How to Prevent Moisture Damage to Wood Furniture
Beautifully made wooden furniture can easily become an heirloom piece that is passed down from generation to generation.
No doubt, your clients want to be able to treasure their pieces for many, many years.
Who wouldn’t want to inherit their grandma’s gorgeous solid wood coffee table?
But in order for this to be a reality, each piece of furniture must be protected against water damage through proper prevention and care.
Moisture is the #1 enemy for all wood projects, furniture included. That’s why, in this post, you’ll learn some of the ways that moisture could damage your wood furniture projects.
Specifically, we’ll talk about:
- How moisture damages wood furniture
- How to fix water damaged furniture
- How to prevent water damage to wood furniture
So keep reading to ensure that your pieces—and your reputation—stay impeccable.
How moisture damages wood furniture
There are many different ways that moisture can damage your wood furniture.
Each way can cause unsightly and, in some cases, even permanent damage.
And these issues, such as warping, cracking, water stains, mold/mildew, and rotting wood, are all a result of contact with moisture, in one way or another.
So what are some of the reasons why these moisture-related problems might occur?
Let’s talk about the following common ones:
The first reason for potential water damage in your furniture is improper drying of the wood boards to begin with.
When a woodworker buys wood boards in bulk in order to construct furniture, they should know whether or not the wood has been acclimated to the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) of the region.
The wood drying process is essential because wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning that it will release or absorb moisture depending on the environment.
Without a moisture meter to tell if the wood has been properly dried, the woodworker runs the risk of having the piece swell, warp, or crack after construction once the furniture is in the final location.
And no one wants to deal with warped or swollen wood furniture.
Exposure to elements
Exposure to the elements is another factor that could cause unsightly moisture damage to a furniture piece.
In the long term, if wood furniture is stored in a place where it might come in contact with rain, dew, groundwater, or floodwater, then the wood may rot and become unusable.
In the short term, exposure to the elements can cause the wood to absorb moisture, unnecessarily increasing the amount of time it takes for the wood to reach the equilibrium moisture content of the location.
Inconsistent humidity levels
While exposure to the elements is certainly more likely to damage wood furniture, inconsistent humidity levels—even inside a home—can cause warping, swelling, and cracking.
Large shifts in weather and temperature can cause the humidity in a home to rise or fall, meaning that the wood furniture will also be impacted by this shift.
Improper care can ruin the wood’s surface and hurt the piece aesthetically.
After the wood furniture leaves the care of the professional and becomes a part of the client’s home, it’s important that the clients are educated as to the proper care of the piece.
Failing to use a coaster or not cleaning up spills can result in watermarks or white spots.
How to repair water-damaged furniture
Now that we know some of the reasons for damaged wood furniture, let’s talk about how to repair some of the common types of damage. The way that you repair the damage all depends on the kind of damage that occurred to your piece of furniture.
We’ll cover how to repair damage from:
- Water stains
The first thing you can do if the warping or swelling in the furniture hasn’t caused permanent water damage is to simply ensure that the humidity and temperature of the location are consistent.
Adjusting the temperature and making sure that the humidity levels remain consistent, despite the swings in weather, can help the wood to stabilize and keep the piece looking beautiful.
Adding a dehumidifier in particularly wet spaces, such as basements or bathrooms, can also help wood furniture to stabilize at the proper moisture.
Mold and mildew can become issues if spills are ignored, if the furniture is often exposed to the elements, or if the furniture is placed against an exterior wall.
Fungi-like mold and mildew can not only cause shades of red, green, white, or black to spread across the wood surface of furniture, but their spores can also spread to walls, upholstery, and floors.
In order to tackle this issue, you will need to create a solution of water and another mold-killing agent.
Solutions of clean water mixed with one of the following products can help remove mold from the wood’s surface:
- White vinegar
- Mold removal products
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
When you apply these solutions to the mold, be sure to wear the proper protective gear, such as rubber gloves and safety goggles, not only to protect yourself from these solutions but also to protect yourself from mold, as spores can cause respiratory irritation.
If the mold has spread deep into the wood, you will need to apply the solution and then sand the wood down. Continue those two steps until all the mold is gone. It’s crucial that all the mold be removed because if not, it can regrow.
The method to remove water stains depends on the severity of the stain.
If the stain was recent and you’re removing it immediately, then the following methods may work:
- Use a combination of olive oil and vinegar and wipe the affected area
- Use a warm clothes iron, and press it over the stain with a clean, soft cloth
- Use a hairdryer on its hottest setting aimed toward the stain until it disappears
- Use a commercial water stain remover and follow the manufacturer’s instructions
For any of these methods, consider testing it out on a small, non-visible section in order to see how your piece reacts to the treatment.
If, however, the stain has been there for months, then it’s likely that the moisture from the stain has penetrated the wood’s surface.
In this case, you will have to use a sander or sandpaper. Then you will have to refinish the wood’s surface with a varnish and furniture polish.
The best method for “repairing” damage to wood furniture is to avoid it in the first place.
So let’s talk about the best ways to prevent wood water damage.
How to prevent moisture damage to wood furniture
The best way to prevent moisture damage even before the start of your project is to ensure that the wood you are using is already dry.
Using a pinless moisture meter, like those from Bessemeter, can guarantee that the wood you are using is at the correct MC (moisture content) to match the EMC of the region even before you buy it.
Also, let your clients know that if the wood is going to be in a humid location, such as a bathroom or basement, using a dehumidifier can keep the wood from taking on too much moisture.
Next, make sure that the wood is properly stored. Keeping the wood safe from the elements can avoid unnecessary moisture damage, and ensuring that the storage location maintains a consistent temperature and humidity level will also keep it from warping and swelling.
Lastly, provide your client with the proper education for long-term furniture care. Inform them to clean spills immediately, use a coaster, and use a proper cleaner that won’t strip the wood of its protective finish.
Knowledge is power!
Information and education about moisture damage prevention is the first and best step to ensuring that your pieces stay beautiful for more than a lifetime.
You can be proactive in this process by purchasing properly dried wood and taking other steps of prevention before you begin your wood furniture project. Having a quality moisture meter is the key to this.
Make it your priority to protect your furniture and your reputation by checking out a Bessemeter wood moisture meter.