Furniture Care and Preservation

Weather Changes

Wood is very sensitive to water and changes in relative humidity. As the weather changes from season to season, so does the humidity in your home and also the moisture content of your wood furniture. This situation causes the wood to expand and contract with every change in the humidity. The purpose of the finish is to minimize the effects of moisture changes by sealing the wood. Wood likes moderate conditions of around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of around 45 percent to 55 percent. Most homes today have air handling systems that provide a humidifier in winter to add moisture when the air is “dry” and an air conditioner in summer to remove moisture when the air is “wet”. If you do not have this optimum condition but keep the temperature and humidity steady, even if they are to high or to low, it is much better than frequent and/or sudden changes. Furniture can deteriorate quickly if stored in a basement (high moisture), attic (high heat), garage or non -climate controlled storage units or warehouses (continual changing conditions). Excess heat and dryness can cause wood to split and/or crack. Keep your furniture away from all direct heat sources like radiators, wood stoves and air ducts. If you need to put your furniture near a heat source, use a shield or diverter to deflect or direct heat away. Wood is most likely to check (crack) when the climate in your home suddenly changes from hot and humid to cold and dry. Frequent and sudden changes in humidity and temperature are especially bad.

Here are a few suggestions for dealing with humidity:

Furniture can best handle temperature and humidity changes when they occur gradually. Sudden changes like opening a vacation home, or putting items into non-climate controlled storage in winter directly from your warm home can be problems for your furniture.
When air conditioning your home, it is best to keep the intake of outside humid air to a minimum. Don’t open the windows to “air out” the house on fair days.
Add a humidifier or vaporizing unit to your heating system to help stabilize the humidity level during the cold dry months of winter.
Use dehumidifiers in damp rooms and during prolonged rainy seasons to remove excess moisture from the air.

Sunlight

The ultraviolet light rays from the sun will damage finishes and bleach the stain and wood underneath. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause the finish to crack, sometimes in a pattern resembling the looks like cracked glass. Try to keep furniture out of direct sunlight. When that’s not possible, reduce the amount of light streaming on any piece of furniture. Use window shades, drapes or blinds to block direct sun light during the time of day the furniture is exposed. The use of UV screening films will dramatically reduce long term bleaching effect and are well worth the investment. Uniformly expose surfaces to light. Avoid letting the sun hit only part of a surface. Occasionally move lamps, doilies and other objects so the wood bleaches uniformly. Cover furniture with sheets or blankets if you leave your home for several months at a time. Move your furniture around periodically so that the same piece is not exposed to light all the time. However, some bleaching can be desirable. Antique collectors actually look for the rich, soft tones that fading can bring, particularly on Walnut and Rose Wood.

Cleaning

Carefully choose wood care products. There is a lot of confusion about what wood-care products to use. Store shelves are stacked with countless brands of wax, polish, spray and oil. Clever marketing techniques, tell us to use there product because it “feeds” the wood while it cleans and protects it too. Unless your furniture is unfinished, or the finish has deteriorated and worn off, when you clean your furniture you’re actually cleaning the finish, not the wood. There is absolutely no way for any cleaning product to “feed” or “nourish” the wood because the wood is sealed and protected by the finish. Proper care will prolong the life of a finish. Waxing the finish makes the surface of furniture slippery so that objects slide along it without scratching and dust will not stick. The wax protects the finish and the finish protects the wood. To clean, simply wipe with a soft lent free, damp (not wet) cloth. Be careful using water to clean wood. Water is wood’s worst enemy. Wood should never get wet or soaked. Water can cause swelling, warping or satins if it penetrates a finish. Most finishes are water resistant, not water proof. Use coasters, pads, cloths or runners to protect against spills and water rings. Consulting a professional before cleaning valuable antiques and heirlooms.

Dusting

What’s the best way to care for my furniture? Ask five different people, and you’ll get five different answers. But most “experts” agree on a some basics. First of all, remember your mother is always right: Dust frequently. Keep away from feather dusters. They just move dust around, flinging it into the air, moving from one item to the next. Broken quills have sharp edges and could scratch the finish. Some types of dust are abrasive so infrequent dusting can create worn and dull surfaces over the years. Dust can accumulate in carvings, cracks and grooves and look an unattractive “gray”. This dusty buildup eventually becomes hard to remove. This “gray” look is often imitated by finishers using wax mixed with pumice or rotten stone powders to make an item look aged (Aren’t we clever!).

Use a clean, washable cloth made of soft, lint-free cotton. My favorites are cotton diapers, old T-shirt, or any soft cotton fabric. When using old clothing be sure to remove all hooks, snaps, buttons and zippers that could scratch surfaces. Don’t use a rag that has loose threads or unraveling edges. These can catch on wood splinters, moldings or loose veneer and pull them off.

