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Treasure Hunting: Five Tips to Make Smart Thrift Store Picks

Getting furniture that’s brand new and all yours can be exciting and a great way to freshen up your space.  But sometimes you want a style that’s not currently popular, or just want something that has a bit of history to it.  Or maybe you’re a fan of DIY and upcycling old pieces into something new.  Whichever the case, thrift stores and yard sales are likely your go-to furniture resource.  Many people are seasoned pros at thrifting.  But for those of you just getting into it, it can be a little intimidating trying to determine what’s worth buying.  Today we’re going to give you a quick rundown on how to make smart thrift store picks.

Shop for Quality and Look for Good Bones

Just because a piece is old, doesn’t mean it’s high quality.  Every era had its good makers and its discount makers.  You can find a lot of good stuff at thrift stores, but you usually have to wade through a lot of junk first.  Look for solid pieces with quality joinery, not pieces just held together with hardware.  You want to find pieces that have good bones.  If a piece has a sturdy frame you can fix up any small issues and customize it to fit your needs.  But a flimsy foundation will bring nothing but heartache.

Look at Lines

Sometimes with thrift store furniture you have to use your imagination a bit.  A good way to approach thrift store furniture is to look at the lines of the piece.  If you’re a fan of fabric it can be easy to fall in love with a piece with a great vintage print.  But if the piece has a silhouette and style that doesn’t fit the rest of your furniture, you might end up with something you can’t actually use.  On the flip side, you may risk passing up a great piece if you’re turned off by ragged or ugly upholstery.  Don’t let upholstery keep you from a piece!  Reupholstering a chair is probably one of the easiest things to do or get done.  If a piece is good quality and has lines that match your other furniture, overlook any ratty upholstery to try to see its true potential.

Check for Damage – and Know What Can Be Fixed

When shopping at the thrift store you want to look for pieces that are gently used, not on their last legs.  But even furniture that’s in relatively good shape will likely have some damage.  The key is to know what’s worth the effort to fix.  Upholstery and cushioning are usually easy enough fixes.  Light and shallow scratches often only require minimal effort to repair.  Anything with missing or broken parts is going to be a much larger time commitment to make usable again and might end up not being worth the effort or the cost of repair.  It really depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to put into a piece.  The general takeaway of this tip is – don’t be immediately turned off by some damage, but know your limits when it comes to repairs.

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

If you’re buying from a thrift store hopefully the furniture has been inspected for pests, but if you’re buying from a yard sale or picking something up from the side of the road, checking for bugs is crucial.  Anything with upholstery should be thoroughly inspected for signs of bed bugs.  All furniture should be looked over for roaches or egg sacs of any kind.  If you end up with an infestation, any money you saved on the cheaper furniture will be negated by the cost of bed bug or roach treatments.

Know How to Inspect

Really the key to getting quality thrift store furniture is to inspect everything.  You may feel a bit awkward pulling things apart in the middle of a store or someone’s lawn, but it’s best to discover any issues before handing over money and hauling something home.  Anything with parts that can be removed, remove them and give everything a thorough inspection.  Check in screw holes for signs of any of the aforementioned pests.  For wood and upholstered pieces with wood frames, test out the joinery of a piece by giving it a light jiggle.  If a little movement makes the piece feel unstable, or if you can hear a lot of creaking and loose joints it’s probably best to pass on the item.  Have an idea about common makers marks, and look for them on the pieces.  Check for shop marks in places like inside drawers or on the bottom of a piece.  Google any name or makers mark you’re unfamiliar with.

Going to thrift stores can feel like going on a treasure hunt.  There’s no better thrill than finding that perfect piece and knowing exactly what you can do with it and where you’ll put it.  Whether you’re looking for vintage pieces to clean up and retain their vintage look, or to fix up and alter into your own creation there’s plenty to be found at the thrift store and yard sales.  Now that you know how to shop smartly, why not head out and scope out what’s around?  If you’re worried about acquiring too much stuff, make it a rule to make a donation to the thrift store before purchasing anything new.

2 thoughts on “Treasure Hunting: Five Tips to Make Smart Thrift Store Picks

  1. As a professional pest controller, you can’t imagine howww many times we have customers that randomly got bed bugs after buying used furniture -_-

    Thrifting is slammin, but you definitely need to check your stuff out before buying. Awesome advice ?

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