Caring for Hardwood Furniture

Tips & Guides Newsletter

Published by Semler Appraisals & Estate Liquidations
A Professional Service for the Valuation of Personal Property

Spring 2001    Vol. 3, No. 1

Caring for Hardwood Furniture

Genuine hardwood furniture is a good investment and it can have long lasting value. The longevity of such furniture depends upon the care given to it. 

Up to half the weight of freshly sawn wood is water. Furniture is made from wood that is carefully dried, leaving just enough moisture for the furniture to acclimate to the home’s relative humidity. When the air is extremely dry, the natural response of solid hardwood furniture is to lose moisture and shrink a little. When this happens, you may see a few small openings or cracks on the surface. As the relative humidity rises, the problem will correct itself and the wood will absorb enough moisture to expand slightly. 

Here are some ways to increase the furniture’s longevity: 

  • Keep the relative humidity at 25 to 35% by using a humidifier in the cold months and an air conditioner in the summer. 
  • Hardwood furniture shouldn’t be exposed to continuous direct sunlight. Close the curtains occasionally. 
  • Don’t place the furniture directly in front of a fireplace or over a heat register. 
  • Table leaves should be stored as close as possible to the table. Instead of keeping them in a damp garage, keep them inside the house in a closet, so that the table leaves are adjusting to the same relative humidity as the table.


Appraisal Seminar

Thirty-five appraisers, claims adjusters, and fraud examiners from 15 states attended a two-day seminar developed and presented by Lorrie Semler, ISA CAPP, AM on January 26-27, 2001 at the Grapevine (TX) Conference Center.  Attendees studied tips and techniques for preparing damage and loss appraisals for the insurance and moving/storage industries.  The seminar was sponsored by the Personal Property Committee of the American Society of Appraisers.  For information on future offerings, please contact Janella Smyth, ASA, at P.O. Box 12465, Raleigh, NC 12465, (919) 832-5551, or [email protected]

More on Auctions vs. Tag Sales

An article in the last issue raised a question from some of you: Under what conditions would an auction be better for liquidation as compared to an estate (tag) sale?  In most parts of the Dallas metroplex, a tag sale will produce higher sales revenues than will an auction.  I recommend auction under the following conditions: 

  • If the home is too small to accommodate large numbers of potential shoppers.  At auction, the items can be brought outside and sold one at a time and in box lots. 
  • If the home is in a remote location.  Estate sale shoppers tend to travel less far than auction-goers. 
  • If the quality/quantity of items in the estate is less than good. 
  • If there is unusual provenance associated with the estate, thus creating a seller’s market advantage. 
  • If, after discussing the merits of each type of selling, the client prefers the auction method of marketing the sale.

Each estate liquidation situation is unique and should be evaluated by a professional. 

Say What?

Appraisers often take for granted the terminology we use on a daily basis to describe furniture.  Here are a few terms, in no particular order, that you may have wondered about. 

  • Patina—a deep, warm, well-worn look acquired over time by an original surface that has not been stripped, sanded, or refinished.
  • Patera—Oval-shaped inlaid or carved design commonly found on Federal furniture.
  • Bergere—Upholstered armchair with closed arms.
  • Fauteuil—Upholstered chair with open arms. 
  • Fluting in furnitureFluting—Deep concave channels cut parallel to each other in the legs and columns of classical furniture.  The ridges between the flutes are called fillets.
  • Reeding—Deep convex channels cut parallel to each other in the legs and columns of classical furniture.  (Think about the rounded part of the “R” in “reeding” and it will help you remember that reeding pushes outward.)
  • Muntin—Thin plywood or veneer that is used on glass doors to give the illusion of separate panes of glass.  In cabinets that have separate panes of glass, the muntins are the wood pieces that actually hold the glass.
  • Rail—The horizontal support pieces of wood on chairs and in case furniture.  The crest rail is the top back rail on a chair.
  • Stile—The vertical support pieces in a cabinet or the upright back supports of a chair. 
  • Splat—The vertical backrest portion of a chair, sometimes urn-shaped, pierced, heart-shaped, etc.
  • EscutcheonEscutcheon—The decorative plate that surrounds a keyhole, usually brass.  This is not the same as the key surround or keyhole, which is the brass outline of the hole itself.
  • Gadroon—The slanted, convex decoration around the edges of furniture or silver.
  • Gallery—The raised, open fretwork around the top of case furniture, often made of pierced wood or brass, and used to keep items from falling off.


Our Services

  • Appraisals for probate/estate tax; equitable distribution among heirs; insurance coverage and claims; non-cash charitable contribution; distribution in marital dissolution; bankruptcy.
  • Estate Liquidations by auction or tag sale.
  • Litigation Support
  • Lorrie Semler is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers, specializing in Antiques & Residential Contents.


Thank YOU! 
Your referrals are always welcome.  Please let us know how we may better serve you.

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