17 Reliable Tips for Buying Used Furniture at Thrift Stores

Shopping for second-hand furniture is amazing: You can find nearly one-of-a-kind pieces from furniture donations that are quality made, economical and that add an eclectic feel and look to your home. However, there are some things you should know about shopping for used furniture at Goodwill and other thrift stores before you head out. Once you have read this list, you’ll feel more like a pro.

Give Furniture a Wiggle Test

Kids aren’t easy on furniture, so you’ll want to make sure thrift store furniture can withstand jumping, spills and more. If the piece of thrift store furniture you want to buy is somewhat wobbly, you need to consider whether you truly want it. Some wobbly furniture can be fixed with some tightening of screws while other pieces of furniture need more work. Compared to the price of the piece, it might be worth it to have it professionally repaired if you are not up to the task. Harder types of wood, like oak, will hold up better in the long-run. It might be worth your while to avoid couches and chairs made of pine since they are softer types of wood. It solely depends on your needs. Also, if a couch or chair seems to contain Styrofoam or similar filling, it probably won’t hold up over time. In addition, you’ll need to inspect the condition of furniture in respect to previous repairs. Just because something has been repaired, it may have been repaired improperly, and it might not be safe for use.

Check for Functionality

Some pieces of furniture open, close, swivel and perform other functions and movements. Open and close drawers, cabinets, and check furniture otherwise to make sure nothing sticks and that it all works well. You might come across something that doesn’t lock properly. It’s worth taking the time to inspect everything. Otherwise, you might be dealing with this issue every time you try to open or close your furniture. Sometimes, drawers have holes in them or have other problems. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to make the repairs needed to restore the piece you want. Also, don’t be afraid of hardware. You can change out knobs and handles fairly simply. This is a common practice for people who seek used furniture.

You Can Always Paint or Reupholster Furniture

The beautiful thing about furniture is that you can celebrate the attributes you like, and you can change the ones you don’t. Maybe you love the style or wood used on a couch, but you’re not a big fan of the material, pattern or the color used for it. You can change it if you desire. Don’t underestimate what paint can do. It can refinish nearly everything. If you find metal furniture that’s slightly rusted or dirty, it can be sanded down, cleaned and refinished with special outdoor paint that’s designed for outdoor furniture. Keep this in mind when something comes across as “ugly” to you. You have the ability to make it truly beautiful. If you can’t find something at one Goodwill store, check out other Goodwill stores.

Think of Repurposing Old Furniture

You can make just about anything from something else. You can make a table from a door, a bathroom vanity from a dresser or a planter from an old cradle. Think of what you need when you look around for second-hand furniture. You can make a truly unique piece of furniture for very little money. Be sure to use waterproof substances for anything that will be in the bathroom or that would otherwise be in an area where there’s excessive moisture. Check with your local Goodwill store or other Goodwill locations frequently to find what you need.

Be Honest with Yourself

Following up from the last tip, you need to assess your abilities in an honest manner. Some people are into fixing furniture by pulling out old staples, reupholstering antique chairs with new fabric, changing out cushions, sanding, staining and more. Older furniture is well worth the buy because they’re quality pieces, but you need to determine whether you’re really going to tackle your project or if that furniture is just going to sit there. After all, you need to be happy with your purchase.

Look for Water Damage

Some furniture has water damage. Run your hand across the wood, and discover whether the wood bows or has other issues. Water damage might seem minor, but it’s not. Water damage affects the structural integrity of whatever it damages. Water damage can lead to termite infestation, wet rot, dry rot and mold damage. It’s better not to get furniture if it has water damage unless it’s superficial. If it’s superficial, you can fix this easily with sandpaper, wood putty and paint.

Check the Cushions and Springs

If you’re getting a chair or sofa, it’s worth testing the interior of the chair and sofa before you buy them. You can’t look inside them, but you can sit down on them. Move around, and bounce a little. Other people are going to use your furniture too. Think about whether others would be comfortable sitting on them and whether you intend on replacing the cushions and other materials to restore your desired piece. Think about whether children in your family would enjoy sitting on your desired couch or chair too.

Look for Bug Damage

Be careful with thrift furniture that appears to have brittle, flaky wood or wood with small holes in it. Beetles, termites and carpenter ants can tunnel their way into pieces of furniture, so it’s worth it to check out all sides of a piece of furniture. Along with checking for damage, know that bed bugs can hide really well. Look for fecal matter and other signs of bugs around the seams of the furniture you want to buy. If it has bed bugs and you’re experienced with removing them, feel free to get it, but you’ll need to take extra precautions because bed bugs like to spread to luggage, clothing and other pieces of furniture. They’re extremely difficult to find and get rid of.

