When there is a claim relating to an escape of water that affects artwork or works on paper, the insurer and supply chain involved can greatly influence the scale of damage as well as claim costs relating to the restoration work required.

Artworks and works on paper damaged can become susceptible to a variety of subsequent issues leading to substantially more damage. The speed in which insurers and the supply chain act as well as how they treat such artworks is key.

Many art collectors try to salvage items themselves before professional restoration work can begin. Trying to quickly rescue sentimental and important artworks understandably becomes a priority for many people. As a professional restoration company, our own priority is to advise the client, insurer, loss adjuster and/or damage management company involved on how to avoid items being damaged further, either by good intentions or natural deterioration. Following this series of steps can minimise further damage and subsequently reduce claim costs.

Lay flat – After the discovery of the damage, acting quickly is crucial. Artworks should be promptly removed and laid flat and face up on a clean surface.  This will assist if the surface paint layer has started to crack and flake from water penetrating through the back of the canvas. Many paintings we receive have obtained damage after being displayed on walls where water has travelled down from an upstairs bathroom.

Dry naturally and don’t wrap or cover – Artwork should be left to dry naturally and slowly indoors. Avoid all temptation to speed the drying as this can cause further issues such as the paint becoming unstable and start cracking. Keeping it uncovered is important for a number of reasons; placing in a bag can create a ‘micro-climate’ for mould growth and contamination. Additionally, wrapping artworks in cloth or bubble wrap can adhere to a painting’s surface, leaving impressions and lifting paint when removed causing further damage. This can be avoided with prior advice and guidance as well as educating technicians on how best to handle artworks.

Don’t attempt to clean it – After contact with water, the appearance of artwork will alter when water seeps into the protective varnish layer causing blanching to occur with the painting taking on a frosty look. This can alarm clients and with many artworks being of great sentimental value, it is important to advise this can be a natural occurrence following such a situation and to avoid any hasty and inappropriate action. For example, it may be tempting to try to ‘brush off’, but minimal intervention to the surface is crucial. The same goes if a water-damaged painting has been discovered in an attic or garage and is covered in mould. Brushing mould spores escalates the damage and risks contamination with further items.

Ask an expert – Contact a restoration service like ourselves, we can provide early advice and on-hand support to minimise damage and ultimately claim costs by providing clear and sensible advice at a stressful time.

Often water damage is not ‘new’ but happened some time ago. The same advice applies: isolate artwork in a cool, dry and light environment, keep uncovered and separate from unaffected artworks.