Care Instruction

Furniture Use and Care

Careless and uninformed treatment of furniture is the second major cause of preventable damage. Damage to furniture is telltale: it is either caused by poor construction (over which the caretaker has no control) or it is the result of improper use or care. You don’t have to be a specialist or scholar to treat furniture properly, all it takes is a basic understanding of the nature of wooden objects and of what furniture is and is meant to do, combined with common sense.

Here are some common-sense pointers:

  • Protect surfaces from fire and excessive heat
  • Sit only on structures designed for that purpose
  • Be careful about what you place on a piece of furniture

Hot items, such as irons, coffee mugs, and steaming tureens can literally melt a finish away. Water from spills and condensation from vases and cold drink glasses can damage and deface coatings through “blooming,” an effect that makes transparent coatings white or milky. Damage is even worse when the liquid itself stains the surface, such as when ink or coffee or tea is spilled, or if the coating is penetrated and the staining liquid enters the wood itself.
Organic solvents, such as fingernail polish and remover, perfumes, and alcoholic drinks can behave as paint and varnish removers on many kinds of coatings.
These problems are simple to address. Using coasters, oversized ashtrays, and writing pads can virtually eliminate the potential for damage.

Handling and Moving Furniture

In addition to using furniture wisely, it is important to handle it carefully. Safe handling and moving of furniture begin with a basic understanding of how a piece is constructed. The second step is to plan carefully.

General Concerns

  • Before picking up a piece of furniture, determine how it is put together and if any of its parts are removable or detachable. Make sure you know where the furniture is its strongest – generally along a major horizontal element – and try to carry it from these points.
  • Then examine the room and the route whereby the furniture is to be moved. Look around to make sure you know where everything is. Identify potential trouble. Light fixtures that hang low, for examples, or that extend out from the wall may be damaged or cause damage. Glass table tops are also easily damaged if bumped. If necessary, clear the way by moving or removing fragile or obstructive items. Protect the furniture to be moved with soft padding or wrap it in a blanket pad.Padding, which will provide extra insurance against bumping and gouging, is especially important if an item is going into storage.
  • Before moving an item, make sure you know exactly where it goes next. Plan ahead to adjust the temperature and relative humidity in the new location so they are the same as where the furniture presently is. Extreme changes in temperature and humidity can cause splitting of joints and veneers.
  • Never hurry when you are moving furniture. Scratches, dents, and gouges from bumps against hand truck, doorways, and other furniture are always more likely in haste. Each item needs to be approached individually, without haste, and with sufficient manpower present.
  • Make sure you have a firm grip on the piece with both hands. Do not wear cotton gloves. It is essential that hands not slip from a piece of furniture while it is being moved.
  • Never slide or drag furniture along the floor. The vibration can loosen or break joints, chip feet, break legs, etc., to say nothing of what dragging does to the carpeting or finish on the floor. Whenever possible, use trolleys or dollies for transporting heavy pieces.

The following sections offer suggestions for moving specific types of furniture :

Garden furniture