Restore and repair second hand bargains

I love browsing through second hand shops. It's a fun way to find furniture and decor accessories that you wouldn't find in your local shopping mall. Buying second hand furniture is also the perfect way to find affordable bargains for decorating a home, whether indoors or outdoors.


When you shopping for second hand bargains, research items thoroughly before you buy. Look for pieces that are sturdy and will only require TLC and a little bit of wood glue here and there.

Some furniture will need chemical strippers to remove layer upon layer of paint or varnish, whereas others will thrive with a little antique wax. Simply by repairing, refinishing, and reupholstering pieces you can transform overlooked treasures into elegant pieces for a home.

It may seem impossible to find potential in a shop full of old furniture, many of them on their last legs - literally. But with a little imagination and some elbow grease - anything is possible. A little cosmetic work is an easy fix, but some bargains cost more to fix than you may realize. Learn what can be easily repaired, and when you should just walk away.





When to buy:

  • Be on the lookout for sturdy pieces with solid joints and dovetailed drawers. The less damage - the better.
  • If it wobbles only because it needs to be re-glued and not because it is missing a leg.
  • Don't worry about missing or mismatched hardware - this is easily replaced.
  • Broken or chipped glass door panels or glass tabletops.
  • Water rings, discoloration in wood, and minor dings are all fixable and contribute to character. 
  • Cosmetic problems like scratches, dings, gouges, peeling paint or varnish, or finishes you just don't like.

Don't buy:

  • Pieces that are falling apart at the seam and joins, or stapled pieces with cardboard back panels.
  • Items that are missing pieces: doors, drawers or legs, as these are difficult to source and expensive to have custom made.
  • Broken or missing hardware when it's the hardware that makes the piece special, like carved wood, Bakelite, Lucite, or detailed metal work.
  • Veneered furniture that is badly damaged. It's very difficult to work with and almost impossible to restore unless you are a craftsman.
  • Upholstered pieces that smell funny unless you plan to rip off all the old materials and replace with new. Mattresses are a definite no-no!

While many prefer to toss out the old and buy new, newer isn't always better. Older pieces are manufactured to last a lifetime (if not more) and it's pieces like these that add personality and warmth to a home.

When restoring or giving second hand furniture a makeover there are a few basic tools that you will need.

Power tools you will need:

  • Drill/Driver and assorted drill and screw bits for removing and replacing individual pieces or sections.
  • Orbital and Random Orbit Sander plus sanding pads in grits from 60- to 220-grit, plus sandpaper in 400- and 1000-grits.
  • Dremel MultiTool and sanding accessories for finely detailed pieces.
  • Heat Gun for removing layers of old wax.
  • Jigsaw or circular saw to cut new pieces, if required.

Buying and restoring second hand furniture gives you a sense of satisfaction for having taken something that was ugly and useless and making it a part of a room in your home. For me, there is nothing that rivals the joy of stripping off layered wax, paint or varnish and revealing the original beauty of a piece of furniture.

Be realistic when buying second hand furniture. Keep in mind the tools, equipment and materials needed for the repair and be honest about your abilities.

Where to shop:

  • Pawn shops and second hand furniture dealers.
  • Online at Gumtree or Bid or Buy, also your local classifieds.
  • Auctions and liquidations of furniture and estate sales.