Woodwork and why it is Important for proper maintenance

   The importance of proper care of the fine woodworking in your home is something I am asked about often. The misconception most people have is that the wood is sealed and there is nothing that needs to be done. This is not true!

Background

   I have spent many years working in antique restoration and refinishing. During that time, I have seen many different types of furniture and how the pieces were cared for or most cases NOT cared for. Some of the issues that were most prevalent were using polishes that contained wood damaging compounds such as silicon. Also, the continued use of worn finishes on the furniture leads to contamination of the wood and the inability of a new finish to be applied. From my experience I have determined it is as important to know what not to do to furniture as much as what to do to prolong the life of the protective coating. I have created a page on my website that details the best way to maintain various woodwork around your home, Click Here to view.

The quality of finish

   When you purchase a quality piece of furniture you are most likely receiving a piece that has been properly sealed with a high-quality wood coating. There are many types of finishes available such as Lacquer, Polyurethane, Varnish as well as others. Some of the finer professional finishes available include Conversion Varnish, Pre-Cat Lacquers, CAB Acrylic Lacquers, these are the finishes RMK Designs uses to provide clients with the best possible product. Another import consideration is to apply the coating over a sound wood surface. This means a smooth wood with no cracks or checks. Because if you apply a finish over wood that can move (i.e. Expand or continue splitting) a failure in the finish coating is probable and will allow in damaging moisture.

How to protect your fine woodwork

   The number one recommendation I have is to not place woodwork in direct sunlight. Why is this? Sun will heat the surface of the wood and cause it to expand when heated and contract when cooled causing stress on the finish coating. Sun also discolors the surface of the finish turning it yellow and darkening the wood. Next keep the woodwork clean. Furniture just typically needs to be wiped with a soft clean damp rag. Wipe up any spills as soon as possible to prevent them for either drying on the surface requiring harsh cleaners or soaking into the wood if the furniture has a damaged finish. There is typically no need for cleaners or polishes. Another issue to be aware of is scratching. If someone drags a rough or sharp object over the surface a scratch can occur resulting in a venerable defect that can allow water intrusion under the coating.

   If the item you are maintaining is a cutting board, chopping block or other wood kitchen utensil that has a sealer you just need to wash with warm soapy water and after completely dry apply more butcher-block oil. If your kitchen utensils are keep sealed they are less likely to crack, split or become stained.

Proper sealing of wood utensils

   For items such as wood counter tops that are sealed with a drying oil such as Tried and True you will need to first clean the surface with a damp cloth. If needed use Murphy’s Oil Soap if the surface is very dirty. After the surface is clean and dry lightly sand with 220/320 grit sandpaper. Apply the Tried and True Oil as directed on the can. This will refresh the surface and continue to protect.

What not to do

   What not to do to your wood furniture is equally important. The number one thing not to do is use any polish that contains silicon. There are many polishes on the market that are simply not safe to use on wood furniture. So why do they sell it? To make money is the answer, not ever product that is sold is good. Silicon will break down the coating and allow the chemical to penetrate the wood. Polishes are not needed or recommended by RMK Designs as the finish we apply is a multi-coat protective coating. As stated earlier keep wood out of direct sunlight to prevent premature finish coating failure. The last piece of advice is to prevent scratches on the surface of the finish by using placemats on dining tables and coasters on end and coffee table. The more you protect the surface the longer the finish will last.

Conclusion

   If properly maintained, wood furniture and cutting boards will last a lifetime. Like everything else in your life, proper maintenance leads to a long-life span. As we have seen wood furniture in the tombs in Egypt have been recovered in excellent condition, so it is possible to keep your furniture looking new for many years and able to be passed down from generation to generation. If you accidently damage your woodwork contact a professional to access and repair the piece of furniture before it is damaged beyond repair. One last point is if you start off with a quality piece of furniture it will be much easier and less costly to maintain. Visit my wood care page for detailed information on wood maintenance.

Thank you for reading and if you have any thoughts or questions please leave a comment below!