Summer is here! (Or, if you’re reading this at another time of year, ‘summer will be here again soon!’) However, wooden furniture damage through exposure to sunlight is one that is relevant all year round, so regardless of the season, it’s worth taking action now.
During the summer months. when the sun is at full strength, you’ll need to take care to protect your home and furniture. If left unchecked, UV exposure can damage the appearance of your furniture and is ultimately irreversible.
Why does the sun damage wooden furniture?
Fading, discoloration and damage to materials such as wood are downsides of the sunlight that we spend most of the year yearning for. There are three main causes of damage in the light spectrum: UVA and UVB rays; heat radiation; and visible light.
That said, in general we want this light in our rooms. But the light will, over time, cause the slow but sure degradation of your wooden furniture.
People often think that glass can block damaging sunlight, but actually, a clear glass window lets in up to 70% of the sun’s UV rays. Even expensive energy efficient windows only reduce this by approximately 10%.
In order to protect your expensive furniture from the ravages of the sun, it’s important to find a way to keep the UV rays out of your home. But what can you do? Here’s our guide and some top tips on how to protect your wooden furniture from sun damage:
What can I do to protect my furniture from sun damage?
1. Make use of blinds and curtains
A very obvious solution is to utilise what you probably already have in your home: blinds or curtains. In the past, many people dealt with the problem of sun damage by using heavy draperies, curtains, window shades or blinds.
If you’re out at work during the day, draw the curtains - this will not only stop the harmful effects of the UV rays but will also keep the room cool in summer. If you’re concerned that it may signal to potential thieves that the property is empty, semi-transparent roller blinds can do a similar job without making it look like there’s no-one home.
Drawing the blinds or curtains is one thing, but we don’t spend all year waiting for a sunny day to spend it in our living rooms with the curtains drawn. So what other solutions are available?
2. Apply window film
This is a great, modern alternative to drawing dark drapes across your windows.
Films are among the best ways to pre-empt sun damage issues in your home. The best solar window films reject up to 99.9% of the sun’s harmful rays.
Newer window films are less reflective than they used to be as well as being optically clear, making them more attractive for use in the home. When windows are protected by this film, 99% of the sun’s ultraviolet light and 97% of the infrared light is blocked, while still allowing visible light to pass through. This means you retain the feel and warmth of the natural sunlight without any of the damage to your wooden furniture associated with UV rays. The surfaces will no longer fade where the sun hits them, even when they are placed directly in front of a window.
As an example, check out Sun-X, a UK-based company that installs solar window film, to get an idea of the kind of products that are available on the market today.
3. Use varnish and sealants
(Note: this advice is not applicable to furniture from Eat Sleep Live.) As discussed, sun exposure can be one of the most damaging elements on wood, causing permanent discoloration. Wood can fade as well as darken, depending on the type.
Some types of wooden furniture requires a sealant to protect against the sun’s UV rays, but which one is best for you? There are several options available:
Varnish, mostly used as a top coat, is made from resins, oil and solvents. They come in a variety of finishes, ranging from flat to high-gloss, and offer first class protection against UV rays, heat, water and wear and tear.
It's easy to apply with a brush and has low toxicity, but takes a day or so to dry, and up to a week to cure. Water-based varnish is perfect for use indoors on furniture due to its fast drying time, durability and the fact it is clear.
Lacquer is solvent-based and contains a resin which allows the coat of lacquer can dissolve into its previous coat. This makes lacquer easy to apply, polish and repair any scratches or scuff marks.
It has an extremely fast drying time, creating a hard shell that gives furniture an intense gloss finish and tough, long lasting protection. However, it's best to be avoided on coarse grain wood, such as oak, or soft wood, like cedar.
Which wood sealer is best?
Sealants protect the wood from environmental factors, but they can also greatly enhance the beauty of the wood grain. Select the best sealant based on the type of wood you have and how much light it receives on a day-to-day basis. Softwoods, such as pine and cedar, will require more maintenance than hardwoods like oak and teak.
Wood is especially susceptible to sun damage so treat regularly with coatings. Painting, staining and applying varnish will all build up a protective barrier that will reduce the amount of UV rays that permeate the wood, ultimately preventing cracking and splitting.
When it comes to furniture from Eat Sleep Live, you don’t need to use sealants or varnish - our rustic wooden furniture can be protected simply by applying wax to our reclaimed wood furniture regularly, which keeps it in great condition - we even supply a tin of wax with all our pieces and show you how to use it when we deliver your new furniture to your home.
4. Change the position of your furniture
The positioning of your wooden furniture is a key factor when it comes to the severity of the damage caused by the sun. For example, placing a wooden table next to a bright sunny window will cause sun damage more quickly so it’s best to situate furniture away from direct contact with the sun.
Dark wood will show evidence of fading much more than lighter grains, so consider this when you are choosing furniture for a sunny room. Every few months change the layout of your room so the same areas of your furniture are not subject to exposure. Some wooden furniture will become darker in the sun, for example maple and cherry, while pieces crafted from walnut can become lighter. If your wooden tables or shelves have ornaments or other objects on them, remember to reposition them regularly to avoid marks developing on the surface of the wood.
If you have a wooden floor with a rug, follow the same principle. Rugs or mats kept in one location on a hardwood floor will show its outlines after a period of time. Dealing with this requires moving your furniture to new locations periodically, as suggested earlier.
Depending on the type of furniture you have and the layout of your room, you should be able to utilise our guide to protect your furniture and keep it in excellent condition, untarnished by the sun for many years to come!