It takes a talented, patient person to take a used, tired piece of furniture and make it new again, but many people find the art of furniture restoration an enjoyable challenge. It’s not an easy feat, especially when you’re working with an antique and are trying to preserve the heart of the piece, but the rewards can be big. If you’re a talented and creative woodworker, turning your passion for furniture repair into a business could help you profit from your hobby.
Furniture repair businesses fix and restore a variety of furniture, saving customers from having to purchase new furniture. Some businesses specialize in particular areas, such as restoring antiques, furniture refinishing, or repairing office furniture. Furniture refinishing businesses are closely related to repair businesses, and some repair businesses may offer refinishing as parts of their services. Many furniture repair businesses also offer reupholstery services.
A repair business may establish a relationship with antique store owners, office building owners, or the owners of apartment rental complexes. All of these industries have a need for furniture repair, as well as the everyday homeowner who would rather be able to fix and continue to enjoy a piece than buy something new.
The furniture repair industry has undergone growth from 2014 through 2019. According to IBIS World, the industry is predicted to bring in $2 billion in revenue in 2019. While the industry experienced a 0.5 percent growth from 2014 to 2019, the number of furniture repair businesses declined to 23,571. Industry employment has remained steady at 33,589.
This industry is subjected to multiple factors that affect its growth and profitability. Furniture repair businesses often thrive when the economy is distressed since customers are more likely to have furniture repaired rather than paying for new furniture. When the economy improves, customers are more likely to simply buy new furniture. Still, an improved economy means more offices are full, leading employers to repair furniture instead of buying new office furniture.
The furniture repair industry often experiences growth as office vacancies are reduced, and business owners need to repair furniture that sees a high amount of use. Homeowners who choose to remodel their homes also generate business for this industry since they often choose to have the furniture reupholstered to match the new decor.
Who is the target market for your furniture repair business?
A furniture repair business may target any number of different markets. Businesses that specialize in antique restoration will appeal to antique collectors, families with antiques that have been passed down, and even museums. Businesses with more of a general, full-service approach may appeal to homeowners, business owners, rental property owners, and anyone else with more modern furniture in need of repair or reupholstering.
In general, a large portion of business comes from higher-earning homeowners as they are more likely to purchase nicer furniture.
Skills, experience, and education useful in running a furniture repair business
Attention to detail. Repairing furniture well requires excellent attention to detail. From matching an exact shade of stain to ensuring perfect alignment between two pieces, a repair business owner needs to be aware of the nuances involved in every piece of furniture.
Woodworking skills. Some carpentry and woodworking skills are beneficial in opening a repair business since some repairs may need new pieces created and assembled.
Upholstery skills. Offering furniture upholstery and reupholstery services can expand the offerings and versatility of a repair business, potentially bringing in new clients and resulting in higher-paying projects.
Creativity. Finding the right solution to a furniture repair challenge takes some creativity and resourcefulness. A business owner who is innovative and creative is often better able to meet the repair challenges than an owner with limited creativity is.
Multitasking capabilities. Repairing furniture is often a balancing act, and a business owner may be working on multiple projects at once. The ability to multitask helps ensure that all projects make progress and that the business meets all deadlines.
Customer service skills. A repair business owner needs to provide quality customer service. Previous experience in a customer service setting will help owners understand the importance of clear communication, address customer concerns, and find solutions to problems.
Marketing skills. When a business owner is able to handle some of their marketing, they can save costs and get more return on a smaller marketing budget. This is particularly important to startup furniture repair businesses, which often have a limited marketing budget.
Amazon has a few books that go into detail on starting and running a furniture repair business:
Refinishing Old Furniture: Start a home business (Free on Amazon Kindle Unlimited)
The Furniture Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Identify, Restore & Care for Furniture
Costs to Start a Furniture Repair Business
Rather than investing in inventory and a storefront, many furniture repair businesses are started in basements with only basic tools and supplies. Starting small and then expanding into a retail space as the business grows helps to keep costs down and offers the convenience of being able to work flexible hours from home. Expect to invest about $3,000 in supplies and tools on the low end, though costs could range up to $10,000 for more extensive or new equipment. Specialty repair businesses, such as those focusing on antiques, may cost more depending on the equipment and tools required.
