Covid 19- Its detrimental effects on everything, including our church seating.

by Martha, July 20, 2021

We have done our part to reduce the spread of Covid 19. We have washed, sanitised and stayed away from our loved ones. As the vaccine roll out pushes on and a return to some form of normality awaits us, we are all left with reminders of what we went through both visible and invisible.

Our churches and places of worship have worked hard to allow them to remain open. Pews have been removed and chairs have been separated. Large stickers on seats and social distance barrier tape have become the norm.  Every entrance and exit supplying you with so many opportunities to sanitise your hands. Church staff and volunteers have offered their time to sanitise seats and high touch areas keeping everyone safe.

Age can be the issue?

What we have seen in our line of work is the terrible affect that this is cleaning is having on church seating across Ireland and the UK. We have been contacted by many parishes, even those whose furniture we did not make, seeking advice.  What we here in ICS have found is that the effects of cleaning pews have mimicked that of what has happened in the general population. Newer seats with more modern lacquers have managed to withstand the effects better than older more compromised seats. The use of hard bleaches on seating that is relatively new has seen the lacquer wear away exposing the raw timber underneath. With time and ongoing cleaning and moisture there is bound to be issues.

Those that have been careful to use gentle cleaners suitable for wood may still see where the lacquer on their seats has gone milky and cloudy. The issue in this instance can often be that older seats may have damage to the lacquer through years of wear and tear. The cleaning process followed by the surface not being thoroughly dried after cleaning, slowly leads to lifting and then flaking of the lacquer again exposing the wood underneath. Furthermore we also have the effects of the stickers used to ensure social distancing. Strong sticker adhesive used in many stickers – coupled with the length of time they have remained can pull up the finish on the surface of the wood, leaving behind a dull or discoloured area on seats meaning that in order to rectify the problem- the full sanding and re finishing of the seat is necessary.

Could this be the right time for change?

Parishes everywhere are taking different approaches to solving the problems arising from damaged seating. Some are taking this as an opportunity for change. The cost of refurbishment or restoration verses the cost of replacement is something that many are considering. Churches and places of worship may have, for many years, grappled with the idea of changing their seating for the benefit of both the church users and how the church itself is used for its community. Comfortable seating and space are on the top of the list of objectives when considering new seating.

For those who want to keep their current seating and preserve them for another generation, the possibility of stripping and refinishing the wooden seats along with replacement of kneelers and upholstery is something that they are assessing.

Taking time …..

There is a palpable sense of optimism among our clients. They are looking to the future more so than ever as they await the time when they can open their doors to unrestricted numbers. Religious communities have taken this time during the pandemic to research and evaluate their options.  Some have pushed ahead and completed refurbishments – others have ordered their new seating to be ready for installation after the summer holidays. More again have started open discussions about what they want in their churches and places of worship.

For many, now could be the right time, “ a time to gain that which is to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away”. 

Contact ICS Furniture to discuss the potential for your seating or visit