Tables that extend for extra company are a great way to save space and accommodate extra people. Properly storing the leaf when not in use will allow you to avoid damage to this useful piece of furniture.
Table Leaf Basics
A table leaf is a removable portion of table top that allows a table to expand for occasions that require more seating and to collapse to a smaller size to free up space. While some designs feature built-in leaves on hinges or offer leaf storage in the table itself, many expandable tables offer no solutions for properly storing a leaf when not in use.
Like any piece of furniture, proper considerations must be taken when storing a table leaf. A failure to account for climate, space, or position can lead to warped wood and an ill fitting leaf.
Position and Space
Like any item of wooden furniture, care must be taken to prevent warping over time. Weight or undue stress on the wood of a leaf can, given time, cause it to bend or bow. Even the weight of the wood itself can cause such damage when stored vertically for months at a time. To prevent this, lie the leaf flat, resting on it's largest flat surface. For most table leaves, this means storing it in such a way that the table top is flat against the ground or shelf surface.
It is also important to provide some space to store the piece in. While it can be tempting to stack items on a leaf that is stored flat, this can damage it, causing dents and scratches in the wood.
Temperature and Humidity
It also pays to be aware of the temperature and humidity of the area the leaf is stored in. Wood is especially prone to extremes of temperature and moisture, and careless storage can cause irreparable damage.
Extremes in temperature will damage wood over time. Hot temperatures, such as those found near fireplaces, radiators or heating vents, can cause wood to warp or split. Any extreme fluctuations in temperature can cause damage as the wood expands and contracts with changes in heat.
Humidity is equally dangerous to wood furniture. Excessive moisture in the air may be absorbed by wood, softening it and potentially causing mildew. Inadequate humidity can also cause problems as the wood dries out. As moisture is leached from the wood, it will become brittle and possibly shrink.
Direct sunlight, over time, also will damage wood. Visibly, the wood may fade or discolor. The wood itself may also weaken and lose its finish after extended exposure to UV rays.
Finally, it helps to store wooden leaves in a protective covering. These coverings may be as simple as wrapping the leaf in an old bed sheet, or purchasing a table leaf storage bag. Avoid storing the leaf in plastic, as plastic may react or stick to the wood finish, and plastic tends to trap humidity in with the wood. Stick to cloth coverings that allow the wood to breath and adjust to changing humidity and temperatures.