My custom title

In with the Old: Restoring Secondhand Furniture

24 Sep 2014

Tips & Advice

In with the Old: Restoring Secondhand Furniture

Who doesn’t love brand new pieces of furniture around the house? We like the smell of fresh-off-the-workshop pinewood chairs, the feel of the newly un-boxed sofa. We’re all for buying sparkly, shiny things from the department store and displaying them proudly in our living room.

But… there’s something charming about purchasing secondhand furniture. To go out there and explore a vintage shop and buy a shabby Indonesian teak table that can look amazing when refurbished, repainted…this, this is an entirely different experience.

Not only is this venture exciting (think of all the possibilities! The bargain finds!), it’s also eco-friendly. You’re practically rescuing these pieces of furniture from Death by Landfill! It’s also an inexpensive way of styling your house: Between scoring a new dining table and purchasing an old yet salvageable one from a garage sale, which do you think will help you accrue more savings? See.

Here are tips on how to score and salvage secondhand furniture. Let the fixing fun begin.



So you’ve spotted a secondhand piece of furniture. Save for the obvious scratches and the scruffy surfaces, it looks every inch a darling. However, restrain from falling in love first. Before deciding that this is The One, inspect closely and check the quality. Sure it looks tattered, but the lines and overall structure should clue you in if it’s worth restoring. Props to you if the item is made of hardwood or metal. They always make for awesome secondhand pieces, because they’re easy to refurbish…just paint or laminate them and voila!

Test the strength and durability of the furniture. Shake it, wiggle it, lean in, pound on it, sit on it. This should tell you if the furniture is structurally sound or one minor earthquake away from collapsing.


Do a quick math.

Calculate your estimated refurbishing expenses. Consider everything: the actual amount of the item, tools and materials you need to buy, even the fee for the pro who will take care of the tough tasks (upholstering, for instance).If the money you will shell out is not equal to the amount of what could be its brand new counterpart, then what are you waiting for? Grab it!


Gear up for battle.

Be physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared. Jazzing up an old piece of furniture will exhaust you in all possible ways. You can spend an eternity sanding an old desk or getting rid of the smell of animal pee from an otherwise lovely sofa. Make sure you’re up for that.


Get ’em tools ready.

Here are some of the materials you need at your disposal: sandpaper grits for sanding, drop cloth or tarpaulin to catch debris, putty knives, steel wool, wood glue, gloves, oil soap, measuring tape, angled paint brushes, toothbrush, screwdrivers for tightening joints, hammer and mallets, and liquid stripping gel.


Clean it thoroughly.

Before getting down to the business of refinishing, give it a thorough scrub down with vegetable-based oil soap and warm water. Remove grime from nooks and crannies using a toothbrush or a sharpened rod.


Repair, replace.

If it’s wobbly, tighten screws. Replace broken parts, and if they’re no longer available at stores, have them custom-made. Fill in cracks, and remove scratches with stain markers. If the scratch is deep, use wood filler to level the surface. Then, sand and stain it until concealed.


Style it up.

It’s refinishing and repainting time! Use your creativity and find out how you can turn your worn-out item into a thing of wonder. Should you use stencil or painter’s tape design? Should you add wallpaper cutouts? What paint technique could you use to update its look? There are so many ways you can sass up your newly acquired furniture.



Truth be told, restoring furniture will haunt you. You will lose sleep deciding its new paint or look. You will obsess over that last piece of grime you can’t just remove.Get a grip and take your time. No one’s rushing you. What matters is,at the end of this endeavor, you’ll have something that looks spanking new, courtesy of none other than—ta-dah—you.



Cover photo courtesy of Design And DIY Magazine

whataspp icon