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How To Buy Wood Furniture

Buying wood furniture? Ten tips for what to know before you go.

1 Look for Quality Wood

Wood comes in two varieties—hardwood and softwood. Soft and hard doesn’t refer to the wood’s strength but rather to the plant species. Hardwood is typically stronger and more expensive; some species of hardwood are ash, cherry, maple, oak, teak, walnut, and mahogany.

2 Check the Joints

You might not see them, but the joints of any interlocking piece of furniture (couch arms, table legs, drawer corners) should be double- or triple-doweled, corner blocked, glued, and high-pressure stapled for support. Always double-check and ask a salesperson if you aren’t sure.

3 Open Drawers, Close Doors

A high-quality drawer will feel weighty and solid, yet slide with ease. Check the condition of the glides and stops. The drawer interior should be smooth and sanded. The doors should follow suit and feel substantial to the touch, but swing without squeaking or rubbing. Above all, they should be properly aligned when shut.

4 Look for Dust Panels

They’re not integral to the foundation of your wood furniture, but a high-quality piece should have these horizontal partitions between drawers that keep dust (obviously) and varmints from invading the drawer space.

5 Stay Level

Since most homes have disparities in the floor level, large pieces of wood furniture, like entertainment centers, dressers, and armoires, should have leveling devices in the base to provide better balance. Otherwise, you might end up with doors that stick or drawers that do not slide open.

6 Check the Bells and Whistles

Read the product card and investigate the specific features of your piece: Do the table leaves fit with ease? Is there a hole for cords in the entertainment center? Do the interior lights work? Is the switch easy to find? Make sure what’s promised to you is what you get.

7 Be Hard on Hardware

Make sure all hardware is secure and strong: The hinges should handle the load of the door; there should not be rough edges on the hardware; and the latches under the table leaves should function properly.

8 Inspect the Finish

Wood furniture should feel smooth to the touch (unless it’s distressed). Inspect the finish from different angles: The finish should be clear and uniform in color with no visible lines, dark spots, dents, or bubbles.

9 Support the Shelves

Long shelves should have center supports to prevent them from buckling. Gently lean on them to check the strength. If the shelves are adjustable, can they shift with ease? Is the hardware provided of high quality?

10 Push It Around

The piece should feel sturdy when rocked. If you get lots of movement (more than the typical give), there’s a flaw in the construction.

-- Kathleen Murray

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