Save Furniture from the Landfill with Easy Repairs

Sarah Moore Impact Mill Contributor
Furniture

Furniture is shockingly underutilized in our culture. Not in the sense that we don’t use it in our homes; we do. More in the sense that we replace it every few years to match a new function or style.

Unfortunately, because so many of us buy brand new pieces at retail shops and too few of us reuse furniture, the end result is a whole lot of it in landfills. As of 2009, the EPA reported 9.8 million tons of furniture were added to landfills, which means furniture makes up about 4.1% of municipal solid waste.

That same year, only 0.1% of discarded furniture was recovered, meaning it was recycled into something new or otherwise reused.

Stop the Waste

At least part of the solution is obvious: stop trashing and start keeping. Of course, furniture does break and wear out, but there are other solutions than simply heading to IKEA when that happens.

Furniture

Learning simple furniture fixes that you can do yourself keeps bulky waste out of landfills | image: Renate Meijer/Flickr

Whether you pick up a cute piece at the flea market or have had Aunt Martha’s Civil War-era dresser sitting in your basement for 3 years, it pays to learn how to make simple fixes to furniture. Sticky drawers, broken knobs, wobbly feet and gouges can all ruin the functionality and look of a piece of furniture, but luckily for you and the Earth, these problems are all easier to fix than you might think.

Sticky Drawers

Sticky drawers (ones that don’t smoothly glide open and shut) are super annoying, but this is one of the easiest fixes. The first step is to simply bring the offending furniture piece inside the house, if it isn’t already. Sometimes furniture that’s been stored in basements or sheds gets damp and swells, and a few days or weeks indoors will restore the drawer’s functionality without any further action.

If that doesn’t do the trick, it’s time for more drastic measures. Usually a little paraffin wax or nylon tape on the track or the edges of the drawer will make drawers slide smoothly again. If that doesn’t work and the drawer is simply a wooden box that fits into a hole, you can try sanding down the edges so they don’t catch.

Broken Knobs or Pulls

Knobs and pulls on draws, cabinets, dressers, and cupboards often mystify the uninitiated, but they’re actually much easier to fix or replace than you might think. First, you’ll want to determine what kinds of hardware you have, so you know what to get for the new knobs. Most knobs and pulls are set on bolts that run through the face of the door or drawer they’re mounted to, which means if you open the drawer and look behind the knob, you’ll see how it is attached. Usually, the knob’s bolt has a nut holding it in place, or a screw head.

If your knob is loose or spinning, simply open the drawer or door, hold the knob with one hand so it doesn’t spin, and tighten the nut or screw head with the appropriate wrench or screwdriver to snug everything up.

Knobs

Knobs are super easy to find on the cheap from flea markets and thrift shops | image: Florian Ramel/Flickr

If you want to replace the knob, open the drawer and completely remove the screw or nut that’s holding the knob in place. Then, take all the hardware (including the knob) with you when searching for new knobs so you can ensure everything is the correct size. If you’re buying knobs on the Internet (which is a good place to find eco-friendly options), measure the width of the bolt or screw as best you can with a ruler, and buy accordingly.

You can often find new knobs at antique shops or even Goodwill, but you can also order eco-friendly ones online. Try Rustic Hardware or Uncommon Goods for starters, and you can also check the vintage section of Etsy.

Wobbly Feet

If you’re anything like me, a wobbly table can quickly lead to spilled coffee and black rage. Don’t let that happen. Instead, get wooden discs, which can be easily attached to the feet of short table legs with wood glue. You can find wooden disks online at lots of sites, including Etsy to Amazon. Search by color and size, and you’ll find something that’s close enough to get the job done.

Gouges

Scratches and gouges can ruin the look of furniture like nothing else, but they’re actually really easy to fix. For smaller scratches, rub with a wax stick in a matching color. For deeper ones, use wood putty, then paint, stain or rub with a wax stick to disguise the blemish. If you’ve got other questions – such as how to repair furniture that’s been burned or has damaged veneer – you can usually get some quick and easy answers from your trusty friend Google.

If you’re a true diehard, you can also replace upholstery on couches and chairs, but that’s often more expensive, even if you do it yourself. Still, it can be done, and can make pieces that were formerly junkable totally functional once more. Even if you don’t want a piece of furniture anymore, a little fix-up can make your chances of getting money for it on Craigslist much better. However you keep furniture out of the landfill, it’s worth it.

Sarah Moore is an Impact Mill contributor and freelance writer who focuses on sustainability, local food, and the weirder side of science. In her spare time she enjoys writing fiction, running, and cooking. Sarah lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, two children, two dogs, and an unshakable colony of June bugs.