Fix it: Furniture & Antiques

Meet experts who can rescue your beloved, if broken, furniture and antiques

By
From the February 2014 edition
Tabletops

Symptoms: Superficial scratches or dings are marring the place where you sit down for dinner or play checkers.

Diagnosis: For a light-colored wood, Lauren Marcum of Columbus Furniture Revival suggests rubbing a shelled walnut over the scratch. A darker wood might be camouflaged by Old English Scratch Cover. If that fails, try using a stain (like Minwax) that matches.

Cost: At Home Depot, an 8-ounce bottle of Old English costs about $5, and a 1-gallon container of Minwax costs about $26.

Clocks

Symptoms: If an antique clock stops functioning (like telling time or chiming), you know it is a candidate for restoration. But even a functioning clock might merit more modest attention, says Michael Gainey of Master Clock Repair.

Diagnosis: Repairs range from straightforward solutions, like oiling and cleaning, to complete restorations that often address the internal mechanism of the clock.

Cost: Superficial fixes start at $95, while average restorations usually cost between $400 and $800, depending on the style of clock.

Dining room chairs

Symptoms: The back legs are especially susceptible to the occupant leaning back—as well as scooting in and out. “If you have carpeting and you don’t have glides on your chair, they want to catch,” says Tom Black of Black’s Furniture Restoration, who adds that rear joints are often the first to go.

Diagnosis: Black removes all glue and takes off the corner blocks before cleaning, re-gluing and clamping the legs.

Cost: Prices range from $45 to $95, depending on the design of the chair.

Lamps

Symptoms: The bulb is less bright, flickers more often or burns out more quickly than usual.

Diagnosis: According to Bill Young of The Lamplighter, this is a sign that a socket needs to be replaced. Another common problem is a cord that has been damaged by a pet or even a vacuum cleaner. Both are hazards if they’re not fixed.

Cost: A medium base three-way socket can cost $23 and up, plus parts. To rewire a floor lamp can cost $25 and up, plus parts, depending on the style of lamp.

Caned chairs

Symptoms: The weaving in the seat of your favorite caned chair has started to fray or developed a small hole.

Diagnosis: Breaks in even a few strands are a cause for concern. “Especially with seats, I try and tell customers to be very careful,” says Emily Uphill of Emza’s Chair Caning. “You don’t want to go through one and get hurt.” If a problem develops, the entire seat has to be re-caned.

Cost: It depends on the chair and caning technique. Replacing a seat with pre-woven sheet caning can cost about $80, while replacing a seat with caning woven by hand can cost about $165.

Sofas

Symptoms: Aside from obvious signs of damage, Ron Honaker of Crown Custom Upholstery says you can tell if a couch or loveseat needs to be reupholstered. “It doesn’t sit right anymore,” he says. “It’s just too low too the ground. It’s not like it used to be.”

Diagnosis: Most antique pieces require a complete rebuild. “All new straps, new springs, padding—all that stuff has to be replaced,” Honaker says.

Cost: An overhaul this extensive could run from $300 to $1,000, depending on the size of the piece.

Wooden furniture

Symptoms: Lauren Marcum of Columbus Furniture Revival says her customers often want their tired old furniture to fit in with newer purchases. “If you get a buffet from your grandmother that’s oak, and nothing in your house is this color and it doesn’t really match, but you have so much sentimental value attached to it,” she says, it may be time to change its appearance.

Diagnosis: Before Marcum re-stains, repaints or refinishes an item, she usually asks for pictures of what the customer has in mind, as well as pictures of items it will accompany. “If they have a lot of white stuff, they might just go with white,” she says.

Cost: Smaller pieces can cost around $150, while larger pieces cost around $700.