There are three main causes of deterioration in furniture over time.
The big three are;-
- Wear and Tear,
- Ultraviolet Light, and
Wear and tear is a natural result of furniture use and can lead to scratches and finish thinning. It is not easy to prevent this type of deterioration (we do want to use our furniture, after all!). Repair of damaged finishes is the main weapon to combat wear and tear and prevent the furniture ending up in landfill surrounded by veneer covered chipboard bookcases.
Ultraviolet light (from fluorescent lights or sunlight) will cause timber finishes to dull and crack. Furniture placed near windows and exposed to direct sunlight will deteriorate and fade much quicker than furniture placed in a dark corner of a room. Take the handle or hinge off a piece of timber furniture that has been exposed to frequent sunlight and you will see the original darker finish beneath the handle.
Moisture variation from changes in humidity or contact with water (e.g. wiping a table top) causes timber to expand and contract. This movement occurs primarily across the grain of the timber, not along the grain. A timber finish that is free from cracks and pitting significantly slows down the rate of moisture penetration into the timber (all finishes are permeable to some degree). An old deteriorated finish will allow moisture to quickly enter and leave the timber. The resulting expansion and contraction will lead to glue failure, joint separation and more furniture on the streets next curb side collection.
In summary, UV light is the main culprit for cracking and deterioration in a furniture finish. Moisture exchange then occurs more quickly and the furniture deteriorates. If you want to pass your furniture onto your grandkids, the secret is to keep the finish in good condition.
Next week I’ll discuss the main types of furniture finishes. It’s much more interesting than it sounds – really!