How to make a fortune out of second hand furniture: DIY fixers reveal how they turn tat into treasure…

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  • A huge amount of unnecessary furniture is available very cheaply or even for free.
  • Quality, old natural wood furniture can be cheaply restored and recycled for profit.
  • A web video can teach skills such as upholstery, varnishing, and the use of staple guns.

An influx of people buying used furniture has led to an 80 percent spike in eBay searches over the past three months.

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But not all bargain-hunters want to furnish their own homes. Part of the growth is coming from savvy furniture lovers who turn old chairs, sofas and tables into coveted items and make a handsome profit.

They say it’s easier than you think to make money by “recycling” unwanted items listed on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, auction sites, and Gumtree. There are so many of them that many of them are available very cheaply (or even free).

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Brenda Melanifi and Stuart Cooper have made a £6,000 profit since opening their Flip It & Restore It business in January 2022.

Vintage coffee table bought for £62.
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Vintage coffee table sold for £150 after restoration

This vintage coffee table was bought for £62 (left) and sold for £150 after restoration (right). The table has been cleaned and sanded to remove old finishes and remove stains. A coat of Furniture Clinic Wood Stain and two coats of Osmo Polyx Hard Wax Oil has been applied to the teak surface. It has also been coated with two coats of white Rust-Oleum furniture wax.

Table in front

Table after

This table was bought for £7 (left) and sold for £100 (right) after being remade with paint and gold leaf. The couple used Zinsser Primer bought for £19.80 and Zinsser Cover Stain Primer bought for £9.88. They also bought £5 sanding pads and £23.99 Fusion Mineral Paint. Also bought were Mod Podge for £5, Gold Leaf for £4.97 and Polyvine Decorators Lacquer for £15. The consumables cost the equivalent of £34.50 considering how much of each product was used and it took them four hours to restore.

Brenda Melanifi, 37, and her partner Stuart Cooper, 38, from Littlehampton, West Sussex, have been turning vintage furniture into profit for a year now.

The couple have sold 34 items and made a £6,000 profit since opening their Flip It & Restore It business in January 2022.

Brenda and Stewart’s Furniture Recycling Tips

  • Buy quality furniture
  • Stick to the £50 limit
  • Look for real wood pieces that are only slightly worn.
  • Avoid items with structural damage such as cracks or broken legs.
  • Buy a tester, not a jar
  • Search free wallpapers on Facebook Marketplace
  • Start with one small project to practice sanding and painting – ideally a freebie or something you already have at home.
  • Coffee tables are often an easy first project.
  • Check historical listings to see what similar items were made

They say that the main thing is to buy high-quality furniture, and not just an old thing. They also try to stick to the £50 apiece limit.

Before you bid on something that looks to be of good quality, check the historical listings of selling sites to see what similar items have been made.

The pair work on no more than three subjects at a time, evenings and weekends, in parallel with full-time jobs at a bank and an electronics engineer.

“Look for real wood pieces that are only slightly worn, and always avoid items with structural damage such as cracks or broken legs,” says Brenda.

“When it comes to paint, buy a tester, not a can, as you won’t need all of that. If you are using decoupage wallpaper [where coloured paper is glued to furniture]look for a freebie on the Facebook Marketplace.”

Brenda and Stewart’s biggest profit was £275, the result of an Ercol desk repair they spotted on eBay for £50. The popular British furniture manufacturer Ercol has been around since 1920.

The couple spent around £50 on paint and varnish and after a few hours of work put the chart up on their website. It was sold within ten days for £375.

Ercol Windsor Cabinet - before

Ercol Windsor Cabinet - After

This Ercol Windsor cabinet was bought as part of a warehouse space for £35 (left) and sold for £230 after restoration (right). The couple used 180 grit sandpaper and then wiped it down with a damp cloth. They then applied Ronseal Ebony Wood Stain and rubbed through each layer to create a less opaque color. However, they did not like the finish, so they applied two coats of stain without wiping, resulting in a black and glossy finish.

Chest of drawers Lebus - before

Lebus chest of drawers - after

This Lebus chest of drawers was bought for £20 (left), then refurbished and sold for £160 (right). This item had peeling paint off the handles and scratches on the side, so the couple started by cleaning it out with a dirt cutter. They then removed the hardware, sanded it, and painted it with Cornish Milk mineral paint before applying the gilding fluid.

Vintage chest of drawers

Vintage chest of drawers

This hand-painted vintage chest of drawers with stenciled faux bone inlay was picked up for free by a couple on the side of the road in a very different condition (left) and then sold for £170 (right). The body and drawer fronts were hand painted with Fusion Mineral Paint in Lichen. Stencils were used to create the effect of artificial bone inlay.

Many furniture makers learn their skills from tutorial videos on social networking websites like YouTube that teach people how to upholster, varnish, and use a stapler.

G-plan revival

G Plan is a British brand that became extremely popular shortly after World War II and has regained popularity in recent years.

Its origins go back to the family business E Gomme Ltd, which was founded by Ebeneezer Gomme in High Wycombe in 1898 and has been manufacturing wooden furniture ever since.

The G Plan brand itself was launched by Ebenezer’s grandson Donald in 1953 and became known for high-quality furniture made up of interchangeable home items such as sofas and dressing tables.

The sales team was told how to place the assortment in the rooms in the stores, and the marketing campaign described it as…

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