Given the choice between lightweight new furniture and Preloved I’ll usually go for the latter. Why would I want something second hand instead of new? Read on to find out….
1. It can be a lot more cost effective
For quality per square inch it is usually more cost effective to buy second hand. Furniture devalues fast and people often sell incredibly good quality, hardly used sofas and tables at bargain prices.
Here are a couple of cost comparisons for expensive items
- Eleanor Fabric Corner Sofa – new from major retailer: £2675.
- Preloved: £500 (bought in 2015 for a total of £2047 plus £156 for Guardsman 5 year fabric gold elite plan)
- Saving £2175
- M&S Sonoma Dining Set XL table+4 leather chairs: £1450 new.
- Second hand – All in excellent condition: £699
- Saving £751
You can save lots of smaller items too. Why buy a new desk when you can get a more solid version for a quarter of the price? I’ve bought tables for £10!
2. It can be better quality
In the last few decades the majority of mid and budget priced furniture has been made of composite timber. That could be veneered MDF which is mushed up bits of wood glued together and covered with thin sheets of real wood, or it could be made with smaller lengths of wood that are joined together.
MDF is cheap, sandable and resistant to woodworm but swells up and distorts if it gets wet. Smaller lengths of timber that have been joined together are weaker than one long length.
To get decent quality solid wood in new furniture you need to be prepared to spend a fair bit of money. Buy second hand from Preloved though and £20 can get you a solid teak sideboard with mortice and tenon joins on the drawers.
I am not an expert but I have bought a lot of secondhand furniture over the years. I’ve upgraded bit by bit to owning classic Ercol and Stag pieces that have come my way at bargain prices.
3. Here are my top tips for finding good quality:
- Hardwood lasts better than softwood. If there is a choice go for teak, oak or maple rather than pine. You can test by drawing a line with your fingernail in a hidden area, if it dents, it is probably a softwood which means that it will bump and scratch more easily in day to day use.
- Check for little holes that might be woodworm. If the furniture looks like it has been used as a dart board be wary. If you see dust around the holes do not buy it. Older bits of furniture may have had woodworm in the past which has been treated but it takes a good trained eye to tell what is dormant or not.
- Proper woodwork is better than staples. A drawer held together with nails or staples will not be as strong as one that has zig zag mortice and tenon or dovetail joints. Dowels are generally strong and just glue is weak.
- Watch out for warps. Wooden furniture that has been stored badly can warp, which means that drawers will not open well and chairs might be wobbly.
- Covering sofas and chairs is not as easy as it looks, unless you are just replacing the cover on a drop in seat. YouTube has lots of helpful tutorials and if you get into it, there are lots of upholstery courses all over the country.
- Good cushions have an outer cover and a separate inner foam section that should be covered too. Just foam on it’s own will not last long.
4. It comes with a history of its own
There isn’t much in my house that is new because I prefer used furniture with character and history. I’ve no way of knowing who sat in my chair before, where my little side table was situated or who used my lamp for reading. Who knows, perhaps they used it for knitting too, just like me. A bit of history in furniture you use every day really connects you with the past and it makes me feel more grounded. I don’t get that feeling with MDF.