When you're shopping for furniture, it's tempting to go with pressed wood and faux items if you are on a tight budget. Tom Moser, master craftsman and founder of Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers, recommends that before buying, consider how you plan to use the piece.
Will it be in a high-traffic area and get considerable use? Do you have children who will romp on the piece and put it through a lot of abuse? If you answer yes to either of these questions, hardwood is a durable solution.
Synthetic materials can't be repaired easily, Moser said. A deep scratch, for example, can't be sanded out. High-quality hardwood furniture, although initially more expensive, is durable.
"It will last 100 years or more," Moser said. "I don't think you can say that about medium-density fiber board."
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And in areas where moisture levels are high, hardwoods are better.
"With solid wood being an organic material, solid boards get wider and narrower as the seasons change," Moser said.
"The problem with most synthetics is they are made with inexpensive materials. They aren't designed to hold up to moisture."
Moser said it's important to make sure pieces are made from authentic hardwoods instead of soft woods that have been stained, lacquered and varnished to look like cherry, mahogany or some other hardwood. Ask questions and do your research before buying.
Consumers also should consider the wood's origin. Moser prefers American hardwoods that come from sustainable sources.
"There will always be Appalachian hardwood for our children and their children if we do it right," he said.
To care for hardwood furniture, Moser suggests using a combination of linseed oil and carnauba or beeswax on pieces that haven't been heavily lacquered or varnished. These items can be found in most hardware and home stores.
Moser said people should be careful with rags soaked in linseed oil because they can combust. Additionally, he recommends wiping wood with a fine steel-wool pad and a light coat of oil or wax every three or four months.
"Over the years, they become case hardened," Moser said. "So in a few years, you won't have to do anything. ... The beauty of most hardwoods is they will age with grace and develop a patina, which is so much better than anything that comes from a can."