Best Way to Find Cheap Furniture? Go for a Run!

On summer Saturdays, I meet my running group at 9 am in the center of my seaside town. These runs are my favorite because during our 6-7 mile treks, we get a quick peek at the wares at numerous summer yard sales without going through the trouble of finding a parking spot. If you are a yard sale frequenter, then you are already know that this is prime-time, steal-finding time!

During a late-summer run, I found a shelf for $8 that I had a grand plan for. I quickly paid for it and came back later with my car. My husband had just finished renovating our master bathroom (which was no small feat: he converted an old tub into a tile shower, removed a closet, closed off a second entrance, added flooring, moved plumbing and electricity and installed a 700-pound double vanity by himself) and we were still putting the finishing touches on it. This solid wood shelf was just what we needed to fill a blank wall. Here is a before and after image:

before&aftershelfThis project was a team effort as I needed my husband’s skilled carpentry to make this work. But when he saw my “gem” in the garage, his first reaction was, “Why did you buy that thing? I can build you a shelf.” (He must have been focusing on the scrolled bottom panel which I confess I couldn’t wait to rip off.) Now, my husband is extremely skilled–he once added a second floor to a ranch house–but I knew just what I was doing. You see, Brian does wonderful work but let’s just say, it’s not always within the timetable I might want. Or even close. Said bathroom above? The construction lasted 5 months longer than we planned on. The end product? A top-of-the-line bathroom at a fraction of the cost if we had hired professionals.

In any case, my argument to him was that building a solid base such as the shelf I bought would cost far more than $8 for the basic materials. We kicked in about $58 to add the embellishments-still coming in way under the cost of doing the whole thing ourselves. Or buying a new shelf, for that matter.

First, we removed the bottom portion of the shelf to make room for new feet that we added to match the vanity in our bathroom. Next I sanded the entire shelf to remove the old varnish and then washed it to remove a bit of mildew that was left from the previous owner. My husband measured and cut the molding and attached it with a new solid pine (we scored pieces without knots!) face and decorative corner molding.

shelfmoldingHe capped the shelf with a new poplar top which he finished on his router table to match the trim. To firmly affix the top, he used bar clamps for a few days: shelfvicesBefore priming the shelf (I used a shellac-based primer to seal the knots because we planned to paint the shelf with a light color), I applied wood filler in all of the nail holes in the molding. I followed that up with a light sand and then dusted the entire shelf to remove dust and other residue. Lastly, time to paint. I had a coupon for a free sample of paint at Lowe’s and the 8-ounce container covered the whole shelf.

All in all, the shelf that cost us about $66 is exactly what we were looking for. This project taught me many things about what I would and would not do next time. But for $8, I always figure it’s worth trying to find a new purpose for something even if you fail. Isn’t that what sandpaper is for?

The best part of the project was definitely the teamwork aspect. Between Brian’s skills and my attention to detail, I couldn’t be happier about the end product. Here it is in its final resting spot (I’m still figuring out what to put on it!):


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4 Responses

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