Rawson Custom Woodworks,LLC Blog Article: "6 Tips on Reclaiming Furniture"
Rawson Custom Woodworks, LLC banner logo Rawson Custom Woodworks, LLC contact information

July 29, 2013

6 Tips on Reclaiming Furniture

(back to archive)

photo of a junk couch

At Rawson Custom Woodworks, LLC, we want to help all of our customers find the most cost effective solution for their project needs, and one effective way to save money is to reclaim furniture.

What is reclaiming furniture? Reclaiming furniture is simply finding old pieces that people do not want any more and reusing them in your home. Most often these pieces of furniture can be found at garage sales and thrift stores. The pieces most often are older and/or are in need of repair. Because of their appearance, discarded furniture is very inexpensive, but with a little elbow grease, you can turn these pieces into the focal points of your home.

However some pieces are beyond repair, or they are not worth the cost of repairing them. So, the next time you're out at your neighborhood garage sales, how can you tell if that old dresser is worth your time and effort or if it's beyond saving? Well here are some of our tips on how to tell if a piece of furniture is worth investing in.

1. Check for labels.

photo of an antique furniture label

When contemplating purchasing an old piece of furniture always check for labels, dates, or any other sort of mark from the manufacturer. Sometimes you can find a rare antique at the thrift store. Manufacturer's markings can be anywhere on the piece, so make sure to check inside and underneath the piece to find them. Sometimes a piece will not have any markings either because they were never put on the piece when it was built or they have been worn away over time. Now if you find that the piece is not a rare antique that doesn't mean it is not worth purchasing. The manufacturer's markings are just the first thing to check with a piece.

2. Check for dovetails

photo of a completed dovetail drawer box

Dovetails are a type of drawer construction. To check if the piece you've found has dovetails, simply pull out the drawers and look at the corners. Dovetails look similar to small triangles cut into the corners of the drawers. Dovetails are used in high end furniture because dovetails are one of the strongest types of joints. Most pieces use a flat joint for the drawer boxes (which is where the ends of the wood are just glued or nailed flat against each other). A flat joint is the easiest and cheapest to use in furniture construction, so if your piece has dovetails instead of flat joints then you know the piece is made with superior construction methods, thus making it a high quality piece and more than likely worth your purchase. But there are still other aspects of your piece to check before deciding to invest in it.

3. Check for real wood

photo of a cross section of particle board

Most furniture made in the last two decades use particle board instead of solid wood. Particle board is wood dust (or particles) pressed and glued together to make one solid piece. This type of wood is very inexpensive to make. Thus it cost much less for manufacturers to use particle board in their furniture than to use regular solid wood. To check if your piece is made with particle board look at any exposed surface such as at the back of the piece or inside the piece. Particle board is speckled with very small pieces of wood whereas solid wood's appearance will have regular wood grain. If your piece has solid wood then it is a higher quality piece. However, the majority of furniture you will find has particle board. Not all particle board pieces are bad, but they can be damaged more easily than solid wood (they are especially susceptible to water damage).

5. Check for damages

photo of a cross section of particle board

One of the most important things to check your piece for is damages. Make sure to look over every surface to find any damages. Some damages can be repaired, but sometimes, if the piece is lower quality (such as it is made of particle board and uses flat drawer joints) the damages are not worth the cost of repairing. Along with damages, check for poor repairs like bad glue joints or parts reattached with nails or screws. To know if a piece is worth repairing, check the other factors of the piece such as if the piece is antique and solid wood.

6. Check for paint

photo of a cross section of particle board

Many pieces of reclaimed furniture can be rejuvenated with a fresh coat of paint, but many pieces at thrift stores and garage sales already have paint on them. Furniture that is more than four decades old might possible be finished with lead paint. Always check the quality of the paint to see if it needs to be redone. Lead paint is only dangerous when it is disturbed, such as when it flakes off or is scraped off. Thus if the piece does need to be refinished, always take special safety precautions. It can be difficult to tell how old a piece is, so it is always better to be cautious and assume the paint might contain lead. Of course, this will change the amount of work that will need to go into the piece and can help you decide if it is worth your investment.

Along with these tips, if you have any questions about the quality of a piece, you can call or email us or even stop into our shop for a visit. We offer free consultation, and are more than happy to answer your questions.



4337 S. Perryville Rd, Suite 110

For more tips on reclaiming furniture and over-all home decor ideas, follow our boards on Pinterest:
DIY Projects
Home Decor Tips

So the next time you're out at a garage sale or thrift store, use these six tips to help you determine if that old dresser or discarded coffee table could possibly become your next favorite piece of home furnishing.

(back to archive)

© 2014 Rawson Custom Woodworks, LLC