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How to Store Paintings Safely

April 07, 2021

Unlike most furniture and dishware, artwork can actually get damaged while it sits in your storage unit. Understanding how to store paintings is incredibly important because improper storage can ruin works of art completely. 

Unfortunately, original art can't be purchased again. It's gone when it's ruined, so it's our job to take the steps to store it properly. We're going to take a look at how to store artwork in this article, giving you some insight into what needs to be done. 

Hopefully, the ideas below can help you preserve your precious works of art! Let's get started.

How to Store Paintings Properly

Understanding how to preserve paintings yourself is important because you can't always be sure that someone else is going to take the proper care. If you're working with movers, for example, there are no guarantees that the individuals have been trained on how to store paintings properly. 

Additionally, you might have some extremely old paintings in your possession. As things age, the care with which you store them has to adjust accordingly. It's unlikely that you have 400-year-old paintings, but even a 50-year-old painting has to be cared for differently. 

All of that said, taking care of your own paintings is the safest way to go about things. 

Wrapping and Padding

Wrap your paintings in a tight sheet of plastic or cloth. Don't wrap it tight enough that there is pressure on the frame of the canvas, but make sure that the wrapping is snug enough to prevent too much airflow. Additionally, you want to make sure that different critters or bugs can't enter, either. 

That's why stapled plastic wrap is a good idea for a foundation. You might even want to use an initial layer of plastic with a cloth on the outside. The cloth can serve as a cushion if anything falls on the painting or if it falls down in storage. 

Further, the wrapping should be tight enough that you can poke the poke of the canvas without actually hitting the canvas. In other words, putting your finger to the back of the frame should be met with resistance from the plastic. 

This ensures that other objects pressing on it from the back won't be able to touch or damage the canvas at all. 

Transporting Paintings

Once things are wrapped and ready to go, you have to think about how you're going to safely transport them. Ideally, each painting will be wrapped individually and won't physically touch anything else throughout transportation. 

That said, you can individually wrap numerous paintings and tie them together so that they're snug with one another and won't bounce around at all in the car or truck.

Make sure to place them on top of a cushion or blanket so that there isn't any damage to the frames as your vehicle bounces over the road. 

If your paintings aren't too fragile, it's okay to lay them on top of one another in the vehicle if they're properly wrapped. Don't do this if you're driving more than an hour or so, though. 

Paintings shouldn't be stacked upon one another for more an extended period of time because the pressure from outside can damage the fabric or even cause tears. It's similar to the way that you should store vinyl records. 

Laying them flat upon one another causes the records on the bottom to warp and get damaged. 

Storage Space Requirements

The most important factor in your choice of storage space for paintings is climate control. 

You must make sure that the climate you store your paintings in is around 70 degrees and isn't prone to different spikes in humidity. Most storage spaces offer general climate control, but it's important to make sure before you start paying for space. 

If the temperature isn't quite 70 degrees, you don't have to worry too much unless you're dealing with priceless works of art. What matters is that there aren't crazy spikes in temperature or humidity throughout the year.

When those factors change gradually or suddenly, the canvas can shrink or expand and the paint on top may crack or move. Those factors can warp the image of the painting as well as drop its value significantly. 

You also want to ensure that there's enough space in the unit to keep your paintings separate from other pieces of furniture or boxes that might fall on them. 

Situating Your Paintings in Storage

You should do your best to give each painting as much space as possible. In a perfect world, you'd have a rack that could individually house each painting. Many collectors of expensive art have complex systems used to hold paintings separate from one another. 

You certainly don't want to lay them flat upon one another. If you have to conserve space and don't have a rack, consider leaning them up sideways against a wall. If you can keep them all standing up straight and sitting on their side, there won't be as much pressure to damage them. 

The thing you want to watch out for is pressure from any angle. Paintings will sit in storage for long periods of time, so any pressure point that sits upon them might make a permanent indent. 

Finally, it's important that you keep all of your paintings separate from any surface that could hold moisture as the seasons change. Even though your unit is climate-controlled, it's still prone to contain moisture on different surfaces. 

For example, concrete walls and floors can absorb a lot of moisture. You wouldn't think this would happen with concrete, but it does. If you have to lay the paintings on a concrete surface, make sure to place a couple of layers of separation below. 

A plastic sheet over a blanket should definitely do the trick. 

Need More Help with Storage?

Properly handling all of your possessions during a move can be pretty tricky. Whether you're figuring out how to store paintings or the best ways to move heavy furniture, we're here to help you out. 

Contact us if you're looking for a seamless way to move your possession safely. 

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