Furniture Foes - The Big Three

There are three main causes of deterioration in furniture over time. 

The big three are;-

  1. Wear and Tear,
  2. Ultraviolet Light, and
  3. Moisture

 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!


1 comment



Great info, thanks! Always love getting valuable info from furniture and timber artists. Looking forward to more

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