Fix common problems to make furniture last longer

July 29, 2015

Wooden furniture is a preference for many, for many reasons. While it is durable and ages well, it also lends itself to some common problems. Learn how to fix these yourself so there's no need to replace your beloved pieces.

Fix common problems to make furniture last longer

Remove candle wax

  • Oh, darn! Candle wax dripped on your beautiful table. Don't worry; it's pretty easy to remove.
  • First scrape away as much of the wax as you can with your finger, a plastic kitchen scraper, or a stiff piece of cardboard.
  • Sometimes it helps to stiffen the wax and loosen its grip by placing a bag of ice cubes on top of it.
  • If the weather is cold and dry and the table is small enough, you might even leave it outside for an hour or so to stiffen the wax.
  • Once you get the bulk of the wax off, remove any residue with a cloth moistened with mineral spirits or cream furniture wax.
  • After removing all traces of the wax, repolish the entire table with furniture wax or polish.

Bag your furniture bugs

  • Insects, such as powder post beetles, can infest wood and leather furniture, as well as furniture filled with horsehair.
  • Their larvae can cause damage by burrowing into wood parts and creating tunnels.
  • If you find material that looks like fine sawdust under your furniture, chances are you have an active infestation — not simply damage from one long ago.
  • Place the affected piece in a plastic bag and contact an extermination company that can fumigate the article.
  • Be especially careful of infestation on pieces that you've had in storage in a garage or basement; check them well before bringing them into the house.

Resecure chair joints

  • Nothing will accelerate the demise of a wooden chair, such as a kitchen chair or rocking chair, more quickly than using it when it has loose joinery.
  • A chair is designed to carry its load to the floor, but if the verticals wobble, it may soon drop its load — not carry it! Take a wobbly chair out of service until you can disassemble the loose stretchers. A rubber mallet helps here. (Don't take secure joints apart.)
  • First scrape the old glue from the joint with a sharp craft knife. Use a solution of equal parts warm water and vinegar to remove any remaining glue and let dry.
  • Test-fit the joints.
  • If one is loose, glue a small strip of cotton to build up the tenon/dowel end of the offending part.
  • Finally, reassemble with yellow carpenter's glue.
  • Wipe up squeezed-out glue immediately. To secure the joints while the glue dries, use clamps fashioned from loops of cord and twisted with a pencil or dowel until tight.

Straighten lopsided case furniture

  • The usual cause for cabinets and bookcases going out of square is that the backboard has become detached or was removed.
  • The backboard is usually made of thin plywood or hardboard.
  • Reattach it (or a new one) to the back of the cabinet at the sides, top, and bottom with brads or small screws.
  • This is often all that needs to be done to add many years of useful life to treasured cabinets and bookcases.
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