Caring for and restoring furniture takes knowledge and a little tender loving care.  The most important thing in caring and restoring furniture is to understand the properties of wood and how finishes react with the wood and the atmosphere around the furniture. For expample as weather changes and the relative humidity (amount of moisture in the air) raises or lower, this affects the wood because wood is constantly absorbing or shedding small amount of moisture through it's pours. This shedding and absorbing process is what make wood shrink and expand, and in some cases even warp slightly but there are ways to minimize this effect.  Dealing with old and antiques takes even more care and understanding of wood and finishes. We recommend this book for those interested in restoring their furniture.

It is important to try and keep your home's temperature as close to a contstant as you can and at a temperature that is comfortable for you to live in. Wide swings in temperature are what play real havoic with furniture as the wood is constantly expanding and contracting. Relative humidity should be between50 and 65 percent. Specific levels, however, are not as important as avoiding radical swings in the temperature and the amount of moisture in the air.
Other tips to consider are ....

1. If furniture is going to be stored, unheated is often better as the relative humidity will fluctuate less. Air  holds more moisture at a high temperatures so this should be avoided as the furniture will then draw in that higher moisture content.

2. Wood handles temperature changes and relative humidity better if they are done slowlyy. Abrupt changes (closing or opening a vacation home, for example) can stress your furniture.

3. If you live in a part of the country with very cold winters, the air will be very dry so adding a humidifier or other wise adding moisture to the air will not only help you breath but also relieve your furniture from loosing too much moisture.

4. Use a dehumidifier in climates that are wet and rainy,  and in damp rooms to remove excess moisture from the air.
Dust regularly with a clean, cotton cloth slightly dampened as dust is an abrasive and will mar the finish and make it dull. --feather dusters only scatter dust, they seldom pick it up --Clean only when needed. Use all water and liquid cleansers with caution. --Do not place hot, cold or wet objects directly onto the finish.

Make sure all items displayed on your furniture have felt, not plastic, pads under them. --Limit exposure to sunlight with the use of shades, drapes, blinds, shrubs or window tinting. --Avoid placing furniture near air ducts or vents.

Avoid direct sunlight as the ultraviolet rays of the sun will damage the finish and bleach the wood. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause the finish to crack, sometimes in a pattern resembling the skin of an alligator.

Copyright Colin Knecht