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Caring for furniture after water damage

Most water damage furniture will eventually need to be handled by a professional, but there are several things you can do to minimized the damage from floods, water and or water damage that occurred as the result of a fire.  It can save you hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of dollars or many hours of work, if you are doing the work yourself, to do things properly.  The first rule of thumb is to act as quickly as you can.  The longer the furniture stays wet the more likely and extensive the damage will be.   

Wood does not react well to quick changes in humidity or temperature.  Try to keep the changes to the furniture subtle.  Don’t take a piece that is extremely wet and move it quickly to hot or very dry environment or it could damage the piece even more, normal room conditions are fine.  If pieces are covered in mud, do the best you can to remove the excess mud and wash the piece with an ammonia water solution if necessary.  Be careful of contaminated mud.  A dust mask, or better yet, a respirator is a good idea.  Set the pieces on blocks to keep them off damp floors and remove as many of the drawers, doors and shelves as possible.  Place the items you have removed on flat surfaces to minimize warping.  If it can be done easily and without more damage, it is also good to remove the backs of furniture to increase air circulation around the entire piece.  A putty knife is helpful tool for removing backs. They can also be helpful in removing stuck drawers.  Don’t force anything open though!  Once the wood dries out somewhat they will probably come out without excess force.  If veneers are peeling off try to keep them flat, but at the very least keep any pieces that come off.  It can save a lot of trouble or money when fixing them to have the original pieces of veneer.  When we get pieces in with water damage we leave them in our climate-controlled shop and let them dry for about 60 days to insure the wood is stable before any restoration work is done. 

Attempting to restore a piece on your own may be possible depending on the damage and your skills with restoration.  If pieces are extremely valuable, either monetarily or sentimentally, it’s best to seek help from a qualified professional.  Getting references is always a good idea when hiring someone for important work. 

As a general rule it is a good idea to store furniture up on some sort of block or support so it is not sitting right on a concrete floor.  Whether the floor appears moist or not.  Concrete floors will absorb moisture even from the air and transfer it to the bottom of furniture.  The wood is usually raw on the bottom where it touches the floor and invites moisture damage to the piece.  A good finisher will finish on the underside when finishing a piece of furniture, but that is rarely done on most pieces.   Installing nylon guides (little tack on plastic buttons) to the bottoms of furniture after finishing helps even more.  Email us if you have any other questions about caring for water damaged furniture or if you need service.

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