5 Things To Check Before Bidding On Auction Furniture

5 Things To Check Before Bidding On Auction Furniture

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Sarah Rae Smith
Mar 10, 2010

We have a small confession to make. We're complete and total suckers for a good auction. With warmer months ahead, they'll be in full swing and there's a treasure trove of furniture waiting to be refinished, repurposed and given new life. Although there might be bargains, do you really know what to look for to make sure you're bringing home a quality piece?

We've been to far more auctions than we care to admit (it's a problem), it's the rush of the bidding, the thoughts of finding a hidden gem, or maybe it's just outfitting our homes with things of years gone by without having to make any retail purchases.

No matter what auction you're at, there's several things you can do to inspect a piece of furniture before raising your hand to stake claim to it. Though we suggest being sneaky about checking into pieces to get the best deal, there's several things to look at before you drag home yet another dresser (especially when you have no idea where you're going to put it).

Peeling Veneer: You can always re-glue peeling veneer and can even patch it if you're really feeling like a little work, but if you're willing to commit more than one weekend to auction hunting, chances are you'll come across something quite similar in nature that won't mandate the same amount of crafting.

Mold: For us, mold is an automatic out. Yes, we could probably kill it, but not knowing what sorts of mold we'd be bringing into our home (or our vehicles to transport it home) kinda weird us out. If the piece is solid wood, we might make an exception knowing we can sand it like crazy, but it has to be a piece we feel is worth the elbow grease.

Weird Smells: Even though we're well versed in getting out stains and smells from carpets and upholstery, removing odors from wood can be a bit more difficult. Depending on the length of time the piece was subjected to soiling (which there's no way in telling), the smells might be permanent, no matter what you do to them. Smelling like Mid Century old is one thing, smelling like nightly cheeseburgers, cigarettes and dog pee is another.

Breaks, Cracks and Splits: Sometimes older pieces can have slight stress fractures or breaks in the wood. Often times you'll find pieces that have been re-glued, but what can occur is the glue used ends up being stronger than the wood itself — causing additional stress. Pieces with a "typical" tapered Mid-Century leg can be unscrewed and replaced pretty easy, but outside of that, you might have some work on your hands to track down a piece that can be traded out.

Holes In Upholstery: Now upholstery can always be replaced, but what you're looking for is small holes on the bottom side of sofas, chairs and ottomans. Holes can signal critters have one lived in your piece and even though the hole might be out of sight, dead mouse carcass could soon be smelled by your compnay if you haven't checked things out.

Now flaws can work one of two ways when you're at an auction. You can either talk loudly about the things that are wrong with a piece in hopes to deter other auction goers (meaning you get a great deal that might be worth the extra work), or you can keep your findings to yourself — giving you all the power when it comes to bidding on the perfect piece.

What do you look for at an auction? Water damage? Chipped corners? Let us know below!

Related: My Great Outdoors: Sarah's Upcycled Patio Garden

(Image: Sarah Rae Trover)

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