Furniture that has significant value is worth reupholstering, but “value” comes in forms beyond monetary. A reupholstered sofa or chair can visually fit in with modernized surroundings. And reupholstering is a form of recycling that teaches kids environmental responsibilities. If your furniture is worthy of recovering, take it to the right upholsterer; if it isn't, take it up with your family and your conscience.
1. Quality of Workmanship
Often, you can feel the quality of an old, well-built sofa by simply sitting on it. That’s because, unlike much of today’s practically disposable furnishings, many manufacturers of older upholstered furniture constructed their pieces to last with glued and screwed together hardwood frames, corner-blocked joints and durable springs and webbing, for instance. Top-quality furniture built post-21st century, however, is also likely worthy of reupholstering to give it a custom look or rectify stubborn stains or tears. Solid furniture -- old or new -- that was designed for longevity can warrant not only new fabric, but also new foam or down filling. A few signs of quality you can look for: The frame should be solid wood, or at least veneer over a wood, or solid, 9-ply plywood rather than particleboard or a thin plywood base. It should have interlocking, teethlike joints, such as dovetail joinery, or continuous glue along standard joints as well as nails or screws instead of flimsy staples and breaks in glue seams.
2. Sentimental Value
Handed-down or inherited furniture can have sentimental value even if it's otherwise basically worthless -- and it’s this emotional attachment that makes keeping or parting with a visually distasteful piece difficult. Rather than suffering through the guilt of secretly despising a relic from your past or painfully disposing of it, make it a treasured part of your home by having it reupholstered. Choose a neutral-colored fabric or a colorful print more to your current liking. Chances are, the following generations who end up with the piece, if you pass it on down the line, will reupholster it again one day to suit their styles. If the piece was not solidly built or is in need of significant repair, take it to a furniture restoration professional who not only reupholsters furniture, but also beefs up frames, replaces worn or poor-quality springs, and adjusts any mechanisms, such as those of a recliner. Upholstering fabric and labor can cost in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so if your dining room chairs, a headboard or a simple bench need new fabric, you may want to do it yourself to save money.
3. Antique Value
Likely, today’s lesser-quality furniture is not going to be around 50 years from now, making antique furniture collecting even more of an investment. So when furniture has antique value, it can be worthy of an upholstery overhaul. But don’t start shopping for the lowest-priced upholsterer. Antique refurbishing takes a skilled hand; a poor reupholstering job will devalue old furniture. Look for a certified antique-furniture restoration and repair specialist who has the skills to handle your period piece.
4. Getting Rid of Furniture
When you decide that your furniture isn’t worth reupholstering, it may still have value to someone. If the piece has some monetary value, sell it in the spirit of financial gain. If it's clean and comfortable, albeit lacking style, donate it to a used-furniture store, a hostel or a homeless shelter instead of turning it into landfill glut. Your children will learn not only the value of recycling, but also the value of giving.
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