“Why does my furniture always fall apart?!”

May 2, 2015


Here's why and what you can do about it.


The most frequent question I hear is “Why does my furniture always fall apart?!”  My answers include as much psychology and economics as they do technical considerations.  The psychology concerns what furniture you own and how your family cares for it, the economics is determined by globalization of the furniture market and the technical will include a review of one of our repair projects.  Also, this article will explain a possibly surprising difference between owning cheap vs expensive furniture. 


The Psychology of Furniture: Furniture reflects a lot about your tastes and standards.  For those smart and/or fortunate enough to have bought or inherited good vintage or antique furniture, you probably have tried harder to care for it.  Everyone knows Israeli kids are less respectful (towards furniture, of course) than kids raised abroad, and few can afford separate dining rooms.  So, furniture here generally takes more abuse than it did in the old country.  I still stress that parents tell their kids not to rock back on two legs of a chair, or let them play on the sofa like in gymboree.


If you want your upholstery to last and your dining set to fit a growing family, you must expect more maintenance and repairs.  Rather than buy a new set, you can, for example, extend the dining table up to five meters long with new slides or reupholster the sofa.  Neither is cheap, but quality restorers generally provide better work and materials than most new products, hence more value than you get from new furniture.


If, however, you bought cheap furniture, then it was made to be disposable.  Most of it is made from materials which cannot be restored.  Some people like the idea of renewing their furniture every few years-no matter how much more it really costs in the long run (and how much it pollutes the environment).


Economics of Furniture: Globalization has ruined American furniture manufacturing, because it has been transferred to places like Vietnam.  For a comprehensive analysis of why it’s becoming harder to find well-made furniture for reasonable prices, read Joshua Kennon’s brief article on how globalization has inflicted the hour-glass effect on the furniture industry.  Compare the amortized cost of a cheap chair to an expensive one: a 500NIS chair may last 3-10 years, before it needs to be trashed or repaired, while a +1700NIS chair should last over 50 years.  The cheap one cost 27ag/day, while the expensive chair cost 8ag/day!  If you add in reupholstery and refinishing, the expensive one will still be cheaper (and more comfortable and elegant, and worth passing to the kids)!  Smart new couples will not rush out to furnish their new home with cheap furnishings, but rather invest in quality furnishings over time that will not lose their appeal, and may appreciate in value. 


Technical Difficulties: Israel, like many countries, still produces some good quality, reasonably priced furniture.  The biggest problem, however, is not the quality of the parts produced by high-tech machinery under exacting quality control.  I often see great quality furniture that is assembled as though the maker wants it to fall apart!  Cheap or little glue and nails are the signs of future construction failure.  The only solution to this problem is to repair your good quality furniture by a company which gives long-term warranties on its repairs. 

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