U.S. demand for furniture is rising and is expected to reach $68.8 billion in 2022.
Despite companies offering furniture at low prices, and some well-known brands even beginning to roll out greener products, consumers are recognizing the benefits of purchasing used furniture or finding ways to repurpose existing items.
This guide addresses the benefits of buying used furniture and offers tips and tricks to help with the process. Additionally, we share advice for sustainably restoring furniture and how to upcycle items you already own.
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There are many great reasons to buy or repurpose used furniture.
Quality furniture can be expensive, and cheap, fast furniture wreaks havoc on the environment and often doesn’t last because it’s low quality. Below we look at the main benefits of buying or repurposing used furniture.
Another perk of buying used furniture is you put money directly into the hands of an individual business-owner and your local economy rather than a big business. Instead of contributing to the additional earnings of a billionaire, you can help vitalize your neighborhood.
Buying used furniture, or repurposing furniture you already own, is great for your pocketbook. Even if the piece requires some work, such a new coat of paint or needs to be upholstered (check out our sections on eco-friendly restoration tips and upcycled furniture ideas section), you’ll still save money. Plus, when shopping for used furniture, you can often find higher-quality pieces at reasonable prices, allowing you to get more bang for your buck.
If you’re buying something used, it’s likely been around a few years. If it’s still in decent shape this is a testament to the fact that the item is high quality as nice furniture should last decades or even a century. Cheap furniture is easily damaged and tends to fall apart quickly.
Additionally, cheap furniture is often constructed with particleboard and adhesives that contain formaldehyde, a toxic chemical. Formaldehyde can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, wheezing and coughing, fatigue, skin rash, severe allergic reactions and potentially cancer.
The furniture industry, particularly the fast furniture industry, is extremely unsustainable and wasteful. It can also be unethical. By choosing to buy something used or repurposing an item you already have, you can reduce your environmental footprint and your support of unfair labor practices.
Each year, Americans throw out more than 12 million tons of furniture and furnishings, 80 percent of which ends up in the landfill. Purchasing new items contributes to deforestation, leading to biodiversity loss and soil erosion. Furthermore, a significant amount of furniture is produced internationally. This helps to keep costs to consumers low, but the environmental cost of transporting raw materials and finished products around the world is extremely high.
In addition to unsustainable practices, furniture production can involve unfair wages or even child or forced labor. When the focus is on keeping costs low, humans can become exploited in the process. By refusing to purchase items produced using unfair practices, you let companies know that you don’t approve and will not support these policies. You can vote for a better, more just world with your dollar.
There are many places both online and in-person where you can find used furniture for sale. Discover some of the best places to shop for used furniture below.
A great way to find quality used furniture is to look at what people have listed online. You can use social media sites or apps such as:
You can also find local used furniture on popular websites such as Craigslist and eBay.
Given the fact that the average person moves 11 times during their lifetime, renting furniture can reduce the burden of relocating. There are many trustworthy companies that do furniture rentals, such as:
In general, renting furniture just means paying a recurring fee before deciding to purchase the item or return it to the company.
When hotels renovate they often sell their old furniture. Similar to purchasing furniture from an individual, you’ll really want to avoid purchasing a used mattress from a hotel. You can imagine how purchasing a used hotel mattress could potentially land you in a sticky situation!
Check out RichRooms.com to find coast-to-coast inventory of used hotel furniture.
Local thrift and consignment shops are great places to find used furniture. A quick google search should reveal your local shops.
You can often find quality used furniture for low prices at yard sales where people are offloading furniture they no longer have a use for. They may be moving or they could have decided that they would rather buy something new than put a little work into an item that may actually be easily salvageable.
Check your local listings or use the Yard Sale Treasure Map to find yard sales in your area.
An estate sale normally takes place when a family or individual is selling virtually everything in their home due to a death, significant downsizing, cross-country move or bankruptcy. These sales are goldmines for used furniture.
You can find local estate sales happening near you by visiting websites such as EstateSale.com.
A lot of what you need to look out for when buying used furniture is similar to what you should consider when purchasing new furniture. You want to make sure you're purchasing a safe piece from a trustworthy source that is going to meet your needs and expectations.
Buying used furniture is a less formal and regulated process. In order to ensure your safety consider the following:
1. Don’t buy used mattresses: Avoid buying items such as used mattresses that can contain hard-to-spot and even harder to clean mold, dust mites or bed bugs.
2. Pass on items that smell: It can be challenging to get rid of unpleasant smells, especially in items where something dirty could be lurking under the surface.
3. Stay away from items that contain bed bugs: If you happen to spot bed bugs on an item you’re thinking about purchasing –– which is not easy to do as they’re masters at concealment –– pass on it. Bed bugs are challenging to get rid of as they can go more than a year without food and their eggs are almost undetectable.
4. Make sure the item wasn’t recalled: Although it’s illegal to sell furniture that has been recalled –– unless it’s been properly repaired –– it’s possible it will end up back in circulation. If you know the make and model you can check if the item has been recalled on SaferProducts.gov.
5. Test the furniture: Make sure the furniture item is sturdy and can withstand however much weight you plan to put on it. The last thing you want is an item to collapse under the weight of your body or personal stuff.
For a seamless and positive experience do the following:
6. Bring a measuring tape: If you need an item to be a certain size, bring a measuring tape so you can double-check the seller’s measurements.
7. Look for tags: This is not only helpful if you want to check whether or not an item has been recalled, but also so you can better understand the value of the item.
8. Know that pictures can be deceiving: Whenever possible, check out the item in person. It’s not uncommon for items to photograph well, but look very different in person.
9. See its potential: Recognize that many items, with just a little TLC, can become fantastic additions to your home. Keep an open mind and try to think creatively about whether or not with a little help an item will work for you.
If purchasing an imperfect item or deciding a piece in your home is salvageable, you may want to put some work into restoring it.
Consider these eco-friendly restoration tricks to turn your piece into an item you love:
The process of upcycling furniture means reusing an item in such a way that gives it a new value. Here are a few ideas of ways to you upcycle furniture in your home:
Pull out the drawers of an old desk and stand them upright to function as side or end tables.
Use the sides of a baby crib to create the back of a bench.
If you have a damaged coffee table, consider adding upholstery to turn it into a comfy ottoman.
Depending on the style of the headboard, you can secure it to a wall and then just add hooks!
Fill the drawer with comfy blankets and pillows and voila.
Check out these additional resources to learn more about safely purchasing used furniture and the impacts of choosing used furniture.
Buying used furniture or repurposing items you already own can help make your neighborhood and our planet a better place. So the next time you’re moving a short distance consider bringing items you were thinking of tossing and finding a way to repurpose them. If you’re moving across the country, consider purchasing used furniture from people in your new neighborhood.