Common startup costs for opening a furniture repair business include:
- Woodworking tools
- Upholstery tools
- Paints, stains, and wood fillers
Steps to Starting a Furniture repair business
Step 1: Write your Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a business plan. Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Step 2: Form a Business Entity
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
Related: Comparison of Business Entities
Step 3: Name the Business
Finding the perfect business name for a furniture repair business can be challenging. Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, but it also has to be available to use.
Step 4: Select your Location
One of the benefits of starting a furniture repair business is that many business owners start these businesses out of their own homes. A garage or basement workshop may be all the space that a startup refinishing business requires, as long as the space is well-lit and enough outlets are available to power tools.
As a business grows, expanding into a storefront may be necessary. Lease costs will vary according to the size of a space and its location. Having a store in a high-traffic area can increase awareness of a business and lead to drop-in customers, which can help justify the higher lease cost.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
There aren’t specific business licenses for furniture repair business owners; however, some common local, state, and federal registrations, such as a sales tax permit and Employer Identification Number.
Step 6: Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a furniture repair business is another. Fortunately, the cost to start a furniture repair business is relatively low; however, financing can be difficult. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to personally invest 15-25% towards the total start-up costs.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the business’s income and expenses.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
A furniture repair business will rely on marketing to initially draw in customers, especially when the business is new. Marketing doesn’t have to be complex. Furniture repair shops can post ads in newspapers, post on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest with before and after pictures of finished products, and even post flyers at local non-competing businesses. Furniture repair shop owners can even bring in business through the simple act of going to local apartment complexes and office owners and introducing themselves and their businesses.
As the business grows, word-of-mouth marketing from antique dealers and collectors will be the most effective and profitable source of new customers.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
A furniture repair business will need a few different types of insurance for full coverage:
- Commercial liability insurance protects the business in case a customer is hurt while at the store or workshop.
- Commercial property insurance provides coverage for the cost of equipment and inventory, as well as the cost of the store if it’s ever damaged by a fire, flood, or other events.
- Worker’s compensation insurance is required when a business has employees and covers lost wages or medical bills if an employee is hurt while on the job.
Insurance policy costs differ because of factors like the value of a business’ inventory and equipment, the number of employees on staff, a business’ location, and more. To get the most accurate idea of what insurance will cost, contact a number of different companies, and request quotes. Carefully compare those quotes and consider factors like premiums, deductibles, and the quality of coverage to decide what’s best for your business.
If you are operating out of your home, check your homeowner’s policy to ensure operating a business won’t violate your policy.
Step 10: Hiring Employees
Depending on the size of a furniture repair business, employees may be needed. According to PayScale, employees in the furniture repair and reupholstering industry make an average of $17 per hour or a salary of about $46,000 per year.
Labor is typically the largest expense for a furniture restoration business. Having skilled employees is critical for both customer satisfaction and to not cause costly damages to the furniture.
When hiring employees, a business also needs to budget for expenses like workman’s comp insurance, contributions to unemployment insurance, and paid time off. Depending on how a furniture repair business is designed, additional staff may also mean purchasing additional tools and workstations.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system for your furniture repair business is critical to your business’s long-term success.
Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government, but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.
How much can you potentially make owning a furniture repair business?
A furniture repair business’s profits depend on the business’ specialties, location, rates, years in operation, and customer base. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2017, upholsterers made a median annual salary of $33,660. Furniture finishers made a median annual salary of $31,300, but the 90th percentile made approximately $48,610 per year.
An additional revenue stream can come from flipping furniture on Craigslist after refinishing furniture found at garage sales and flea markets.
Things to consider before starting a furniture repair business
Starting a furniture repair business takes skill, and completing an apprenticeship or other type of training is a valuable option that can help you get started. The quality of work matters in building a business’s reputation and attention to detail is a must within this industry.
Most people who go into this industry do it out of a love of furniture refinishing and repair. Furniture repair isn’t a terribly high-paying venture. Specializing in a particular area, such as restoring antique pieces, can let a business ask for higher prices and enjoy higher profits.
One major advantage of this type of business is that it can be started on a part-time basis from home. Starting a business from home can help save money on some expenses like a lease, making it easier to build up clientele in the business’s beginning stages.