Sunday, May 25, 2014

Garage Sale Furniture: Deal or Disaster?

Well, we are full on into garage sale season now, and our weekends are pretty much filled with hunting down riches, then coming home and dealing with them, so we're looking forward to summer when we will have more time to stay on top of things around the house.

Meanwhile, I've had a few people ask me for tips on finding good furniture (and other things), so I thought I would share a few things that we've learned.

1. Structural Integrity.  Look for pieces that have good "bones," meaning they are sturdy and won't need a lot of repairs.  If something has wobbly legs, drawers that won't close, or large cracks- walk away.  Those things are extremely difficult and time-consuming for the average person to fix, so unless your plan is to take it apart and completely re-invent it into something else (or unless you are Norm Abram, because Lord knows that dude can fix ANYTHING!), it isn't worth your time.

2. Look past the cosmetic flaws.  As long as something is sturdy, don't be afraid to look past things like chipped paint, vinyl tacked over the top, ugly hardware, etc.  Also remember that just a good cleaning with soap and water can do wonders. For example, we found this dresser a few weeks ago for $10.

Other buyers had likely passed it up because it was covered in grime and had a hideous piece of old vinyl tacked onto the top.  But it was sturdy and after we cleaned it, we decided we actually liked the paint color and naturally shabby look.  So, we just sanded it lightly, used chemical stripper to remove the paint from the drawer pulls, then stained the top and pulls (after removing the vinyl of course), and gave the whole thing a coat of water-based poly.

3. Just say no to damaged veneer.  Veneer is pretty much impossible to fix.  I have heard there is a way to do it using Bondo (in fact we have a planter with damaged veneer sitting in the garage right now, waiting to try this trick), but bear in mind this only works if you are planning to paint the piece.  If you want to keep it with the natural wood, you are pretty much out of luck.

4. Know your bottom line.  Something that only costs $5 may seem like a great deal, but don't forget to calculate the cost of fixing it up.  Sandpaper, paint/stain, poly, wood glue, and new hardware all cost money too.  Also, consider the amount of time all of the work will take. That $5 may not be such a great deal after $50 in supplies and 25 hours of work! My first project was a Hoosier cabinet that I found for $50.  This was a great deal considering that they typically sell for $300 and up, and this one had all of it's original parts (flour sifter, metal bread box, etc.).

However, it needed SO much work!  We had to replace several water damaged panels of wood, which meant pretty much the entire thing had to be taken apart and put back together again before we could even start sanding and painting.  This all took MONTHS of work- way more than I'd anticipated. In the end, it turned out pretty good, but with all of the supplies and labor, we probably put way more than $300 into it.

5. Finally, pay attention to where the furniture came from.  Is the person selling it a smoker? Was it stored in a damp basement?  Remember that wood soaks up smells pretty easily (and some smells are impossible to get rid of), so if you are buying from someone whose house reeks like cat pee, chances are your dream furniture deal is going to turn into a nightmare pretty quickly.

Hopefully you find this helpful next time you head out bargain hunting with a head full of Pinterest-inspired ideas.  Just yesterday we came home with a car load of solid wood drawers ($10 for six of them!) that the sellers had taken out of their arts and crafts style built-ins.  Beyond the obvious question (why in the world would anyone take OUT built-ins like that!!?), I am still not sure what I am going to do with them, so stay tuned to see whether that turns out to be a genius buy or a colossal mistake!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Deck Disaster

You may recall one of my first blog posts from last summer, when we decided to resurface our deck. We used a product by Pittsburgh Paints called "Revitalize" that was brand new at the time, so we were unable to find any reviews online, but decided to take a gamble.  Well, we will not be booking a vacation to Vegas anytime soon, because this was one gamble we lost.  BIG TIME.

Here's what the deck looked like before:

And after several days in the blistering hot sun cleaning and prepping, painting on several coats, and following the instructions explicitly, here's how the deck looked:

And NOW, less than a year later, here is what we are left with:

This stuff is coming off in huge sheets all over the place.

Even in places that get NO foot traffic- like railings.

Now, I should also note that we BARELY used the deck at all last summer. We hosted one large party (the rehearsal dinner for our wedding) but that was before we re-did the deck, and for the rest of the summer we hardly went out there other than to eat dinner once in a while.  There is absolutely NO reason this should be happening, especially considering this stuff is supposed to have a "satisfaction guaranteed" warranty.  However, the "warranty" is limited to a refund of the purchase price, or a product replacement (meaning another one of their low-quality useless products). So the refund does not cover the cost of having to strip the entire deck and start over, nor does it cover the hours of labor required to do so.  Luckily this stuff peels off so easily, stripping the deck shouldn't be too difficult.  Of course we didn't save our receipt from almost a year ago, so we aren't eligible for a refund anyway (all the more reason to save your receipts for everything!).  I did contact Pittsburgh Paints customer service, but never received a reply. A quick web search shows that we are not alone in our terrible experience- it looks like there are a LOT of angry deck owners out there.

So, the moral of the story is this: if something is too new to have customer reviews, turn around and walk away! And do not be seduced by the lower price!   Sometimes it is worth it to pay more for a better product.   Finally, do NOT buy anything made by my new nemesis,  Pittsburgh Paints!