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How to Choose Wood Furniture

by Nikki Willhite

Most items made of wood are a good buy. They last for years. When you want to change the look, you can sand them down, remove the finish, and redo them your own way.

Unfortunately, the word "wood" is used rather loosely these days. A lot of the wood furniture being sold today is not solid wood. Wood furniture pieces are made with veneers, plywood or particle board. This can be on the outside of the wood, or where you can't see it, such as on the back or bottom of items.

Veneers and plywood are products made from wood. Many of the man-made wooden products, like laminate are not even made from wood. While these products often add to the strength of furniture and have other desirable properties, if you want to buy a piece of furniture to redo it, you need to buy solid wood.

If you are lucky enough to have a piece of wood furniture passed on to you from your family, and it is sold wood, do not let it go. Take the time to refinish it to your liking.

Most of us cannot afford to buy solid wood furniture. We buy the less expensive furniture you find at stores like IKEA.

For those of us who have to make do with less than solid wood, here are some thing you should know so that you buy a piece of furniture that is well-made and will last for many years.


Check to see if the furniture piece is constructed with staples. One of the easiest places to check is the back of the piece. If you are "easy" on your furniture, the stapes may be sufficient. However if you move your furniture around a lot, they may not hold up.


Check the drawers for stapes. Quality furniture is made with dove-tailed joints. The wood is cut so the sides of the drawers interlock with each other. Even miter and mortise-and-tendon joints will hold up better than stapes.


Open and close any drawers. Make sure the wood has not warped over time. If the piece is solid wood you can shave down the drawers. If it isn't, don't buy it.


Check all the shelving to see if it is straight, sagging or bowed.


Make sure furniture with legs is sturdy. Put your hands on the top of tables and see if the legs wobble. The corners of furniture are also a good place to push to see if furniture wobbles.


Check the leaves in dining room tables to see if they lay flat or have warped. Again, with solid wood you can fix the problem.

Finally, if you are satisfied the your wood furniture piece is sturdy, try and get some light on it to check the finish. Run your hands over it, make sure it is smooth, and the finish is attractive. If you are buying a piece of furniture in a store, the lightning may be too dim to see a piece clearly. If you can, move it over near a window where the light is better.

Wood furniture should be sealed to avoid damage. Water dropped on a well-sealed piece of furniture will bead and not soak into the wood.

Many of us will never have the means to buy new quality wood furniture. However, if you are willing to do the work, you can find reasonably priced solid wood items at thrift stores and garage sales. Take advantage of this opportunity when you both need and like the item.

About the Author: Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money!



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