Dusting with a dry cloth is abrasive and will ultimately dull the finish. A dry cloth will not really remove much dust. Sprinkling a few drops of water onto the dusting cloth. The trick is to moisten the cloth just enough to make dust adhere to it. The cloth should not be so damp that it wets the finish (leaving water streaks). If you can see any trace of water on the wood after you wipe, your cloth is to wet. Do not use any spray-on dusting aids or polish. Most of them contain water with an emulsifier to suspend some kind oil, or contain silicones. This type of oil is used in most commercial furniture sprays and polishes.

Wipe off dust using gentle, oval motions along the grain of the wood. Turn or fold the cloth often so you don’t just move dust and dirt from one spot to another. Lift, don’t slide, lamps and objects to dust under them.

Scratch Prevention

Lift, don’t slide, objects on finished surfaces. Place objects on trivets, tablecloths, doilies or others covers to protect the finish. Use felt bottoms on lamps and other decorative objects. Especially ceramic objects as they are very abrasive. Avoid bright red felt because its color could leach into the wood through the finish. Use water based wood glue to stick the felt on objects. Some Chemicals in self stick adhesives used on felt can cause a reaction that softens or melts the finish. Use place mats or a table cloth to protect the finish from plates and silverware.

Chemical Exposure

Keep solvents products like nail polish remover, alcohol and paint thinner away from furniture because they can harm the finish. Alcohol is in colognes, perfumes, medications as well as in wine, beer and liquor. Your perspiration and body oils can also harm a finish over time. Plants and flower nectar or pollen that touch the finish can also cause permanent stains. Over watering a plant can cause permanent stains when the fertilizers that dissolved into the water soaks through the finish to the wood. Placing hot items on furniture can cause a chemical change in the finish that results in white rings or spots.

Do not leave plastic objects lying on finished surfaces. Color from plastic tablecloths, appliance covers, food wrappers, plastic place mats and toys can discolor the finish and leach into wood over time. There can be a chemical reaction between some types of finish and cretin plastics that causes them to stick to each other, damaging the finish when it is pulled off. I once repaired an armoire after the customer placed a pair of leather-like gloves on the shelf in the spring and could not remove them next fall.

Moving

Lift, don’t slide heavy furniture especially on carpets. After a short time heavy items will flatten the carpet and padding under the legs or base. Pulling or sliding an item with some of its legs in these “craters” will often brake them. Sliding pieces on wood floor can damage the floors. Furniture legs may or may not have protective glides on them. The glides are used at the factory to make it easy to slide items without damaging the legs on hard surfaces. They are there primarily to aid in the manufacturing process not to protect your floor.

Brass Polishing

First, is it truly brass? A lot of modern hardware is a brass plating over a steel base. Take a small magnet off the refrigerator and see if it will stick to the brass. If it does, its plated and not solid brass. Heavy polishing of a plated item often will remove the plating reveling the steel base. Use caution and very light polishing for this type of hardware.

Some brass, solid and plated, was designed to have a dark, “antique” look. A chemical solution was applied to the brass to make it turn color. This is most often seen on the lesser expensive plated hardware.

Most solid and plated brass hardware on furniture today has a protective, tarnish resistant coating. It probably will not tarnish for a very long time and will only need to be dusted. If the brass is tarnishing and you want to polish it, first remove the brass so that the brass cleaner will not damage the finish. If your brass cleaner/polish does not seam to work, it may be that there is a protective finish covering the brass that must be removed first. After polishing it is best to apply a new tarnish resistant coating. Brass will tarnish quickly when exposed to air.

Wax Build-up

Wax build-up from past waxing is not often seen today. Because most people have been sold on the “benefits” and convince of spray polishes or oil. Very few people in North America use real wax today.

Wax build-up occurs over a long period of time. Its usually only seen in the crevices and corners where it can not be wiped off or when to much wax is used and then accumulates. The same areas where dust accumulates also. The built up mixture of dust and wax presents no real potential danger or damage to the furniture. It is a problem of aesthetics only. Some people however, prefer the patina of this aged look.

Removing old wax is done with solvents that dissolve the wax and then are wiped off with a clean cloth. The procedure is often performed several time to achieve a complete cleaning before a new coat of wax is applied. This procedure is best left to professionals who work in well ventilated work areas.
Also read: Wax, Polish, Oil: Which Is Best?

