The thrill of the hunt and a good deal are the main draws of shopping the second-hand market. If you are in need of furniture, it can be an inexpensive way to get durable and classic pieces that will last a lifetime. Often, these pieces have seen better days. The following tips will help you determine which pieces are worth the time it takes to refinish and restore, and which ones you should pass on by.
Tip #1: Skip the Veneer
Generally, wood veneer furniture is of lesser quality than a real wood piece. The veneer is usually placed over sub-par wooden products, like particle board. It also can't be refinished if you don't like the stain, nor is it easy to repair if it is chipped or missing any veneer. Even paint doesn't adhere well to veneer. The only exception is if the piece is in excellent condition and if you love it.
Tip #2: Check the Construction
A quality piece isn't simply glued together. Make sure it's held together with wood screws, dowels, or dovetail joints. Dovetail drawers are especially desirable. You can spot these joints because it appears the two sides of a drawer are held together by interlocking "fans," or dovetail notches, cut into the wood. If a piece is wobbly, verify that you can easily see the cause and that it is an easy fix (for example, a missing dowel peg or screw – not a broken structural piece).
Tip #3: Beware of Paint
Older wood pieces that have been painted likely were because of major damage, such as impossible to remove burn stains. You simply won't know until you strip off the paint. If you are comfortable with repainting instead of staining the furniture a natural wood color, then a painted piece can be a good deal. And you never know – you may find pristine wood ripe for refinishing underneath that decades old layer of latex.
Tip #4: Be Mindful of Details
Carvings and filigrees can add visual interest and beauty to a piece, but they also make refinishing more difficult. The same is true for any detailed decorative work on the furniture. You will need to carefully remove the old finish and sand every nook and cranny of the detail work without damaging it before you can refinish the wood. If you are in love with a piece but worried about the amount of work, contact a professional furniture refinisher like The Strip Joint to get a quote on having the furniture restored.