Saving Water-Damaged Artwork


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As the floodwaters from the recent storms recede, homeowners and businesses are faced with the task of dealing with water-damaged items.

When it comes to artwork, waterlogged items can often be salvaged if one acts quickly to mitigate the damage.

The first thing to be done is to get the artwork out into the open air to dry.  Paper and canvas art must be dried as soon as possible before mold and fungus can take hold.  The artwork should be removed from the frame and either hung out to dry or placed on a rack.  This gets the artwork away from any waterlogged framing materials and exposes as much of it as possible to the air.  Using heat to accelerate the drying process is generally not recommended.

We encourage you to bring us your water-damaged artwork for our expert advice and assistance.  We will un-frame and examine your artwork.  Oftentimes all that is needed is drying, flattening, and re-framing.  This is also a good opportunity to update your mats and backer boards with modern conservation-grade materials.  For items that are damaged beyond our ability to recover, we have a paper conservator on call who can suggest possible treatments to restore the work.

Frames that have been water-soaked can sometimes be salvaged as well.  Metal frames usually fare the best; these can usually be cleaned up and reassembled. Solid wood frames can often be cleaned up and/or refinished.  Many ornate frames, on the other hand, are made with details that are molded out of materials that are very susceptible to water and that crumble off when dry.  We can advise you as to whether a frame is worth salvaging or whether replacement is more economical.

So take heart. Art that has been soaked can survive.