Cottage season has many of us packing up for cooler climes amongst the woods and lakeside. According to the Financial Post, there has been a marked increase in recreational real estate purchases within the last few years. The likely culprit of this “cottage craze” is Ontario’s infamously costly housing market. No matter the use of your cottage, chances are that you’ve put a fair bit of money into furnishing it, with the goal being that these key pieces will last for years of enjoyment to come. Unfortunately, many cottages can’t seem to shake the musty odour of furniture that has been sitting unprotected.
The Cottage Storage Problem
Many buildings, especially older cottages, are built with poor insulation and little consideration of temperature control beyond the basics—a lot of cottages are literally made for the summer getaway. While you may be perfectly comfortable turning up the AC at the cottage in the summer and letting the beautiful weather take care of the rest, the quality of your furniture likely suffers year-round. Think of the cold winters and extreme heat that cottage furniture must weather over the years, without the benefit of a permanent live-in resident moderating temperatures. In the long run, time in a non-climate controlled environment will take its toll on the durability of furnishings.
The Science Factor
But, what exactly is going on in your non-climate controlled cottage? A lot of temperature swings. For furniture, temperature swings are damaging. Going back to what you learned in grade school science, you probably remember learning that water expands when it freezes. The expansion of water is so powerful that it can break apart solid rock. You probably won’t have solid ice collecting in your furniture—we hope!—but the chances are that your cottage’s temperatures will plummet dramatically in the dead of the Canadian winter. This can also cause expansion and cracks in furniture. The rule of expansion applies to any form of moisture in the air, including the humidity of hot summers. Wood fibres, for instance, will expand or swell when absorbing moisture and shrink or contract during dry periods. Going through a few cycles of this, it’s easy to see how wood can become so warped and break its original shape.
Some materials act differently under the same conditions, creating more problems when two materials with different reactions to temperatures are attached to the same piece of furniture. Consider, for instance, the smooth lacquer finish of a table and the actual wood underneath it. Both materials will respond to temperature swings, but they can separate from one another simply by expanding and contracting at different rates.
The Best Storage Option
No matter your usage of tarps, wrappings, or covers, it is always a gamble when storing furniture in environments lacking climate controls. Even air-tight coverings, which may be useful for one part of a furniture piece, can promote damage in other areas, depending on the temperature and humidity of your cottage. Luckily, there are climate-controlled storage unit rentals available that are designed to protect your belongings from all the elements. Even the best outdoor units can’t guarantee the same kind of protection.
Preparing Furniture for Storage
Once you’ve decided on a good indoor storage space, you’ll want to consider how to best prepare your furniture to be put away. Below are some simple tips on care for specific materials:
- Metal and plastic resin store best when scrubbed down using water and detergent, then rinsed off with either a clean rag or a hose. If you find any signs of rusting metal, you can also apply a rust-neutralizing primer.
- Cedar or teak wood stores best when treated with a mild bleach solution to stop the beginnings of any mildew. Just make sure you let the furniture sit out afterwards in a well-ventilated area for 24 to 48 hours.
- Other types of wood store best when scrubbed down with a mixture of water, bleach, and detergent. Rinse it off with either a clean rag or a hose. When it comes to damp wooden furniture, it can be tempting to let it dry out in the sun to kill mold and mildew, but doing this can cause the wood to warp.
- Wicker stores best when brushed with a mix of water and bleach to stop the beginnings of any mildew. Wicker furniture should be rinsed more gently than other materials to prevent damage to the fragile woven patterns. Ideally, you should use a spray bottle or a fine spray setting on a hose, and then leave the furniture to dry on its own before storing it away.
- Fabrics store best if they can be cleaned and dried thoroughly first. Upholstered furniture can easily attract mold and mildew. Perhaps just as problematic is the potential for attracting moths. These hardy insects are known to literally feed off of the moisture in fabrics. Often, moths are associated with closets and basements because these places are sometimes left undisturbed and dark for long periods of time. The same applies to many cottages, which are left unlit and exposed to dampness during the off-season. To lessen such risks, removable cushion and pillow covers can be washed with a small amount of bleach—just be sure to check the label tag, in case there are specific washing instructions for a given material. Always make sure fabrics have fully dried before putting them away in storage, and avoid covering them with plastic to let the fabric breathe.
At Jiffy Self-Storage, we offer only the best indoor climate-controlled storage units to protect our clients’ valuables. To learn more about the options available to you, call Jiffy Self-Storage at 416-74-JIFFY (54339) or contact us here.