Could flood damage be repaired?

April 20, 2014

Here you can see before and after pictures of a pair of

antique armchairs damaged in a flood, then left water-

logged. Damage to the chairs was nearly irreparable: parts

of the wooden frames were rotten, all of the joints were

loose, the upholstery crumbled when touched.

 

Restoration of these chairs was clearly going to be a big

challenge. Sometimes I receive furniture in such bad

condition that I recommend not to restore it. In this

case however, the customer felt a very strong sentimental

attachment to them, so emotions won.

 

Restorno repaired the frames, refinished and reupholstered

them with springs in the seats. Note that the solid fabric of

the seat was contrasted with the floral brocade of the back,

and the back was framed with a piping of the solid fabric,

an unusual design according to the customer’s taste. We

went through the following process to restore the chairs,

and make them “like new, only stronger”:

 

1.  The first step in the repair process was the removal of all

fabric and nails. At that point I could fill and reinforce areas

where wood had rotted. I had to disassemble the chair into

pieces, clean old glue from the joints, and then reconstruct

the chairs with epoxy. After leveling the legs to make sure

chair sits evenly on floor, I sat on them to see if they could

support 90 kilos-so far, so good.

 

2.  Finishing was made easier by the choice of the customer

to use an opaque lacquer, rather than a finish that showed

the very stained wood. Nonetheless, we had to strip the old

finish to the bare wood and sand with successively finer

grits to achieve smoothness ready for painting. We sprayed

sealer and sand three times in order to mask the damages in

the wood, before applying several coats of colored lacquer.

 

3.  Upholstery of antique chairs is too often not done

right. Most upholsterers today have not learned to work

with springs, because elastic webbing and foam became

the easy and cheap alternative. However, springs are much

more comfortable and long lasting. To upholster with

springs we had to construct a platform of crisscrossed nonelastic

webbing to hold the springs, tie in the springs to the webbing,

and then construct a cover over the springs from jute and webbing.

A rubberized rim was fixed around the perimeter of the

frame to hold the stuffing in place. Foam was cut exactly and

glued to the cover. Over the foam we placed a softer layer of

acrylan to give a soft feel before stapling a lining under the top

fabric. To cover the seam between wood and fabric, we sewed

piping from the same fabric on the seats, and attached it with

hot glue.

 

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April 20, 2014

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