Drawers

It is important to check your furniture’s drawer system for ware and damage every few years or when they stick or are hard to open. Pull out each drawer and examine the runners, slides, stops and guides. Not all drawer systems have all those components. Some will have metal drawer slides others have wood runners and some just slide on the frame of the cabinet. On metal parts use a small amount of light grease or petroleum jelly to lubricate friction points and bearings. On wood to wood parts use a candle or block of paraffin wax to lubricate all surfaces where wood rubs on wood. Some drawer systems have a center wood slide with a plastic or metal guide or just plastic guides at the right and left sides of the drawer opening. For this type wax only the wood that runs against the guides. If a drawer goes into the cabinet to far, then the drawer stops are broken or missing and should be repaired.

Don’t cram extra clothing into a full drawer. The drawer may be designed to carry the weight but the extra stress created by the friction or clothing catching on edges can brake the drawer’s components or chip off veneer. Use some discretion in the amount of weight you put into very large drawers. They may be able to hold a lot of volume but not excess weight. If a properly working and lubricated drawer is hard to open, you most likely have to much weight in it. Drawers that have two handles should be opened using both to prevent damage to runners and guides. Tighten lose, and replace missing screws that secure the hardware. Lose hardware mars the finish and gouges the wood. All lose joints and broken parts should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent additional damages. Drawers that stick in the summer months are swollen due to the extra moisture in the air. This occurs most often to drawers that are unfinished or not sealed on the inside. They should be adjusted to fit properly, then sealed to prevent recurrence. Don’t pry stuck drawers open or slam tight fitting drawers shut, as this often causes severe damage.

Doors

There are two types of doors on furniture. Sliding doors and hinged doors. A sliding door can be glass or wood. It fits into a slot or grove (top and bottom) which is sometimes lined with a plastic molding. These doors require little maintenance. If they do not slide easily they may just need a little lubricating. Most sliding doors, other than tambours, can be removed by lifting the door into the top slot so that it clears the bottom slot then pull the bottom of the door out and the top will follow. Lubricate the slots and door edges that fit into the slots with paste wax or paraffin for doors that have a wood to wood fit. A small amount of petroleum jelly works great for glass doors in a plastic track. Tambours are sliding panels made of small strips of wood with a cloth backing enabling them to bend around corners and slide in tracks that are shaped to fit the contour of the furniture (a roll-top desk is an example). The best way to lubricate these is to slid the panel all the way in, then lubricate the track (slot/grove). To remove a tambour it is necessary to remove at least the back and often other parts. Removing or repairing tambours should generally be done by a professional.

There are a number of things that can cause a hinged door not to fit properly. One of the most common problems is that the cabinet is not level and the top or bottom edges of the doors will bind or rub on the cabinet frame. This is simple to fix. Large wood cabinets are flexible and will conform to the shape of the floor or carpet. To check if leveling is the problem look at the top edges of the doors, if you have two doors the top edges of booth doors should be in a straight line with each other and have an even clearance gap from the frame of the cabinet. An out of level cabinet will have doors edges that slant (both doors in the same direction) showing a narrowing clearance gap from one end of the door to the other. To correct a leveling problem, shim the front leg on the side where the clearance gap is the smallest or the back leg where the clearance gap is the largest. I use a piece of cardboard as a shim, folding it over on itself several times (trial and error method) to achieve the proper thickness that will align the doors properly.

A door that will not stay closed is a nuisance. Here is a check list of things that cause this problem.

The cabinet is leaning forward. Don’t laugh, it happens a lot. When you set a cabinet against the wall in a room with wall to wall carpeting make sure you do not set the back legs on the carpet’s tack strip. This will cause it to lean forward. Also check for adjustable levelers that are over extended on the back legs.
The cabinet is out of level causing the door catches not to align.
The door is “hinge bound”. This occurs when the mortis cuts into the door and/or cabinet frame to mount the hinge is to deep causing the hinged side of the door to hit the cabinet’s frame. The hinges need to be shimmed to correct this problem.
The door is “screw bound”. This is similar to hinge bound in that the door can not close all the way. The screws in the hinges are to large or the wrong kind (round head instead of flat head). The heads of the screw(s) on the door side of the hinge and the ones on the frame side hit each other, not allowing the door to close.
The door catches are broken, missing or worn out.

Loose and missing hinge screws also cause door fit problems. Double doors will hit each other in the center, single door cabinets will rub against the top side of the cabinet frame and both types will rub or drag on the bottom. Often wearing off the finish. To check for loose screws, open a door a short distance and hold it on the top with one hand and the bottom with your other hand. Gently tilt it up and down. If the hinges are loose you will feel the door move and may hear a sound also from the screws hitting the metal hinges.

