Home decor and interior design trends are constantly changing. As styles ebb and flow, keeping up-to-date with the most recent trends can be difficult. However, furniture flipping is a decor trend that never seems to go out of style.
Furniture flipping, or furniture restoration, is the process of cleaning, sanding, and applying finishes to donated or abandoned furniture and then selling it for profit. While this trend has existed for decades, its popularity has grown even more over the last few months. In fact, according to TikTok, the hashtag “#furnitureflip” has 4.6 billion views. That’s why there is no better time to learn how to flip furniture like a pro.
Jump to: Why You Should Give Furniture Flipping a Shot | Where To Find The Perfect Piece For a Project | Steps on How to Restore Items | Final Note to Beginner Furniture Restorers
Why You Should Give Furniture Flipping a Shot
Furniture Flipping Is a Profitable Enterprise
Let’s face it. Furniture is expensive. When you consider inflation, supply chain issues, and labor shortages, it’s clear why buying furniture from a retailer is so hard on your wallet. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, inflation rates on furniture have skyrocketed in the last few years, jumping from 2.34% in 2019 to 12.9% in 2022. All in all, furniture prices have increased by 239% since the 1960s. As such, it’s no surprise that people are looking to alternative markets to purchase furniture..
If you’re looking for a way to make some extra money or secure a nice piece of furniture, you might want to pick up furniture flipping as your new hobby.
Eco-friendly Benefits of Furniture Flipping
Furniture flipping is a great way to recycle items that would otherwise end up in landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. produces about 12.1 million tons of furniture waste annually, which accounts for about 4% of municipal solid waste (MSW). Of this waste, about 20% is used as fuel, while the remaining 80% winds up in landfills. You keep one more item out of a landfill by recycling, refurbishing, and reusing furniture, while also getting a nice new centerpiece or some extra cash at the same time.
Show Off Your Creativity and Build the Perfect Centerpiece
Have you ever encountered a table, dresser, or cabinet that would be perfect for your living room, bedroom, or sitting room, if not for the wrong color or pattern? With refurbishing, you can turn this slightly off furniture into perfect centerpieces or accents. With furniture refurbishing, you get a great piece of furniture, custom-made to fit the look of your room while flexing your creative muscles.
Where To Find The Perfect Piece For a Project
In Your Own Neighborhood
There are plenty of places to pick from when looking for low-cost furniture to flip. One of the best ways to find refurbishable pieces is in your neighborhood. If homeowners are looking to get rid of old furniture, they’ll often put these items on the street, either to be taken by their neighbors or to be thrown away.
While these items can often be a great find, as they’re typically free and can be in decent condition, you’ll want to do some research before grabbing a roadside table. Laws for discarded property vary by state, and you’ll want to be well-versed in the rules for your area before setting out to collect discarded items. Some states require items to be left out for a certain amount of time before they’re considered abandoned. Others require a clear indication that the previous owner wishes to relinquish them, such as through a sign, notice, or agreement.
Estate sales occur when all assets and possessions of an estate (property) need to be liquidated quickly; this can happen due to a death, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce, or an immediate move. Items sold at an estate sale are typically of higher quality and are usually sold at a greatly discounted price. Most estate sales are on a “first come, first serve basis,” with buyers lining up in a queue, walking through the property, and purchasing items as they go.
Estate sales can be run by a bank, private company, or even the property owner, and they’ll all have different rules for signing up and purchasing items. Before attending any estate sale, thoroughly read its rules and expectations beforehand.
Online marketplaces can be great places to find cheap items but can also carry certain risks, making them a gamble. Online marketplaces don’t always have reliable customer protections, allowing dishonest vendors and scam artists to fleece customers out of their money. When using an online marketplace, do your research and check the company’s privacy, sales, and refund policies. You’ll want to move on if the website doesn’t offer refunds or customer protections.
If you find a reliable site, you’ll want to begin shopping for good furniture from reliable sellers. Always check a seller’s profile beforehand, paying special attention to their sales history and customer reviews. Avoid sellers with poor reviews, a shady or nonexistent history, and a track record of complaints or violations. If your marketplace doesn’t act as an intermediary (such as how eBay ships items) and requires you to meet with your seller (like Craig’s List or Facebook Marketplace), we recommend following these general safety guidelines:
- Proceed with caution.
- Meet in a public place.
- Never meet at your home or residence.
- Never divulge personal or baking information.
- Never meet at night.
- Bring a friend.
- Use your marketplace’s security and privacy setting to keep your account information private.
