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Saving Storm Damaged Furniture

When Hurricane Isaac made landfall over the city of New Orleans in late August, the storm took its sweet time moving on.  The hurricane sat atop the Crescent City for days flooding streets, swelling rivers and in the hardest-hit areas, forcing water over our levees and inundating entire neighborhoods.  The devastation was greater than anyone- meteorologists, residents or public officials- had expected.

As the clean-up begins for some and continues for others across Southeastern Louisiana, in some neighborhoods you’ll find a lifetime of possessions thrown to the curb.  From water-logged electronics to washed-away photographs, it’s heartbreaking to see entire homes turned inside-out.  Many of those possessions are treasured and irreplaceable antiques.  Some are salvageable.  Others are not.

I stopped by Driscoll Antiques, where husband and wife team Ralph and Audry Driscoll specialize in using historic tools, materials and techniques to restore antique furniture.  The duo considers themselves preservationists and you’ll find their work featured in exquisite St. Charles mansions and on the silver screen in many films.  After a storm, you’d expect them to make a fortune, but Ralph says it’s quite the opposite.  They’re overwhelmed with work and because water damage is so difficult, their profit margin reduces dramatically.

If you’re ever faced with flood waters, Ralph offers some tips.  He says dehumidifiers are furniture’s worst enemy.  He recommends removing your piece from the water, wiping it down and allowing it to dry out naturally.  If it dries too quickly, the wood can crack, warp and separate.  He also says you should protect your furniture with carnauba wax.  That can be the difference between a salvageable piece of furniture and one that’s completely ruined.

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