One more thing. Be careful opening cabinets with large doors. The weight of the door(s) when open can cause the cabinet to fall forward! Newer furniture comes with a warning tag, but older and antique items do not. You can secure the cabinet to the wall or floor with screws or load it with heavy items to counter balance the weight of the doors. I have heard several reports of people being injured when they opened heavy glass doors and the cabinet fell over on them.

Glass and Mirrors

There is not much maintenance required for glass panels or mirrors. Just clean with your favorite glass cleaner as needed. The proper way to clean glass on furniture is to apply the cleaner to the rag, not directly on the glass itself. Spray type glass cleaners contain ammonia and some times alcohol. The over-spray that gets on the wood trim can damage the finish over time.

A few thoughts to consider about re-silvering mirrors and beveled glass. It is much less expensive to replace a mirror than to re-silver it if the edge is not beveled. Beveled edging can be expensive because not many glass shops do that kind of work. They will send it out to a third party and mark-up the price. There are a number of franchise type restoration shops that offer re-silvering in-house and some of them will sub-out the job. The “look” of an old glass that has been properly re-silvered has a beautiful gold colored hue which is very desirable on antique furniture. I have seen several re-silvered mirrors that have deteriorated in a relatively short time. Find out what warranty comes with a re-silvering job before you commit to have the work done. Re-silvering is a good choice if you have an old glass (the “wavy look” of old glass is from the type of processing. The molten glass was pulled from the oven and stretched to a thickness as it cooled. New glass is done much the same way, but goes through sets of steel rollers, thus a very smooth finish and consistent thickness).

Used Cubicle Furniture Dos and Don’ts

When buying used cubicle furniture, you could end up doing one of two things: buying them extremely cheap and getting the quality you pay for (i.e. average to poor), or buying them reasonably-priced (still much lower than brand-new) and getting quality office furniture that is hard to distinguish from its brand-new counterparts.

Used cubicle furniture is often a great solution, particularly for startup new businesses or for home office setups. Sure, new office furniture is (and always will be) ideal, but if budget and time constraints exist, then used office furniture is a great start. You get low-priced office furniture that does the same job as brand-new.

Besides, when the table will spend most of its time covered in paperwork and cubicle accessories, who’s going to notice it didn’t come brand-new… and who’s going to remember a few years down the road?

Benefits of used cubicle furniture

Used cubicle furniture provides many of the key benefits offered by new furniture, with the additional advantages of lower cost and faster turnaround time.

Unlike suppliers of brand-new office furniture, though, few used office furniture dealers will have the full range of product you want. It’s like buying a used car – instead of being able to select the kind and color you really want, sometimes you’ll have to make do with what’s available.

The best of the used breed are refurbished or remanufactured used cubicle furniture from Knoll, Steelcase, and Herman Miller – these products undergo a remanufacturing process that strips the fabric, cleans and refinishes work surfaces and metal components, and replaces worn surfaces with recycled material.

Used cubicle furniture prices

How much should you pay for used cubicle furniture? Depends on what’s available, what you’re looking for, and what you think is acceptable.

Name brands like Steelcase and Herman Miller will be more expensive, but their general reliability and sturdiness means that these items will come in rather good condition.

Lesser-known brands may come cheaper, allowing you to buy more complete workstations and cubicle accessories at a set budget – but quality may be an issue for these used cubicles, with noticeable wear and tear and questionable integrity. Remember: lower quality cubicles at the outset = much lower quality when buying these items used!

Where to buy used cubicle furniture?

Used furniture retailers exist in every major city in the U.S. These furniture retailers will offer complete sets of the used furniture you want, provide after-sales service, and possibly offer a warranty for your purchases. Of all your used furniture options, this will be the least cheap, but you pay for the more varied choices and peace of mind after the purchase is made.

5 Ideas for Building a Killer Outdoor Kitchen

An outdoor kitchen is the ultimate dream for a lot of people who enjoy backyard entertaining. Imagine gathering your friends or family together for a summertime barbecue or a cozy winter cocktail party in the comfort of your own garden. Here are some great tips for designing your killer outdoor kitchen.

1. Design Ideas

Pinterest is a great resource to find design inspiration and to compile your plans. Simply go to pinterest.com, register an account, and type in “outdoor kitchen ideas”. There is a multitude of design options out there. Take a look at some of these tips!

Moern and Sleek

Concrete or rich colored woods are a great way to create a modern design aesthetic. Most classic or traditional kitchens use white-washed or light colored wood to create the look so go the opposite way for modern! Minimal furniture and features also help to create a modern feel. This also helps with maintenance and clean-up too. Check out these images for inspiration.

