Grab your sandpaper and sewing kits: We tackle how to repair furniture.

Illustrations by Sabrina Siegel.


Located in northeast Gainesville, The Repurpose Project is an oasis of stuff, or as founder Sarah Goff says, a “one-stop shop and drop.” Used furniture, ranging from wooden cabinets to brightly hued vinyl chairs, are scattered across the grassy courtyard. Inside, rolls of fabric are packed in rows next to sewing kits, string and lots of used picture frames.

Sarah Goff started the Repurpose Project in 2011 to provide the community with an outlet for the subtle gems traditional second-hand stores won’t typically accept. In the process, Goff said she aims to save local landfills from more trash and to keep income flowing within the community, instead of to national corporations.

Everyday life can be wasteful. According to a 2015 Environmental Protection Agency report, 21 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels for the production of new goods from raw materials. Compared to the 12 percent of emissions that comes from the commercial and residential sectors, this shows that the creation of our stuff results in more emissions than the energy in our own homes.

“You pay for someone to gather the material, to assemble it, ship it, display it, bring it home only for you to throw it away in a year,” Goff said.

Not only is breathing new life into old furniture a humbling experience, it’s also better for the environment. But if you’re not naturally crafty, repurposing furniture can be a daunting task to undertake.

In the future, Goff hopes to host workshops at the Repurpose Project to teach people how to work with old furniture.

“People have a bad idea about what used is,” said Goff. “They think, ‘Oh, it’s dirty, it’s gross, someone touched this, it’s lived within.’ There’s tons of stuff that just needs a little dusting.” •

How To Sand & Repaint Wooden Furniture

  • 150 grit sandpaper (80 grit if furniture is varnished)
  • Goggles, apron, gloves
  • Two tack cloths
  • 220 grit sanding block (80 grit if furniture is varnished)
  • Satin or semigloss paint with a latex or oil base
  • Primer (must be oil-based for oil-based paint)
  • 3 foam rollers
  • Clear finish

1. Get your safety gear on!

2. Sand all surfaces to remove blemishes. Be careful not to gouge the wood; you need the primer needs to stick to something. You know you’re done sanding when you can run a sock over the wood without it dragging.

3. Next, wipe the furniture with a tack cloth to remove shavings.

4. Use a foam roller to completely coat the wood in a layer of primer. If a stain bleeds through the primer, it will bleed through the paint, so make sure to cover it well.

5. Once the primer is dry, use the sanding block to sand away any drips. Then, wipe the remaining material with the tack cloth.

6. Use a mini foam roller to apply a coat of paint. Wait six to eight hours for it to dry.

7. Sand the surfaces again, then wipe them down with the tack cloth. Apply two more coats of paint.

8. Using a new foam roller, slowly apply a thin layer of finish while smoothing out any bubbles. Paint from the top down so you can smooth out any drips as you go.

9. Wait 72 hours for the finish to dry completely.

How To Check For Bedbugs

Bed bugs usually are about the size of an apple seed, but their look depends on whether they’ve eaten recently. Unfed bugs are brown, oval-shaped and flat-bodied. Fed bugs have red-brown, elongated bodies that look more like balloons. They also give off a musty-sweetish smell.

Finding traces of bites may be hard because they may be easily confused with other insect bites or rashes. Instead look for crushed bugs in the form of rusty-brown stains on mattresses or dark spots — their poop. Eggs are pearly white and may have a dark “eye” if they’re more than five days old.

Bed bugs can fit anywhere that’s bigger than the width of your credit card. Check cracks in bed frames, bed springs, the seams of fabric furniture, mattress tags, curtain folds and drawer joints.

Trouble Shooting: What’s Wrong With My Lamp?

1. To test any lamp, first plug it in. If the lamp doesn’t light up, there’s a few things that may be at fault.

2. Remember to always be safe when playing with electricity, so turn off the lap before trying to touch any wires or the bulb. Plug another item into the socket to test if it’s the wall socket that’s at fault.

3. Once this is eliminated, it is time to search your lamp for faults. First, look for any visible problems. Did a pet chew up the cord? Does the switch sound a little duller than usual? If you find that it’s the switch at fault, bingo. You’ll need to change the switch. 

4. If the switch is part of the cord, you should look for the small screw holding it together. Once you’ve undone the screw, check if all the wires are connected, tight enough, and in good shape. If not, you’ll have to replace the switch wires.

5. If the switch is not part of the cord, you will have to unscrew the socket to check the internal wiring.  

6. If none of these are the culprit, check the bulb. Make sure the bulb is screwed on tightly enough.  

7. If you still can’t find the error, it may just be the bulb that needs replacing. 

8. If still nothing comes to light, unplug the lamp and try bending the metal tab within the socket. Look specifically for a tab too far down to make contact with electricity. 

How to Reupholster a Couch

  • Tape measure
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Staple gun
  • Needle + thread

1. Measure the length, width and height of the cushions and the couch.

2. Multiply the measurements together to determine how much fabric you need. Consider adding extra in case you make a mistake.
Carefully cut the old fabric at its seams, removing it a section at a time.

3. Lay out your new fabric. Use the old fabric scraps as outlines for the new fabric, cutting along them one section at a time. Allow for one inch seams.

4. Staple the new fabric to the couch frame.