Give Furniture a Smell Test

In general, you want to use most of your senses when you are looking at furniture from thrift stores. This includes giving the furniture you want a smell test. Don’t worry if you look odd while doing it. The furniture you look at might be in your home for a very long time, and you don’t want to battle with smells or have to explain “what that odor is” every time you have someone over. Get close and smell all sides of the piece of furniture you are interested in buying. This means smelling the seat of a chair too. You want furniture to be somewhat clean and not to have any offending odors. Some odors will air out or can be cleaned, but you should steer clear of smoke and pet odors, as these can be nearly impossible to get out without removing the existing material and cushioning.

Have a Budget

Set some money aside just for purchasing second hand furniture. You never know what you’re going to come across. Think of how much you want to keep in reserve ahead of time. Anything over this amount, feel free to spend on something else. If you have money saved, you’ll be able to swoop up extra sweet deals, and you won’t regret any deals you have missed.

Be Careful of Laminate or Veneer Wood

There’s nothing wrong with laminate or veneer wood, but you have to make sure it’s decent enough to purchase. For instance, minor areas that are peeling back might be able to be glued back, but this isn’t always the case for large areas that have peeled. Also, if you want to refinish furniture with these two surfaces, you’ll need extra patience and special paint for refinishing. Veneer is usually an eighth of an inch thick, so you might be able to work with it. You cannot stain laminate wood, but you can paint it. If anything is chipped or otherwise damaged, you can use wood putty and sandpaper to sand the pieces down and restore to the intended dimensions. Please note that laminate and veneer furniture is less costly to make, so you might be able to get a better deal when buying these used.

Keep Measurements in Mind

You can’t always plan ahead with purchasing used furniture. It’s available when it’s available. Of course, with the last tip, you’ll have money reserved, but these used furniture shopping tips will help you with the rest. You need to know the size of your space, what you need, what will fit in your space and how large your desired furniture items will be. For this reason, it’s useful to carry a tape measure with you whenever you’re out. You also have to consider whether you can get the furniture you want in your home. It’s wise to take measurements of your front and back door. Some homes have double doors or a sliding glass doors, but if you live up on the second floor or higher, getting furniture into your home might be difficult. Make sure you take into account getting furniture up the bends and twists of stairs, or consider bringing furniture through a window if it’s safe and it’ll fit in this manner.

Be Careful with Recalls

Larger pieces of furniture aren’t usually recalled, but they can be. Children’s furniture is recalled more often, so you’ll need to read up on different pieces before you purchase them. This is especially true with cribs and other pieces of baby furniture. If you have your phone handy, you could try to pull up this information to make an informed decision.

Be Careful with Self-Assembled Pieces

As with anything used that you buy, you need to make sure that self-assembled pieces have all of their parts before you purchase them. Also be aware that it’s difficult to test the sturdiness of these pieces because they’re not already put together. Holes previously drilled out for screws and other hardware may be stripped, or the piece you desire may otherwise be wobbly when it is finally assembled. Be sure to check out all holes and hinges. Make sure hinges aren’t bent. If they are, cabinets may not close or align properly.

Be Prepared to Take Large Pieces of Furniture

You’ll need to take purchased furniture with you immediately or within a short amount of time if you ask the store to hold your piece for you. Be sure to ask the store ahead of time about their preference or policy. You can arrange to pull a trailer or rent a truck if you don’t have a pick-up truck or some other manner to collect your furniture. Be sure to allow for this in your budget as well. Some stores will deliver, but there’s usually an extra cost involved. You will need to make sure that the piece being delivered is well protected. With that being said, make sure to bring a blanket, tape, padding, rope and other materials to ensure that your furniture can be shipped without damage.

Ask About Mailing Lists

Oftentimes, warehouses and retailers make regular shipments to thrift stores. If you can sign up for an email or mail list, you might be able to check out new arrivals before many others do. You can purchase hard-to-find pieces or secure an amazing deal in this manner. You can also find out about new furniture donations too and peruse those.

Baby-Boomer Furniture

There are a large number of baby boomers who are discarding their older furniture. Each baby boomer’s used furniture donation might include antiques and other finds. For this reason, check for Goodwill stores in older neighborhoods. While clothing is vastly circulated nationwide, a used furniture donation tends to remain local. Look up several Goodwill locations for a wide selection of good finds.

It can seem like a lot to absorb, but that’s how it is with learning anything new. Before long, shopping for second-hand furniture becomes second nature, and your home is going to reflect all of your beautiful decisions. Happy shopping!