Antiques are valuable, both monetarily and historically. They might even be personally valuable, having been passed down your family through generations.
Whatever the furniture piece is – a rolling library ladder or a secretary desk – you want to preserve the look and the monetary value of an antique. But how? It’s intimidating to think you could cause harm by simply scratching the wood veneer, suddenly depreciating it hundreds of dollars. So, what can you do, as an average homeowner and owner of fine antiques?
A furniture restoration by you or a professional is always an option. However, as with anything you intend to last, maintenance is key. Here are five preservation tips to retain the value of your antiques. Whether it’s dusting and polishing or keeping an eye out for glass rings, all you have to do is be more mindful of the antique piece’s fragileness and be on top of routine upkeep.
#1 Dust Your Antiques Often
The simplest step you can take to retain the value of your antiques is to dust them. Remember to keep it natural and straightforward. Use an old cloth to wipe down the piece and avoid using an over-the-counter spray. Yes, even a spray intended for polishing furniture. While it might be okay for your more modern coffee table, these sprays are not something you want to apply to your great grandmother’s hope chest or great uncle’s writing desk. Many sprays also contain oil, which can affect the varnish and finish.
#2 Give Wood Antiques a Good Polish
While you shouldn’t apply polish too often, especially the oil-based kind, there are some that help preserve. A few tried-and-true polishes that are perfectly safe to use on antiques are beeswax and French polishing-based products. Using these polish varieties, you will apply it to the wood piece, allowing it to dry overnight. The next day, you buff it off, giving your furniture piece some new life.
A good rule of thumb is to polish your antiques twice a year. If you have a more delicate antique, you might consider reducing this to even only once a year. So skip the store-bought can of spray and use a polish the professionals use, preserving the lifespan of your priceless family heirloom.
#3 Keep Them Away From Direct Sunlight
Keep your antiques away from direct sunlight. The sun’s UV rays are harmful to us as well as antique furniture. Left too close to a window, flooding the area with natural light, an antique piece – or any wooden furniture piece, for that matter – can fade over time or even dry and crack.
While it’s okay to leave an antique furniture piece like a desk near a window for a great view of the backyard as you work, remember to close the curtains when it’s not in use. Another tip is to rotate or flip the antique furniture piece every so often, allowing each side to get the same amount of sun. While this doesn’t prevent fading, it will at least make the fade more consistent. This trick is similar to rotating or rolling up a rug that’s been on hardwood floors. Over time, even durable, traffic-heavy hardwoods can fade.
#4 Regulate the Humidity and Temperature
Make sure to regulate the humidity and temperature of your home when antiques are present. Extreme temperature fluctuations or drastic changes in humidity can cause harm to high-quality woods. More than likely, this is rarely an issue for homeowners. However, it’s important to be mindful of this preservation tip when transporting the antique piece.
Should you need to transport the furniture for whatever reason, be mindful and keep them protected as best as possible. Whether you need to move the antique to a new home or gift it to a family member as an heirloom, it’s imperative that they are well-protected and comfortable in their travels.
Why is this so important? Ultimately, a dry environment can cause wood to crack and split, whereas too much humidity can cause the wood to warp.
#5 Inspect for Damage Regularly
Inspect your antique furniture regularly for any damage. If you keep the furniture piece out in common areas and have guests over, give it a glance-over to ensure no one accidentally left behind water rings or water spots from a glass. Wipe up and dry any water, as it can especially cause damage.
Another damage-causing element to keep a watchful eye out for is wood worms. If wood worms find their way to your antique piece and set up home, they can be devastating. Essentially, these beetle larva (not actually worms) will chew and eat their way through the wood until they become an adult, leaving behind tiny holes. Bob Vila recommends using a natural repellent with pyrethrin and spray or brush it on the furniture to protect it if you find anything suspicious.
Want a Professional Touch?
If you need a professional’s opinion on the value of the piece or wish to give it some extra care, be sure to do your research. Find a reputable company or antique furniture restorer who knows how to handle wood furniture. As mentioned, transporting antique furniture can subject it to varying humidity and temperature levels. So, you need to select a professional who knows how to transport your furniture properly and with extreme care.
While a professional restorer might cost a pretty penny to help preserve your antique and retain its value, it can be worth it. Many people make the mistake of attempting a DIY route that can actually harm the piece in the end. Also, if it is a cherished heirloom item, the cost may be totally worth it to know it will continue to last for generations.