If you missed my blog post Is Your Vintage Furniture a Keeper or Junk? on BC Living.ca. Here is the full version…

So you inherited an old piece of furniture. It has sentimental value, but it doesn’t exactly fit with your décor. You could have it refinished or reupholstered, but how do you know if it is worth the investment?

When searching for furniture to sell at my store. I am constantly evaluating and asking myself this question. Here are my tips to decide if a piece of furniture is a keeper.


Wooden Furniture

First, check the drawers. Do they open and close easily? This is an easy fix, but will cost approximately $60 per drawer.

Lightly shake the piece. Does is wobble? Inspect it for missing pieces, deep scratches or chips in the finish. All of which can be costly fixes. Trust me, I learned the hard way!

Look at how it is constructed. Poor quality furniture is stapled or glued. High quality furniture is joined using methods like dovetail and mortise and tenon. Look underneath the piece. High quality furniture is constructed with corner blocks that are reinforced with screws, nails and glue.

Solid wood furniture is also a sign of quality. Cheaper furniture is often made from particleboard, thin plywood or fiberboard. Note: veneer is not a sign of poor quality and has been used in high-end furniture for hundreds of years.

Lastly, do you like how it looks? If the answer is no but it meets the tests mentioned above, it would likely look great painted. Details in the woodwork, like carvings or turned legs, especially look good painted. To have a piece of furniture painted professionally, it will cost approximately $500-$1000 and up (depending on the piece). This is similar to the cost of buying a new piece, but you would need to spend ten times the amount to buy the same level of quality and craftsmanship new.


Upholstered Furniture

Having a piece of furniture reupholstered is very expensive, but it’s worth the investment if a) it is of high quality and b) you love it. Simple as that.

Determining the quality of an upholstered piece can be difficult because the signs are usually covered with fabric. Here are some tricks to get underneath it.

Check if there is a manufacturer’s label, then research. Is the manufacturer known for quality? What was the price when it was first sold? Do they kiln-dry the frames before constructing the piece? (Kiln-drying -which can take months- removes all moisture from the wood and therefore the wood will not bend or warp.)

Pick up the piece. Is it heavier than it looks? Weight is often a reflection of quality.

If it has broken springs, flattened cushions, rips or tears in the upholstery, don’t worry about these as they will be repaired during reupholstery.

If it wobbles or has a cracked frame, these are relatively inexpensive repairs and can be worth repairing to bring a great piece of furniture back to life. I’ve done this many times completely satisfied with the results.

Lastly as a general rule-of-thumb, do not reupholster anything that required assembly when purchased.