Furniture Tips

Read these 19 Furniture Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Antique tips and hundreds of other topics.

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How do I get rid of musty odors in my antique furniture?

Musty Odors

Sometimes that Antique treasure you bought, found or inherited will have a musty odor you find offensive. To get rid of the smell or at least alleviate it some, take it outside first removing drawers, leaves etc. to air out for a few days. Sometimes just doing this will help. If not you can use a spray bottle of denatured alcohol and use on raw wood only. This will stop any mold spores from growing. Let it dry a few more days.

You could also try Febreeze or the last resort is sealing the piece [raw wood only] in any type of finish.

How can I tell if it´s oil-based paint or latex/acrylic paint?

Oil-Based or Latex/Acrylic Paint

To determine what type of paint is on your furniture, brush some stripper on a inconspicuous spot and see what happens. If it is oil-based, the paint will wrinkle and bubble. If it just softens up into a slimy goo, it is latex or acrylic. Oil-based paint is the easiest to remove.

What is the best care and polish for antique furniture?


The wax of choice and recommended by furniture conservators and other caretakers of furniture and other wooden objects is paste wax. Wax polishing should be done no more than twice a year for areas of heavy wear [desktops, chair arms, etc.], and once every three years for table, chair legs, cabinets and similar areas.

Aerosols and liquids are not recommended due to solvents in them that attack varnishes and lacquers and introduce contaminants onto the furniture.

Is there any danger with wood dust?

Wood Dust Precautions

Fine particles of wood dust can infiltrate most face masks. These fine particles have been to known to cause dermatitis, asthma, nose eye and throat irritation, cancer to nasal and throat, eczema, lung congestion, headache to name a few. Please, when working with wood, whether it be, grinding, drilling, sawing and especially sanding, use a good exhaust system and or dust respirator properly in place.

How can I unstick my drawers?

Sticky Drawers

Occasionally over time ,wood rubbing over wood coupled with humidity can cause drawers to stick. Paste wax or even rubbing a candle on drawer edges will work. If not, then it might need some professional repair help.

What should I look for when buying antique chairs?

Buying Chairs

Turn chairs over and look underneath to find any indications of screws or nails before buying. This will tell you of any modifications. A professional restorer will never add screws or nails if it wasn't present originally.

What shouldn´t I use when repairing anitique furniture?

Do it Yourself Don'ts

If you are trying to repair a piece of furniture yourself, do not use any nails, screws, air-nail guns, duct tape, twine, metal brackets, coat hangers or other creative fasteners. It just makes things harder for the professionals when you do finally bring it in. Do not use any glue other than yellow or white Carpenter's glue or Hide glue.

How should I polish my furniture?

Bring out the Shine

More rubbing, not more polish, will bring out a better shine on Antique furniture.

What should I look for when wood shrinks?

Wood Shrinkage

Wood shrinks across the grain. If a round table top is perfectly round when measured in 2 dimensions, it's new. If the table is old, there should be a difference of about one-eighth inch per foot. Marquetry also tends to contract irregularly, usually sinking below the rest of the surface. If a piece with marquetry has a perfectly smooth surface, the marquetry was probably added later to add flash or "tart up" the object, as dealers like to say.

Is wood made from old houses or barns considered an antique?

Pine Imposters

Pseudo-antiques are especially common among country pine furniture. Furniture makers get that handsome worn look by using old wood, often from eighteenth-century barns or houses. To make a table for instance, they will take four posts from a bannister for legs, the top of the bannister for rails, and floorboards or wall paneling for the top. "They're nice pieces," says Antique expert George Reed, "but they are not antiques."

Should I ask what kind of wood, before I buy?

Is it Really Wood?

Be cautious when buying furniture. Just because someone says it is "solid wood" doesn't mean it is good. Particle board and MDF [Medium Density Fiberboard] are still "wood", but they aren't what you think. They are very hard to repair and much heavier than "real" wood. They will NOT last if under heavy use. Always ask, "solid what wood"? Furniture marked Solid Oak, Cherry or Ash is a better bet.

How will humidity affect my finishing work?


Be aware of humidity when doing your own finish work. High humidity in the air will keep finish from drying or will make it "blush" [turn white and dull]. If you are having a professional do your finish work, please allow several extra days for your piece to dry completely before using it.

Should I wear protective gloves?

Protective Gloves

Always wear chemical protective gloves,especially when working with lacquer.

What is dovetailing?


Dovetailing is the tongue-in-groove technique carpenters use to join boards at an angle. The grooves in 18th century dovetails were particularly wide, as much as three eighths of an inch. Although dovetails continued to be made by hand through the middle of the nineteenth century, tools and skills grew finer, and some examples made in 1830 or later may be as small as one eighth of an inch.

How does location of furniture affect the prices of antiques?


Location is a large determinant of furniture price. There are large differences in preference for various styles across the United Sates and around the world. Furniture is heavy and expensive to transport so these differences continue to result in large price differences for the same piece from state to state.

What signs should I look for when buying an antique?


Look for signs that a piece of furniture was handmade versus machine-made. Look for handmade nails, dovetail and other glued joints rather than nailed together construction, slight irregularities in construction etc.

How will repairing my furniture effect it´s value?

Depreciation from Repairs

Although it is impossible to put an exact dollar value on the effect of a given repair, some repairs are minor and may reduce the value of a piece by 10 percent, while major changes may cause a piece to lose as much as 75 percent.

Minor Repairs:

Any changes that are reversible.
Replaced hardware on European furniture.
Hardware added for embellishment.
New feet on any European furniture.
Replaced mirror.
New gilding.
Missing castings on chair legs of French furniture.
Small alterations to the cornice of a bookshelf.

Major Repairs:

Replaced hardware on American furniture.
New feet on any piece of American furniture.
A damaged or stripped patina on American furniture.
A new top on a chest.
Marriage of pieces that don't belong together, such as a bookshelf on top of a slant front desk.
Reduction in the depth of a chest.
Replaced chair rails.
Spliced or repaired chair legs using all of the original parts.
Even worse-legs with newly carved sections.

Are glass tops good for my wood?

Glass Table Tops

Glass tops can protect your wooden tables, but don't let moisture get trapped between glass and wood. Create an airspace by elevating the glass top on clear butyl rubber bumpers, available at most glass shops, and let your wooden table tops breathe.

My antique bed frame is squeaky, what can I use?

Squeaky Bed Frames

A squeaky antique bed frame can become bothersome. Adding oil to the rivets should quiet it down. WD-40 is one oil to use.

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