is a deformity that occurs when its moisture content changes unevenly. Wood expands and contracts as its moisture content can fluctuate. When it’s not evenly distributed, warping occurs.
An overly dry frame can also be the cause of a warped picture frame. There can be other factors that contribute to this, though, such as:
- Bad weather conditions.
- Poor maintenance of the wood.
- Insect infestation.
Caring For Natural Wood
As we mentioned, poor maintenance of wood is one of many reasons it warps. It is also, by our assessment, the factor that is most within your control. If you happen to have a natural wood frame, properly caring for it will likely avoid a lot of issues.
In the case of preventing warping, keeping the wood frame in a climate-controlled environment would be your best bet. In addition, a bunch of wood experts give different numbers for the best room moisture setting, but all of them are around the ballpark of 35-50%.
Keeping your home humidity level below 50% also prevents infestation, which is another reason for wood quality degrading over time — as well as it warping.
You’ll also want to keep your humidity levels over 30%, at least. Dip below that — especially during the wintertime — and you run the risk of having your frame dry out. And that presents its own set of issues, such as brittleness, splintering, and, yep, you guessed it — warping.
Essentially, caring for a wood frame is a practice of moderation; keep your room right in the sweet spot of “not too dry, not too humid,” and you shouldn’t run into any of the above issues.
Bad weather was another issue mentioned, but we don’t recommend hanging wood frames outside. One rainstorm or dry day would be all that’s needed to badly warp the frame. Climate control is key for a natural wood frame.
But maybe you didn’t use these best practices from the start, and your frame is now bowing. Don’t fret! We’ll cover a few solutions to this, starting with one that should work on all wood frames (including ours).
Quick Fix #1: Attach Paper To The Reverse Side.
If your wood frame is warped, and you’re looking to fix it, you can always attach a piece of paper to the reverse side of the frame. This acts as a vapor barrier and almost spine-like support to add rigidity to your frame.
All you’d need is some paper (acid-free would be best, as acidic paper can lead to damage to your frame and print over time) and an adhesive to attach the sheet to the frame (like permanent double-sided scrapbooking tape).
Doing this will help keep the frame flat — creating a “spine” that supports it on all corners. With this applied, it will be very hard for a corner to bow in a direction that you don’t want it to. (A bonus is that this is a good way to keep dust out of the frame, too! )
Once the paper is on the back of the frame, you should try to pull it in any given direction — gently, of course, and the paper should keep it in place, and make it much harder to move.
Here at Frame It Easy, we use wall brackets for wood frames wider than thirty inches. They are placed on the top part of the frame and have corresponding pieces to mount onto the wall. They are meant to keep your frame flat, as wire can cause bowing for larger wood frames.
Bowing Metal Frames
Metal is less susceptible to outside forces — at least in terms of warping. You won’t have to worry about moisture levels for this material, especially for aluminum frames, as they are meant to be low maintenance. Still, larger metal frames can bow and warp.
The actual cause for a metal warped picture frame is typically the foam backing absorbing moisture. Most of the time, it’s just sheer size without the proper support — such as uneven weight distribution throughout the frame.
The larger your frame, the more likely it will bow. How to counteract this, you ask? Well, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
Quick Fix: Support Wire Helps With Metal Frames
It would take absurdly high temperatures — such as one achieved with a blowtorch or other welding materials — to warp a metal frame rail in the same fashion as a wooden one. Most metal frames are aluminum, and they’re usually durable and take the shape dictated by their framer.
Because of this, if you want to purchase a frame to display outside, metal would be your better choice. Don’t expose wood to the natural elements though; it won’t end well, as we just went over.
Metal frames can still get a little lopsided, but there is an easy way to fix this issue — just apply force in the opposite direction. You can do this by placing a support wire on the back of the frame.
Ideally, the support wire would be placed vertically and intersect with the wire used to hang your frame. The same type of wire can be used for either function, too. It’s the placement of the material that matters, not what it’s actually made of.
There is one issue with vertical placement, though: It could interfere with the hook that’s used to hang it. If you angle the support wire slightly, however, it will have the same effect, but not compromise your ability to, well, display your photos.
Here at Frame It Easy, we include support wire for all metal frames with a “Width” larger than 36″. For our products, support wire shouldn’t be necessary for sizes smaller than this. If you want to attach a piece on your own, just as a precautionary measure, you could still do that.
Is My Acrylic Cover Warping?
If you suspect your acrylic cover is warping, bowing, or maybe popping out of your frame, think again! Most commonly this is due to the actual warping of the frame itself (not the acrylic!) To check your acrylic, disassemble your frame and lay the acrylic cover on a flat surface like a table to inspect.
If your acrylic cover is in good condition, try these tips to fix your frame:
- Lay the rails of your metal frame flat, loosen the screws in each corner, and re-tighten them after adjusting and straightening the rails.
- Check the foamcore backing of your frame. Remove it from the frame and lay it on a flat surface to inspect.
- If your metal frame measures more than 36″ wide, double-check to make sure a support wire is installed. (For wood frames double-check for hanging brackets on the two top corners of the frame as well.)
- Lastly, make sure you haven’t been hanging your frame from the support wire, rather than the hanging wire.
If the warping continues on your Frame It Easy frame, feel free to contact our support team with some photos of the issue and we’ll be happy to help!
If you could prevent frame warping before it came to pass, that’d be ideal, right? It’s always better to take care of an issue before it ever arises. Check out these 3 pro tips for frame maintenance to keep your frame looking as good as the day you got it. It is also important to note that we do not suggest hanging picture frames on cement or below-grade walls because of the possibility of moisture penetration.
Of course, things still happen and if you find yourself with a bowing or warped picture frame, just remember to follow these tricks to fix the issue:
- Use the hanging hardware your framer provides you. Most likely, it’s been tested and proven to withstand climate fluctuations. And it’s made to keep your frame flat on the wall for years to come.
- If you notice bowing, try putting paper on the backside of wooden frames.
- Support wire usually does the trick for metal frames.
If you have ordered your frames from us, and are experiencing any issues, be sure to email us with some photos of the issue, as we’re happy to help our customers — no matter how long ago they purchased their frame.
If you are in need of some other tips, feel free to reach out to our support team. We’d be happy to help you out!
This post first appeared as Bowing Or Warped Picture Frame? Here’s How To Treat It Easily! on Frame It Easy - Learning Center for Custom Picture Framing.