Storing wood furniture in an unheated garage is possible, but there are some important factors to consider first. The main concerns with storing wood furniture in a cold, humid garage include the risks of warping, cracking, mold growth, and pest infestations. With the proper preparations and storage techniques, wood furniture can generally be safely kept in a garage during cold weather. Here is a closer look at how to store wood furniture in an unheated garage.
The Risks of Storing Wood Furniture in an Unheated Garage
Wood furniture is susceptible to damage from moisture, dryness, and extreme temperature changes. An unheated garage exposes furniture to all of these problematic conditions. Here are the main risks:
- Warping – Moisture and humidity can cause wood furniture to swell, twist, and warp out of shape. These deformations occur when the moisture content of the wood becomes uneven. Parts of the wood expand while other areas remain stable.
- Cracking – On the other end of the spectrum, overly dry air can cause wood pieces to dry out too much and crack. The minimal humidity levels of an unheated garage in winter can sap moisture from the wood grains.
- Mold – Excess moisture enables mold growth on wood. Mold appears as fuzzy splotches and can stain or rot furniture. Mold thrives in the humid, moderately cold conditions of an uninsulated garage.
- Pests – Insects like termites and wood-boring beetles can infest and severely damage wooden furniture. These pests remain active in unheated spaces where the cold is moderated.
- Finishes – Major temperature swings can degrade protective finishes on wood pieces. The expansion and contraction of the wood grains may also cause finishes to crack and peel.
The risks are highest when storing unfinished, solid wood furniture. However, even finished and engineered wood pieces are vulnerable in extreme unheated conditions. The preventative steps below aim to mitigate these risks.
Preparing Wood Furniture for Unheated Garage Storage
Proper preparations are key to storing wood furniture safely through cold seasons. Here are some tips for getting wood pieces ready for an unheated garage:
- Clean thoroughly – Remove any dirt and dust buildup first. Clean all surfaces, inside drawers and undersides included. Vacuum upholstered seats and backs.
- Inspect for damage – Look for any current cracks, chips, scrapes, loose joinery, or instabilities. Make repairs before storing.
- Apply protective finish – Unfinished wood will fare terribly. Apply polish, wax, polyurethane, or varnish. Finished pieces may need touch-ups.
- Remove humidity – Let recently finished pieces dry thoroughly indoors first. New finishes need 2-4 weeks before exposure to cold.
- Treat pests – Use non-toxic pesticides to prevent infestations. Spray insecticides shield outdoor furniture.
- Clean floor – Sweep and mop the garage floor to remove dirt, salt, leaves, and moisture.
A little time spent prepping furniture makes a huge difference in its ability to withstand cold storage conditions. Preventative measures also make springtime relocation back indoors much smoother.
Garage Storage Tips for Protecting Wood Furniture
Proper inside storage methods are also essential for safeguarding wood pieces in an unheated garage. Here are some garage storage guidelines:
- Raise pieces off floor – Use pallets, platforms, or racks to keep furniture from direct garage floor contact.
- Avoid exterior walls – The outer garage walls are coldest. Keep furniture centrally positioned if possible.
- Create space between – Leave 2-4 inches between items for air circulation.
- Wrap in moving blankets – Pad chairs, tables, and other items with thick moving pads.
- Use furniture covers – Dust-proof covers add insulation and buffer humidity changes.
- Place in storage bags – Seal clothing, linens, and cushions in airtight plastic containers.
- Install insulation – Foam board insulation on garage walls helps regulate temperature.
- Get a dehumidifier – Maintaining 40-45% humidity prevents wood movement and mold.
- Check periodically – Inspect stored items monthly for pest/mold issues.
With mindful storage methods, the inside of the garage can provide adequate shelter from winter. Stick to the central areas and keep wood pieces well separated, wrapped, and insulated for best results.
Ideal Garage Conditions for Wood Furniture Storage
What are the target garage conditions for minimizing damage risks to stored wood furniture? Here are the recommended ranges:
- Temperature – Above 32°F/0°C to prevent freezing. Ideally 40-60°F/4-15°C.
- Humidity level – 40-45% relative humidity. Too high risks mold, too low risks cracking.
- Moisture – Dry conditions. Avoid condensation and liquid water.
- Pests – Completely pest-free. Use preventatives and monitor regularly.
- Air flow – Ample circulation around furniture. Stagnant air breeds mold.
- Lighting – Dark storage to prevent light damage. Cover pieces fully.
A detached garage with a sealed concrete floor tends to provide the most favorable storage environment. Attached garages are slightly more vulnerable to moisture and temperature extremes.
The main strategies for regulating garage conditions involve insulation, heating sources, dehumidification, and air circulation. Even small shifts toward these optimal ranges significantly improve wood preservation.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Garage Storage
Is it safe to store wood furniture in a garage for extended periods? The duration of storage affects risks.
Storing wood furniture for a single winter season is generally low risk with proper preparations. The cold temperatures from approximately October through March are tolerable. Short-term storage may include:
- Seasonal swap – Rotating patio sets indoors for just winter.
