Before You Buy Wood Furniture

Before you go shopping for wood furniture, also known as casegoods, there are questions you should answer for yourself. This guide can help you zero in on the basics of buying wood furniture. Budget, wood, construction, finish, and quality should all be considered before you make a final decision to buy.

What is your budget for wood furniture pieces?

Though you may not stick to it, a budget for purchasing furniture is a good guideline when you begin shopping. If you appreciate quality construction, fine woods, and unique design you may be tempted to spend more for these features. And you may decide that your budget deserves to be readjusted if you fall in love with something special. But a budget can keep you in line so you don’t spend all your available funds on one piece.

Where will this piece of wood furniture be used?

Does the size and scale of a piece fit into your space? A huge farm table may be your idea of a dream dining room, yet if space is tight it can be a better alternative to go with a more appropriately scaled piece. Round tables can take the edges, and inches, off – leaving more room to get around. And big armoires are prized for storage, yet still must fit into the physical and visual space in the room. If your home is large then you’ll usually want to avoid tiny pieces of furniture.

What style of decorating do you like?

If you’ve already found your favorite style of furniture – congratulations! Yet, more and more decorators and homeowners are using an eclectic style — meaning mixing a number of styles — within a room. Pieces of different styles in one room can appear more “collected”, adding interest to the space.


What kind of wood do you like?

All wood furniture is made from either hardwood (trees that lose their leaves seasonally) or softwood (from trees that keep their leaves year round). Oak and teak are hardwoods that really are hard and heavy. Fine hardwoods like walnut, mahogany, maple, cherry, or oak are found in the most expensive pieces. Softwoods like are used in less formal pieces.

Is the wood solid, bonded, or veneer?

"Solid walnut" furniture means that all exposed parts of the piece are walnut. But the frame and inner parts may be made of other, less-costly wood. Because timber cut from trees is not the size or shape required for furniture, bonding is used to join pieces together. Thin layers of fine, decorative wood can be bonded to the face of furniture pieces. This centuries-old technique is called veneering.

What kind of finish is on the wood?

The finish on furniture can enhance the natural look of wood or change it completely. A finish of oil or wax lets the wood shine. For more durability, lacquer or varnish is applied when the piece is manufactured. Distressed furniture can be natural (as with an old piece) or man-made (via sanding or beating the wood with chains). Painting, gilding, and inlays can change the look of a wood piece as well. The finish of case goods should be smooth to the touch and any table leaves should match.

Do the components work properly?

Drawers should be smoothly finished, fit well, and slide easily, stopping flush. They should have interior dust panels to keep contents clean. Doors on cabinets should open and close easily with hardware that is of high quality, installed securely. Interior lights should be easy to access. If the piece is to be used as an entertainment center or computer station, holes should be drilled for electrical cords. Be sure that the legs of a table are even and that the table does not “rock.”