Most of the time your artwork is hung on walls or placed on shelves. My challenge was dealing with water damaged art that was sitting on the floor in several inches of water. That's typical when you're moving into a new house. When unpacking, I placed things in the room where I thought they'd go. Fortunately this was the only bedroom left to organize, plus the front hallway.
You can imagine how upset I got when I saw artwork piled up in the garage. The water mitigation people told my son everything he put in the garage would dry out due to the 90° temperatures in Florida. This simply wasn't true. It was one more lie in a long list of lies they told as they pretended to dry out my house.
Steps to Save Water Damaged Art
While my experience running a handyman business meant I knew how to deal with the house, I had no experience dealing with water damaged art. Maybe I should have immediately returned home immediately? I stayed in Maine to help my sister confined to a wheelchair following a motorcycle accident.
Here's what I wish we'd known once the flooding was discovered. It would have allowed me (my son) to do a better job saving my water damaged art.
- Wall art moved to the garage and in hindsight, know that should have been a top priority.
- Water damaged artwork should be laid out on a dry, flat surface. As you can see in the photo above, we didn't know this so my son stacked all the water damaged art on the floor (still wet?) and standing up.
- Remove paintings and other water damaged art from their frames. Oliver Brothers (preserving artwork since 1850) says “… use extreme caution when attempting to remove the artwork from the frame, as most art objects become weaker when they are wet.”
- Carefully separate the water damaged art from the matting and backing boards. If adhesives make this difficult, Oliver Brothers recommends you stop and have the artwork evaluated … rather than risk tearing it.”
- When artwork appears stuck to glass/glazing, leave in frame and dry glass-side down.
Oliver Brothers website has more advice on how to dry out books, photographs and more, so you may want to review their article on Water Damaged Art. My son was able to find the recommendation to freeze paperwork until you find a company to help you dry out pages properly. So my freezer is full of paper (above) … LOL. Fortunately I've rented another house nearby and don't need to solve this problem yet.
Finding Expert Help for Water Damaged Art
Once I got home and surveyed the damage, my first step was to hire a public adjuster because the water mitigation company didn't do their job! I started putting moldy personal belongings left in the garage out with the trash. More important, I took all the water damaged art to a local frame store, Osceola Art and Frame.
Working with the owner of Osceola Art and Frame, here's what we found when disassembling my water damaged art. Fortunately the paper, backboards and mats seemed to have absorbed most of the water. Each piece of artwork needed something different to restore the water damage to the same/similar condition as before the flood.
We brought this Japanese block print (below) home from Japan nearly 25 years ago. It brings back lots of memories of the years we lived there. The landscape is so calming and offers you the opportunity to dream forever, lost among the trees.
The biggest challenge came with these twin woven, hand-painted pieces. Our friends gave us a small red piece so when we visited them in England, I wanted to meet the artist and we bought this pair of woven art. As there was no way to replace these pieces, we worked really hard to figure out what was needed to put them back together.
Once we figured out how to deal with my two most treasured pieces, we worked through other water damaged art. Here are examples of what we were able to save.
The silk fabric collage was touch and go. Everything was ruined so we weren't sure if we could save the fabric. I took the fabric home to wash and iron. When I realized they were silk it was harder to figure out how to restore the fabric. Amazingly, once the fabric was removed from the frame and other soggy materials, it dried in a day … sitting in the car.
Some wall hangings had less damage than others. The New York print below needed a new backer board as fortunately, it absorbed almost all the water. The small blue framed wall hanging from Alaska need a new frame and mat, as the plastic wrapping held the water so the frame got moldy.
And there were several pieces of artwork that couldn't be saved. Fortunately I always keep the artist's name and contact information on the back of each piece, so I've already gotten some replacement pieces.
Hoping you never have to live through this nightmare …
Leave your own tips to share with others.
PS It was also very helpful to have photographed house contents before everything got flooded.