Top 5 causes of antique furniture damage… and what to do about it!

Worn and torn seating of antique chair

No one wants their furniture to become damaged. Your chairs, tables, chests and dressers become part and parcel of your home. So, when you encounter damage, it’s not just a hassle and expense to sort out, but can be an emotional blow. Whether a piece is antique or not, there are steps to take to avoid everyday damage. And if you do experience furniture damage, either through wear and tear or catastrophe, what should you do?

1. Fire

Clearly, this is the most catastrophic cause of damage to buildings and their contents. We all take steps to prevent a house fire from taking hold, such as unplugging electrical items and maintaining our smoke alarms. Fire damage is hugely varied, from complete destruction to surface damage through the smoke. If a piece of furniture survives a fire, then it is worth the time or cost of conscientious restoration. To remove the smell of smoke, you should approach the surfaces incrementally. So vacuum and then wash soft surfaces (being careful not to drench leather). This may take several steps to completely deodorise. For wood, scrub and brush with gentle detergent and re-polish when dry.

2. Water

It is true that flood damage is a catastrophe which causes extensive damage to antique furniture. And increasingly often, homes can experience unexpected flooding which takes homeowners by surprise. Prompt attention is the key to minimising lasting damage here. Furniture should be gradually dried away from the sun, ideally using dehumidifiers. As floodwater contains so many impurities, more often than not fabrics will struggle to survive to become saturated. So re-upholstery is the best course of action here. However, flooding is not the only way that water can impact wood. Antique furniture exposed to consistently damp and humid conditions will experience gradual damage in which the coatings on the wood deteriorate.

3. Sun

We all love the sunlight in our homes. Indeed, most room layouts and decor schemes are designed to maximise natural light in the space. However, sustained sun exposure can result in damage to your furniture’s fabric lustre and wood finish. So when you plan the layout of your room, consider where the sun reaches and avoid placing vulnerable pieces of furniture in those positions. You can also consider solar blinds, which block UV but allow light into the room. If your furniture has fallen victim to sun damage over time, you may want to look at re-upholstering fabrics and re-polishing wood.

4. Pets

For many of us, our home is not complete until we have welcomed a cat or a dog into the family. Although pets undoubtedly offer homes many benefits, their early years of puppy or kittenhood can result in much destruction! So from scratched upholstery to chewed table and chair legs, your furniture can come off worse for wear! Whilst deterrent sprays or scents are available on the market, how effective these are is an unpredictable science! So, when it comes to repairing the damage that a young pet has caused to your furniture, it’s rarely worth acting too soon. Once your pup has grown out of chewing or cat has found other interests, you can make the effort to use wood filler to repair furniture legs. To avoid obvious joins, sand around the area once the filler is dry before you finish the wood to match the existing shade. Depending on how intricate the wood shape is, you may want to refer to professional restoration.

5. Time

Old Father Time gets to us all eventually, and this is especially true of antique furniture. Remember these structures have already existed longer than you or I. Perhaps your dining chair is feeling less stable than it once was, or fabric coverings have lost shape and lustre. Often, the effects of time are myriad small things which just make your furniture appear tired and rickety. Before you tackle a general restoration yourself, check whether you might impact the value of the piece. If you plan to refinish it yourself, taking time and care on preparation is the key.