Buying Quality Custom Furniture and Barns – Tools for the Consumer
Though I don’t quite remember the episode, the product or the pitch, I do distinctly remember Barbara Corcoran telling a hopeful entrepreneur in the Shark Tank that “a waiting list is sexy.” Perhaps those weren’t even her exact words but “waiting list” and “sexy” were used in the same sentence and THAT made me very happy. Why? Well because we here at You’re Unique often have a waiting list and I never felt really good about it until watching that episode.
Now you may be asking yourself “What does this have to do with buying quality custom furniture?” Unfortunately, there are times potential clients like you just can’t wait and those are the times that I’m often asked for a referral to another business. And that is when I get stuck on just what to say! We don’t want to refer you to another business, WE WANT YOUR BUSINESS! However again, we do realize sometimes that our waiting list will be the deal breaker for some. So instead of referring to one of our competitors, we’re going to give you the tools you need to help you get a quality product and the service that you as a consumer, deserve.
The first thing and very best thing that you can do to research a product or service before purchasing is to read that business’s online reviews. These are not the reviews that are posted on the business’s website but actual, verifiable reviews posted on places like Google, Kudzu (If you’re in Georgia), Houzz, and Facebook. Yelp is also becoming a very good site as is the Better Business Bureau, the latter of which you are most often to find real complaints which are also important to read. A few negative reviews are not necessarily a bad thing unless they are repeat complaints about the same issue in which case that may be a red flag. The business’s response to the complaint is also very important as it gives insight into how the company is likely to respond to you if you end up having a complaint. The best way to find reviews is to simply Google the business name. Google is pretty good about finding things and should pull up all the places that the company is listed on the web. Or you can search directly on the review sites listed. A note about Facebook reviews: Facebook allows businesses to choose whether or not they will allow reviews on their page. Now why would a business block reviews? That is a great question! If a Facebook page has a large number of followers but no reviews, this may or may not be a red flag. If you’re building a list of questions to ask a business, you might want to consider adding this one to the list.
Is the business that you’re purchasing from an actual registered business? Have they taken the time to register with their state and/or city or county? If so, this means that they take handcrafting custom furniture and barn doors seriously by making the necessary investment and most likely, they plan on being around for a while. This is a good thing for you to know because the last thing that you want to do is order a product, have a problem with it and have no recourse because the person or persons that built it have decided that they’re no longer interest in pursuing their hobby. On the other hand, just because a business is not registered doesn’t mean that you should write them off. If they’re new in the area, getting legitimate takes time and resources and just because they are not there yet doesn’t mean that they don’t plan to be. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
While some custom furniture makers do not require a deposit up front, most do. 50% of the total purchase price is customary and reasonable for handcrafting a custom piece. We would strongly advise against purchasing any product that requires 100% of the purchase price up front for obvious reasons.
Make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges! What does this mean exactly you might ask? Isn’t a table, a table, a table? Well no, it isn’t. Just because two tables look similar, doesn’t mean that they are built the same or made from the same materials. We build a lot of our furniture from pine but we don’t just use any pine, we only use furniture grade pine. It is more expensive to purchase and it has to be milled which we do ourselves. Some builders, especially hobby builders, might be using lumber from a big box store or another lumber supplier that generally supplies to the construction industry and not the woodworking industry. While you might not think there is a difference, there actually is. Pine lumber is graded according to strength and appearance; dimensional lumber is generally graded by strength. Most of the lumber that comes from places like Home Depot and Lowes is #2 dimensional and for a table top, you will be able to get over 1.5″ thick. We use only 8/4 C&btr pine for our tables which means our tops are actually milled to 3/4″ thick. When using hardwoods, we only FAS select hardwoods.
Along with material, joinery methods are important to consider because the stronger the joint, the longer the furniture will last. Mortise and tenon, tongue and groove, and bridle joints to name a few have been used for centuries and are the standard for higher end furniture while nails and screws will be used on lower end. Table top construction is also important to keep the panels flat. We use a long tenon in our table tops and though it is more time-consuming than an edge glue or pocket screw, we feel that it is superior.
The last detail that we would like to touch on is the finish. A properly finished piece of furniture is completely finished with professional grade, materials that will protect the piece for many years to come. Whether applied by hand or sprayed, a good finish will be free of streaks, splotches and bubbles and will be smooth to the touch.
The level of investment of a business, materials used, construction and finish are important factors to consider and should affect the price point. Know what that is for the product that you’re looking for by also comparing that to similar products from major retailers. Awareness of all these things should help you purchase furniture that you can pass on to your children and grandchildren.
If you believe “Good things come to those that wait” then shop our custom furniture now. Happy hunting!