Classic or Country

White wood, blue accents, and exposed stone are a great way to give your outdoor kitchen rustic, classic appeal. Flowers and plants growing up the sides of walls or arbors are great for creating softness and a traditional appeal as well. Think of white-washed cabinets, pale-wood benches, and large rustic dining tables.

2. Grills

So many grilling options! There are 6 major types of grills to consider for your outdoor kitchen. Think about what you most enjoy cooking and what you can get the most use out of before choosing your grill.

Open Grills

This is the simplest set up of all grills. It consists of a metal or stone box with a heating element (wood, charcoal, gas) and a metal grate over the top of the box directly over the fire. Open grills are best for direct grilling over high heat and are best suited for quick cooking foods like kebabs, thin steaks and chops, and fish.

Covered Grills

Add a cover to the open grill and it allows you to add smoking and indirect grilling features to your outdoor grill. Covered grills are best for thicker steaks, rack-of-ribs, or whole chickens and ducks. You can also add different types of wood to your grill, close the lid, and let the meat slowly absorb the aroma of the wood.

Ceramic Grills

Ceramic grills are made of thick walls that allows heat to radiate off the side of the walls for even cooking. Ceramic grills are usually much deeper than typical grills and are generally used to cook bread (like flatbreads or India’s naan) directly on the side walls. The grill portion of ceramic grills are best suited for thin sliced meat, kebabs, fish, or veggies.

Rotisserie Grills

A rotisserie grill adds a rotating spit to the grill to allow for even cooking of thick slabs of meat or whole animals. Food is cooked slowly over several hours that results in crispy skins on the outside and tender, moist meat on the inside. Rotisserie grills are best suited for thick steaks, fatty meats, or whole animals like chickens, ducks, or even whole pigs (if your grill is big enough).

Smoker Grills

A smoker grill cooks meat on low heat for several hours over aromatic wood chips for flavorful and tender meat. The most common woods used for smokers include maple, hickory, mesquite, oak, and pecan. Smokers are best suited for tough cuts of meat that it slowly tenderizes while in the smoker. Meats like briskets and ribs are perfect for this.

Firepit Grills

A firepit grill allows your whole family to feel like you’re camping out right in your backyard! Firepit grills are just like campfires but with a metal grate positioned above the fire to cook food. The grates for the grills are height adjustable so that the food raised or lowered to be closer or farther from the fire. This makes firepit grills extremely versatile and can handle delicate foods like fish, veggies, and S’mores to thick cuts of beef and whole animals.

3. Appliances

Take a browse through these links for some ideas for your appliance purchases.

Pizza Ovens

Here is an affordable, moveable outdoor pizza oven.

Grilling Space

This is a comprehensive, versatile grill designed especially for outdoor use.

Beverage Center

This is a great option for those who really want to entertain! Store your drinks and drink accessories in a sleek design.

4. Furnishing Ideas

There are so many options to consider when it comes to furnishing. Will you go for a table and chair configuration, or a bench and stool set-up? Consider what kinds of gatherings you will use your kitchen for to help you decide which is best.

Color: try to think about what color scheme you will like and enjoy throughout the years. You don’t want to choose a bold, crazy color palette that you end up tiring of after one season. If you want a bold, bright touch, use interchangeable pillows, cushions, and throws. You can choose, bright appliances or flowers to add color too. That way, your base palette remains neutral while adding add splashes color that are easy to change out.
Fabric: Obviously, you need to choose a weather-resistant fabric for your outdoor furnishings, especially if there is a minimal overhead cover. Treated canvas and Olefin fiber are good choices for outdoor furniture.
Shade Sails and Covers: It is important to protect your appliances and furniture from the weather and potentially harsh elements. If you live in an extreme climate, consider the kind of protection you want to use for your outdoor kitchen. You can build awnings to shade the patio area or you can build a structure, like an arbor or pergola. Basically, this has a sturdy roof and side pillars. You can also install weather-resistant curtains to the side pillars that you can pull closed to act as walls if you’d like some privacy in your patio.
Finishing Touches: once the heavy appliances and furniture pieces are installed, take a step back and think of what else space needs. Here are some ideas for finishing touches:

– Ornaments

– Lamps

– Small side-tables

– Decorative trays and bowls

– Vases and good-quality fake flowers

– Water-resistant throws and blankets for winter months

5. Money-Saving DIY Options

You don’t need to rely on the expertise of others for every aspect of your outdoor kitchen needs. You can handle some of it yourself if you’re up to it!

Use recycled wood and old furniture/benches from second-hand stores or yard sales. Upcycle it yourself and get to work making your chairs, benches, or shade sails.
Go out and find weather-resistant fabrics from fabric stores or furniture sales. You can re-upholster your outdoor furniture to suit your own personal aesthetic.