- Renovations – Keeping wood pieces temporarily during kitchen or bedroom updates.
- New purchases – Storing a new dining set over one winter before using.
- Home sales – Sellers storing personal furniture while a home is on the market.
For uninterrupted storage under 6 months, wood furniture has decent odds of remaining undamaged. Just be sure to follow all the recommendations in this article.
Leaving wood furniture in an unheated garage for over 6 months intensifies risks. The prolonged exposure to cold, moisture, and pests increases the chances of irreversible damage. Situations where long-term garage storage should be avoided include:
- Infrequent use pieces – Storing spare guest room beds and furniture year-round.
- Inherited items – Keeping grandparent’s wood furniture indefinitely.
- Rare antique pieces – Leaving delicate, valuable antiques untouched for seasons.
- Childhood bedroom sets – Storing outdated kids’ bedroom sets for nostalgia.
These scenarios often lead to neglected furniture succumbing to warping, mold, and pests. For treasured wood pieces or antiques, a better option is paying for professional storage units with climate control.
What Types of Wood Furniture Can Be Stored?
Certain wood furniture is riskier to store in unheated garages than others. Consider the furniture type and make accommodations accordingly.
Best: Durable Finished Hardwoods
The wood furniture with the highest durability includes:
- Solid oak, maple, ash, pine finished pieces
- High-quality plywood constructions
- Sets with laminate finishes
- Engineered wood office furniture
- Sets with durable topcoat finishes like polyurethane
These create the most stable pieces for enduring unheated environments. Prioritize them first for garage storage spots.
Good: Sealed or Treated Woods
Woods that are slightly more vulnerable but still garage-safe include:
- Cedar furniture
- Teak patio sets
- Unfinished pine with wood conditioners
- Old furniture with wax/oil treatments
Take extra sealing and insulation steps for these woods. Schedule frequent condition checks.
Poor: Delicate Natural Woods
Think twice before garage storing these delicate wood types:
- Antique softwoods like poplar or aspen
- Thin solid wood boards prone to warping
- Natural bamboo furnishings
- Rattan, wicker, or straw pieces
- Valuable rosewood, mahogany, teak antiques
The vulnerable grains and porous surfaces require very stable conditions. Outdoor storage sheds or professional storage are better options.
What Should Not Be Stored?
While many wood furniture types can survive garage storage, some pieces are too fragile or valuable for the risk. Avoid storing:
- Irreplaceable heirloom/antique furniture
- Poor condition pieces with existing damage
- Unfinished solid wood furniture
- Flimsy self-assembled pressboard pieces
- Wood-topped tables prone to warping
- Natural cane or rattan furniture
- Fabrics, cushions, and upholstered pieces
The cold and moisture is simply too harsh for these vulnerable items. Seek alternate accommodations like professional storage, indoor coverage, or temporary offsite relocation.
Tips for Safely Removing Furniture from Garage Storage
When it comes time to remove stored wood furniture from the garage, take measures to safely transition pieces back indoors. Tips for the removal process include:
- Check for pests – Inspect thoroughly and treat any prior to moving inside.
- Clean and sanitize – Wipe dust, dirt, and grime before bringing indoors.
- Freshen finishes – Wax and polish to restore luster after storage.
- Watch for wobbling – Ensure joints and stability are intact after months of sitting.
- Monitor for mold – Watch for delayed mold growth and respond quickly.
- Gradual indoor transition – Allow wood to adjust over days to prevent damage.
- Repair any new damage – Touch up dings and make repairs immediately.
By methodically de-winterizing furniture and addressing any storage damages promptly, wood pieces can return to their former glory.
Maintaining Stored Wood Furniture
Regular garage checks are vital for stored wood furniture health. Follow these maintenance tips:
- Monthly inspections – Look for warping, pests, mold, and finish failures.
- Clean and rotate – Dust and flip furniture to equalize exposures.
- Ensure climate stability – Check insulation and environmental controls.
- Treat pest outbreaks – Re-treat furniture if any infestations are found.
- Renew protective layers – Re-apply polishes, waxes, or finishes that deteriorate.
- Clean garage surroundings – Remove clutter and food debris mice/pests can access.
- Watch weather forecasts – Take protective actions when extreme cold or precipitation expected.
Don’t let stored furniture be “out of sight, out of mind.” Maintain vigilance and upkeep to maximize its preservation.
Unheated garage storage poses substantial risks to wood furniture. But with diligent preparations, careful storage methods, routine maintenance, and short-term duration, most wood furniture can come through a winter undamaged.
Prioritize pieces constructed from durable hardwoods and finished materials whenever possible. Use all preventative measures against humidity, pests, and extreme cold. Frequently monitor for problems and maintain protective coatings.
Not all wood furniture can survive prolonged unheated storage. But pieces that are selected carefully, treated properly, and watched closely have a good chance of enduring a single cold season if garage storage is necessary.