Furniture is a long-term purchase for most of us, with an average useful life of eight years. However, it is often not so easy to see the quality of pieces of furniture from the outside. Questions about stability or longevity are often answered inadequately or not at all. So that you know whether your furniture is worth its price, we give you objective tips on how to recognize the quality of the furniture. To see wallpapers for the office, please check listofledlights.
Our expert is available to answer our questions. He has been working in the furniture carpentry trade for many years and can explain to us exactly how we can assess the quality of cupboards, shelves and the like when buying.
I would like to talk to you about how to recognize furniture quality. So how can a layperson find out whether you really have good quality furniture in front of you or whether it only looks like it? Can you give us an overview of what to look out for?
Expert : First of all, there are quality features that the consumer can recognize directly from the furniture, and those for which he needs background information. First of all, however, one should always ask oneself whether the piece of furniture can function at all as it is constructed.
How do you mean? I can’t imagine furniture being sold that doesn’t work. Nobody buys a dining table with table legs of different heights.
Expert : No, of course not. However, many construction errors are not visible to the layman from the outside, but they still affect the quality of the furniture. Let’s take shelves for a cupboard or a shelf , for example . These need to be of a certain thickness compared to size in order for them to be able to carry any reasonable weight at all. For example, 16mm thick shelves should not exceed 80cm in length and 19mm thick shelves should not exceed 100cm in length. These proportions are important characteristics by which one can recognize the quality of furniture.
That’s really good advice. Do you have any more examples?
Expert : For cupboards or dressers with drawers , the drawers should not be longer than 100 cm to be on the safe side. The wider a drawer is, the greater the load on the bottom of the drawer. This is not only supported at the side ends, but also at the front and back, but it is usually very thin. However, a good drawer should be able to withstand a load of 30 kg.
This load-bearing principle can also be applied to cupboard doors : If the cupboard doors are wider than 60 cm, they should be attached to the cupboard with at least five hinges. You should keep this in mind, especially with MDF boards, because they are usually heavier than chipboard. Closet doors that are not sufficiently fastened hang crookedly on the closet after a short time. This can often not be corrected by realigning.
Would you really say here that the quality of the furniture is poor? Or are they simply used incorrectly in the cases described?
Expert : In any case, the question of use can also play a part. The quality of a piece of furniture can be great in terms of workmanship, material or pollutant emissions, and yet it can still be unsuitable. For example, if a shelf is advertised as a bookshelf, I consider it a quality defect, despite the best workmanship, if the usual, static aspects that a bookshelf has to fulfill are not given enough consideration.
Are there ways to assess the stability of a piece of furniture without professional expertise?
Expert : Yes. For example, you can test whether the piece of furniture is angularly rigid. I call this the “shake test”. You stand at one end of the furniture and shake one side. A table that wobbles back and forth has a low angular stiffness and is therefore not particularly stable. You can do the same with cabinets. If the cabinet gives way without lifting off the floor, you are dealing with an inferior construction. With this simple test you can learn a lot about the quality of the furniture.
How about the drawers? There are different mechanisms here: there are drawers with a self-closing mechanism, some can only be pulled out to three quarters of their length, others can be pulled out fully. For example, can one generally assume that moving in yourself is always better?
Expert : Self-closing is a more complex construction than a normal drawer runner. But that doesn’t have to mean that self-closing is qualitatively better. A drawer must be able to be opened smoothly – the self-closing only means that the drawer closes the last bit by itself. A smooth-running drawer is not yet guaranteed.
A good quality test is when you pull out the drawer not by the handle but by one side. For example, if you pull out the drawer on the right side and the drawer on the left comes out with it – without tilting – this indicates good furniture quality.
Let’s come to the points that a customer in a furniture store cannot easily assess, but has to find out beforehand. What information do you think is included?
Expert : Almost all pieces of furniture emit pollutants. People who are sensitive to certain pollutants should therefore find out beforehand what the pollutant emissions of the desired furniture are. High-quality furniture is not only less polluting, but is also marked by the manufacturer with the relevant information on pollutant emissions.
Why should you inquire about this beforehand? Couldn’t you just ask at the furniture store?
Expert : Unfortunately, that is not always particularly promising. The seller often does not know how high the pollutant emissions are from the furniture he wants to sell. Customers must therefore find out in advance where the material for the furniture comes from and, if necessary, obtain information directly from the manufacturer. It’s not always as complicated as it sounds. The supply chain often only has two or three stations. In larger furniture stores, however, this can be very difficult.
Which pollutants are you specifically talking about here and how do they get into the furniture?
Expert : I mainly mean the formaldehyde emissions. Formaldehyde is part of the glue that holds the wood chips in the chipboard together. Particle board with a higher proportion of formaldehyde is cheaper because the pressing times are reduced by formaldehyde. The shorter the pressing time, the more panels can be produced in less time. Especially with particularly cheap furniture, there is often a risk that the limit values will be exceeded. It is therefore important to keep an eye on the pollutant values, especially with furniture made of wood.
Does this only apply to chipboard furniture?
Expert : No, formaldehyde is also found in MDF boards. Solid wood furniture is usually free of formaldehyde unless it is veneered. In this respect, the quality of wooden furniture often affects the price, at least in part. However, other types of pollutant emissions can still occur with solid wood furniture, for example through paint vapors or inferior glues.
Are there other sources of health hazards that come from inferior furniture?
Expert : I wouldn’t necessarily talk about sources of danger, but rather about negative effects. In this sense, handles on doors and drawers can prove to be detrimental to well-being. Some handles are made of nickel or contain nickel. If you are allergic to nickel, you have no choice but to swap out the grips. But even if you are not allergic yourself, visitors can have an allergic reaction. It is therefore advisable not to use handles containing nickel. Such details cannot necessarily be associated with the general quality of the furniture – one must inform oneself.
Can you perhaps also briefly say something about the different quality levels of the records used? How do I recognize the quality of wooden furniture? What makes a solid wooden board? When is an MDF or chipboard particularly high quality?
Expert : I could say a lot about this. I think that would go beyond the scope.
Ultimately, the quality of the furniture must be such that the surfaces can withstand everyday wear and tear without damage. This is very easy to test. You scratch the surface lightly with a key. No scratches should be visible here after subsequent wiping. In technical jargon, this is then called “ring fest”.
This is a claim that one can easily make of high-priced furniture of good quality. However, I would suggest that you get a sample of the record for this test, otherwise you will end up buying the cabinet that you have just discovered to be a sham.
With furniture made from chipboard or MDF boards, the type of edge processing is another factor that shows the quality of the furniture.
If you know something, you can see it directly: A good edge banding is clearly recognizable as such. With bad gluing, on the other hand, it looks as if you could see the inside of the board right at the edges.
Something I’m still very interested in: Different parts of the furniture are referred to as “fittings”. What does that mean? And how can I recognize the quality of the furniture?
Expert : The term “fittings” means all parts that used to be attached to the furniture. Today the fittings are screwed on, pressed in or clipped in. These include handles, hinges, drawer guides and feet.
A lot of furniture doesn’t even have feet. Are these important at all and are there noticeable differences in the quality of the furniture?
Expert : That depends entirely on the type of furniture. With a table or a chest of drawers , feet are not decisive for the use or quality of the furniture. Longer sideboards and cupboards should definitely be provided with adjustable feet, because very few floors are completely level. With a cabinet that is not level, the cabinet doors are difficult or impossible to align.
It is therefore important that a piece of furniture has a sufficient number of adjustable feet. This definitely influences the quality of the furniture: the wider the base, the more stability it can pass on to the cabinet.