- Use your best judgment, and if you suspect you’re being scammed or something dangerous may be going on, prioritize your safety above all else and contact local law enforcement immediately.
Thrift stores combine the reliability and convenience of regular retailers with discount prices. These stores are some of the best ways to find good quality furniture, with the least hoops to jump through. The only major downside to thrift stores is that they’ve become extremely popular in recent years, leading to higher prices and less selection. While these stores can be a great place to find used furniture, you may need to shop around before finding a great buy.
Resale Furniture Warehouse
Like thrift stores, visiting a resale furniture warehouse can be a great way to get used items at a low price. These stores obtain used items from donations and damaged or mismarked items from other retailers, reselling them at a discounted price. Some warehouses restore these items, while others resell them as-is, making the furniture quality vary from location to location. National furniture resale warehouses are somewhat rare, with the most common and reliable being the ReStore from Habitat for Humanity.
Popular Items To Flip
When it comes to furniture flipping, there are endless options for projects. These options, however, vary in difficulty. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start by restoring these items:
- End tables
- Coffee tables
- Window boxes
Items To Avoid Flipping
Safety is a priority when restoring furniture. That’s why it’s important to avoid certain items when looking for furniture to restore or materials to use. As a general rule, you should avoid the following:
- Furniture that is beyond repair
- Furniture infested with termites or other insects
Generally, your best bet is to aim for simple wooden furniture. Wood is easy to clean, restrain, paint, and physically alter, making it an ideal beginner material. However, we recommend avoiding any wood that has been damaged, rotted, or waterlogged.
Steps on How to Restore Items
1. Gather Your Materials
When flipping furniture, you’ll need several tools and materials. Ensuring you have everything before your project begins is a good idea. Below are some commonly used tools and materials.
- Work gloves
- Dust mask
- Stripping tool
- Wax and polish remover
- Sanding block
- Fine steel wool
- Glass scraper
- Wood dye
- Wood restorer/finishing oil
- Wax polish
- Tack cloth and lint-free cloth
Your next step should be to remove any dust, dirt, or superficial blemishes on the furniture. Your ideal cleaner will depend on what you’re working with; for example, when dealing with nasty adhesive on wood, your best is an oil-based wood polish or soap. Hot soap and water are typically the best for tougher materials like metal. Remember that while water can be a useful tool for cleaning, don’t soak the furniture to avoid water damage, mold, or rust.
Use sandpaper or sand blocks to remove paint and splinters from wooden furniture. When removing paint, you’ll want a coarse 80 grit sandpaper and an electronic sander if possible. Once the paint has been removed, you’ll want a fine to very fine grit, think 120 to 220, to smooth the rest of the surface and remove splinters. Be careful not to apply too much pressure when sanding, which can damage the furniture.
- Note on paint strippers: You may be tempted to use a paint stripper for larger projects; we don’t recommend this. Pain strippers are potent industrial chemicals that completely remove paint from difficult-to-sand objects. While these products work, they’re highly caustic, creating intense, potentially lethal fumes, and can cause severe burns when making contact with the skin or eyes.
When applying finishes or protective chemicals to the furniture, make sure that the furniture is evenly coated and that there are no air pockets or bubbles. This even coat will make the painting process much easier. For optimal results, let the staining and finishing have a chance to dry completely before going on to the next step. Always read the instructions and safety guidelines carefully before applying when using any staining agent, and work in a well-ventilated area.
Painting can be the most fun part of the process, but you’ll want to take a few steps before getting out your brushes:
- Always paint over a drop cloth, newspaper, or tarp.
- Use contractor’s or painter’s tape for clean and even edges.
- If possible, disassemble the furniture and paint each piece individually – this will ensure no missed spots between conjoining sections.
- For difficult-to-paint materials, use a primer first.
- For optimal results, apply several thin coats of paint instead of one thick layer.
6. Replacing Hardware
Find replacements at your local hardware store if the piece is missing hardware such as nails, nuts, or bolts. You may want to bring pictures of the piece or any damaged materials to find a replacement more easily.
If you plan to keep a piece for yourself, feel free to decorate it as you see fit. However, applying embellishments may reduce its value if you sell it. Additionally, when selling furniture, keeping colors neutral, with black, white, or simple unpainted wood, will make it easier to sell than with bright, flashy colors.
Final Note to Beginner Furniture Restorers
While completing your first project will be very satisfying, it’s unlikely to be a total success. If it doesn’t turn out quite how you wanted it, learn from your mistakes and try again. Becoming an expert furniture flipper will take lots of practice and patience. In the meantime, do your research and check out our other furniture building and restoration resources.