Wood Furniture Buying Guide
HOW TO FIND WOOD FURNITURE THAT
When decorating a home, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting burned by a cheap piece of furniture. You research and research, looking everywhere to find that piece – that lucky find that will stay beautiful for 20 years. You look in 10 stores, talk to sales people, read online reviews….but let’s get real: most of us have no idea what to look for when shopping for quality furniture, and we usually just end up frustrated by how quickly our “lucky” find breaks or wears out.
So how do you find a piece that will stay beautiful? When buying wood furniture, it’s actually simpler than you think! By learning the basics of wood furniture materials and construction, you’ll have the tools you need to confidently choose a quality, long-lasting piece without having to rely on luck.
There are two kinds of wood used in furniture: hardwoods and softwoods. Now, don’t be fooled – hardwoods aren’t always harder than softwoods, and vice versa. Really, the only distinction between the two is that hardwoods come from deciduous trees, and softwoods come from coniferous trees. Just because a wood is technically a softwood, that doesn’t mean it won’t last.
However, this doesn’t mean that the hardness of the wood doesn’t matter. For exposed surfaces, you want a harder wood that’s scratch- and dent-resistant. Test this by trying to draw a small line in the wood with your fingernail. If you’re left with any kind of visible dent, the surface probably won’t last.
For structural integrity, opt for solid wood or plywood (but only if the plywood is at least nine layers thick). Avoid the weaker pressed wood, particleboard, or fiberboard. Watch out for knots in the wood on both exposed and unexposed surfaces. Knots may cause cracking in the future, which could cause the furniture to break under pressure.
Don’t shy away from veneers. Veneers are thin pieces of high-quality wood that cover a lower-quality piece of wood to improve the appearance of a piece. Veneers are used often in high-quality furniture, and are not a problem as long as the material beneath the veneer is solid wood or plywood.
To test for quality construction, lift the piece at one corner. If it twists or squeaks, its joints are not stable. If the piece is too heavy to lift at once, wiggle parts of it to see if the joints move and rock.
Unstable joints are often secured with unstable hardware, such as staples, nails, and glue. If you see any of these, avoid that piece. Wooden pegs (dowels) and screws are the most secure. If you can’t visibly see what hardware is used, find out. It can make a big difference down the road. For the greatest joint security, corners should also have a reinforcing block attached.
The best drawers are secured with dovetail or mortise-and-tenon joints and have steel drawer glides. Drawers should run smoothly over their glides.
Stop relying on luck to guide you to a long-lasting, quality piece of wood furniture – use these guidelines and you’ll know exactly what to look for. Print or Pin the infographic below as a quick reference next time you shop for furniture!
At Westwood Design, we believe in creating unique wood furniture that not only looks beautiful, but is actually built to last. Our furniture grows as your baby grows, allowing years of continuous use. View Our Collections
How to Pick
- Press into the wood with your fingernail. If you’re left with a visible dent, the wood is too soft
- Opt for solid wood or 9-layer plywood & avoid pressed wood, particleboard, or fiberboard
- Veneers are OK if the material beneath is solid wood or plywood
- Lift piece by one corner or wiggle it – if it twists, swueaks, or rocks, its joints are not stable
- Joints should be secured with dowels or screws, not staples, nails, or glue
- Corners should be secured with a reinforcing block
- Drawers should be secured with dovetail or mortise-and-tenon joints
- Drawers should have steel drawers glides