Wednesday, 17 February 2016 08:34

Quick Guide: Tips for Buying Reclaimed Furniture

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 You found that perfect DIY piece of furniture or fall in love with an already painted piece, but looks are not everything. How do you know your purchasing a quality item? (or one with potential) Kathy, owner of Fallen Barns Antiques located on the Street of Shops, offers some quick tips before making that final decision.


Plan, measure, and take pictures, on your digital device so you have it with you, of the space where you are planning to put the piece of furniture. Make sure to note the length, width, and height range that will work in the room layout. Collect ideas/inspiration for the space to remind you of your plan. Kathy reminds us to always carry a tape measure.

Learn to Look for Real Wood

two tone wood dove tail

Manufacturing technology attempts to replicate the look of real wood with a compressed compund. The weight of the piece isn't always a good indicator.  Composite wood can vary in density and varieties of real wood can be light weight. Kathy suggests opening the drawer or door to identify if the furniture is real wood - Is it smooth or have texture? Real wood has texture.


painted drawer dove tailTime to "kick the tires".  Don't be afraid to really examine the item.  Kathy points out that the stability of the piece can be identified in a couple ways.

Are the drawers dove-tailed together or stapled (even sometimes glued)?  Dove-tail construction gives the best stability and strength.  It also reveals more craftsmanship went into a piece. Also, examine the construction of the drawer's bottom for strength and compound used. Looking for wood as well.

wooden dresser backIs the back panel real wood, mason, or cardboard? Turn the piece around to check-out the construction on the back. Also inspect for any mold, water damage, or repair work.

dove tail in dresser topTermite/Beetle Damage

As you are poring over the furniture, keep your eye out for suspicious repairs. Certain types of wood and older wood often found in antique furniture is especially susceptible to wood destroying organisms such as drywood termites and  beetles.

A tell tale sign of drywood infestation is drywood termite pellets or small ridged droppings of the color of the wood being attacked. Unfortunately, the furniture you are examining might be at a market event or can be concealed in a shop by cleaning the area.

You can check the piece for any soft spots indicating termite burrowing or pinhead-size holes made by adult powder post beetles exiting the wood. Don't be afraid to inquire.

Damaged Veneer

bad veneerVeneer will lift and flake with age or when it is exposed to water and moisture. Examine the extent of the damage. How much work do you want to put into it? Is there real wood under the veneer surface?   Small areas can be glued down or repaired with Bondo, but extensive damage may take some time. See our Pinterest board for the repair process suggestions.

As you hunt for that perfect piece, remember that looks aren't everything.  Take time to examine the furniture's bones and ask questions to make sure you are not purchasing any regrets later.

Thank you Kathy for your insight! Her and her husband Emory have been dealing and working with furniture for over 20 years.  

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