When you get a new couch, bed or dining room table, you may not want to part with the old one immediately. Maybe you’re saving it for a friend or family member, selling it online or just have a hard time saying goodbye (furniture can be expensive!).
Now look at your furniture. It’s rugged, right? You drape all over the couch. You jump into bed. You’ve literally danced on the table. The whole point of furniture is that it’s built to last.
Built to last in your living room — not in your cold, damp basement. Or your sticky, humid attic. Or an uninsulated garage or self storage unit, where temperatures fluctuate as fast as the mercury dips and rises.
Do I really need climate controlled storage?
Your house is made of wood. Trees are made of wood. Those things seem to handle the elements just fine, right? Surely your furniture, with a cozy roof overhead and four protective walls, can take care of itself.
Wrong. Let’s consider the enemies of furniture.
Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. This water vapor can cause wood to shrink or swell — the “major sources of both visual and structural problems in furniture,” according to a Purdue University study. “When the air is humid, wood absorbs moisture and swells; when the air is dry, wood loses moisture and shrinks. Various finishes and treatments may be used to slow this process, but, in general, they do not stop it.”
This shrinking and swelling can cause cause “cracks, raised grain, dull finishes, or worse,” writes woodworking expert Gary Weeks, who stores his finished wooden furniture “in conditioned space maintained at 65-78 degrees and 55 percent relative humidity.”
The most humid cities in America are, unsurprisingly, located in areas where massive bodies of water and high temperatures converge: New Orleans, Jacksonville and Houston. Humid environments can bolster mold and mildew, which attack furniture wood, fabric and leather.
“These growths can begin to develop on a damp surface within 24 and 48 hours and produce spores that travel through the air,” Better Homes and Gardens warns. “They will break down and destroy whatever they’re growing on and can cause mild to severe health problems for you and your family.” Gross.
Even if you don’t live in a high-humidity area, you can still have problems. When it’s cold, you use your furnace, and the gusts of heat can cook the water vapor out of the air. “Wood floors, furniture and millwork will split and crack,” explains the Green Architect blog at Apartment Therapy. “Paint will chip and electronics can be damaged because of low humidity levels.”
Climate controlled storage and humidity controlled storage solves these problems by maintaining a consistent temperature and vapor rate in a storage unit year-round.
If you choose to eschew a self storage rental and keep your furniture at home, consider investing in a humidifier, dehumidifier and humidistat — all of which can be had for an investment of less than $300.
Cold weather can dry out and loosen the joints in wooden furniture. Leather can crack. Your big, fluffy couch can become a welcome nest to any neighborhood pests that crack the perimeters of your basement or garage.
Heat can be equally problematic. Robust temperatures fuel our old nemesis, humidity, causing myriad problems, as we just discussed. Leather does not mix well with heat — “Heat causes moisture in the leather’s natural oils to slowly evaporate, resulting in stiffening and cracking,” Richmond, Va. furniture dealers LaDiff report.
While on the topic of temperature, note that the sun is also major issue. “Fading, discoloration and fabric damage are the downsides of the sunlight — actually, any visible light — that floods our rooms,” Houzz.com contributor Becky Dietrich writes. “There are three main culprits in the spectrum of light: UVA and UVB rays cause 45 percent of the damage; heat/infrared radiation causes 25 percent; and visible light causes 25 percent.” Storing your furniture is a bright, sunny room or an area that receives substantial direct sunlight is, in other words, an expressway down the road to ruin — even in the wintertime.
The reasons for storage in Phoenix — America’s sunniest city — and storage in New Hampshire, home to the nation’s cloudiest burg (Mt. Washington), may be different, but both boil down to the same basic issue: the environment can wreak havoc on your furniture. Climate controlled storage mitigates these factors.
3. You. You are the enemy.
You let your kids build cushion forts. You spill things everywhere. You crank up the heat when you’re cold instead of wearing a sweater. You leave the windows open during rain storms. You stick grandma’s antique wooden desk in the garage “just for a few days” instead of picking out a self storage facility, and then you cringe when you back your car into it six months later.
As Walt Kelly once wrote, we have met the enemy and he is us. Climate controlled storage — any self storage, really — keeps your furniture safe from your own shenanigans.
Have something to say about furniture storage?
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