Investing in solid wood furniture means investing in longevity. After all, who wants to waste their hard-earned money on cheap, flimsy furniture that falls apart in a few years? With high-quality wood furniture, you can expect it to stand the test of time, so you won’t have to spend more on endless repairs and replacements.
So, before you shell out money on a new piece, know exactly what to look for when buying solid wood furniture.
Quality. This is the main thing natural wood furniture has against mass-produced veneer and laminate pieces. It only makes sense that you inspect the quality first. Here are a few tell-tale signs that the furniture you’re eyeing is high-quality:
- Density. Quality pieces crafted from natural oak, maple, cherry, walnut, or mahogany (among many others) are often denser and heavier than furniture made from pressed plywood, particleboard, and synthetic materials.
- The feel. You can tell that it is synthetic by touching it with your hand. Real wood furniture has a more natural texture than a laminate piece. It’s more challenging to distinguish veneered furniture from solid wood, but a keen eye can help.
You can also tell the quality of the wood by its wood grain. How the grain appears is the easiest way to distinguish hardwood furniture from mass-produced pieces. The real deal always has a unique grain that varies in pattern, sometimes only slightly, across the piece. If there’s no texture, it’s too smooth, or the pattern looks uniform, you’re probably looking at a veneer or a laminate.
Checking the bottom and underside of any type of furniture helps you distinguish between veneers and real wood. If it’s a storage piece, pulling out the drawers also helps. Veneers are typically not used for the bottoms or undersides of storage pieces. So, if these areas have an entirely different texture and color than the surface, it’s most likely “fake wood.” Even if the entire piece is carefully covered with veneer, you can always spot the end grain.
High-quality wood furniture is often constructed with traditional joineries, like dovetail and mortise-and-tenon. Cheap screws and nails won’t cut it, especially with real hardwood—the piece will come apart easily if it ever comes together at all.
When buying furniture, always check whether the legs have well-fitted joints and are not nailed or screwed in. Look under the tables and chairs to check the joinery, too. Signs of inferior craftsmanship include using nails, staples, or visible adhesive on joints.
Test the drawers and doors if you’re eyeing a buffet, dresser, or any storage piece. The drawers must glide smoothly and open without a hitch. Ensure that each door opens and closes flawlessly without snapping. It is also important to check if the hinges are tight, without rust, and have smooth edges.
Aside from the smooth glide, pull out the drawers to see if the type of wood is the same. Some furniture makers may skimp on materials in this area. If you’re investing quite a lot, you would want to have high-quality wood throughout the piece. Also, check if the drawers are put together using joinery. As always, it’s an indication of good craftsmanship.
Mass-produced veneer and laminate furniture often have a very smooth, plastic-y, and unnatural shine for a finish. Some wooden furniture pieces appear nearly as glossy (sometimes even shinier) as they are finished with varnish and lacquer.
One thing that sets high-quality furniture is the finish. Natural wood by itself is already very beautiful. Ideally, the finish only enhances this simple beauty, not covering it with too much shine. So, look for a finish with a soft satin sheen that allows the patina of real solid wood to come through.
Examine the material, stitching, and overall craftsmanship to determine whether the upholstery is high quality. High-quality upholstery is typically made of long-lasting, natural materials like leather, cotton, or wool. There should be no loose threads or puckering, and the stitching should be straight and even.
If your chair or sofa has removable seat cushions, take a peek. Premium pieces will feature fiber wrapped around the foam block, plus a protective inner cover, especially for the high-end ones. And don’t forget about the craftsmanship. It should be precise, neat, and detailed. Overall, the upholstery should be comfortable, soft, and durable enough for everyday wear and tear.
Don’t gamble with your investment in solid wood furniture. An item with a warranty somehow guarantees quality and peace of mind. Let’s be honest, high-quality wooden furniture can be pricey, but a warranty ensures you’re covered if something unexpected happens. From defects to repairs and replacements, a warranty certainly helps. Plus, it instills confidence in the furniture’s durability and longevity so that you can enjoy it for years.