Flipping Furniture for Profit: How to Get Started (Beginners Guide)
Are you considering trying your hand at flipping furniture? It seems like everybody and their mother is interested in this super-satisfying DIY hobby.
Why? Oh, only because it requires the most simple, basic DIY know-how. Plus, it can actually be a profitable side hustle! Flipping furniture is great for home improvement novices, or crafty humans with a bucket of paint and a dream.
We love it, because you don’t even have to make the furniture yourself (that comes with more experience, and more cha-ching!). All you need is a keen eye for great finds, a few basic DIY skills, and an understanding of online marketplaces.
The best part? You can flip furniture for profit, or pure fun. If you’re an ambitious soul who wants to make a real living off furniture flipping and create their own schedule, you’ll be happy to know it’s possible.
Plenty of people are making extra cash, and some have managed to make furniture flipping their full-time gig (yes, you can totally take up woodworking for profit).
In this post, I’ll define what it means to flip furniture, the tools and basic skills you’ll need, and how to flip furniture step-by-step. Let’s jump right in.
In This Article:
Flipping Furniture Basics
Furniture flipping is the process of buying (or grabbing for free) inexpensive used or old furniture, and fixing it up to sell it for a profit. This is also referred to as upcycling furniture.
The upcycling furniture process usually involves adding fresh paint, upholstering, or installing new hardware but it’s totally up to you.
To start the upcycling process, you need to locate quality items that have solid bones and fixable flaws.
It’s common to see items like solid wood tables, dressers, and desks upcycled and sold for more money than their original price.
The fix-up process with pieces like these tends to not be overly complicated, making them beginner-friendly and relatively easy to sell.
Keep in mind, you don’t need to sell a piece of flipped furniture once it’s complete. You can simply keep it to decorate your own home, or gift it to friends or family.
The beauty of flipping furniture is that this hobby won’t substantially set you back financially, even if you never turn a profit! Just make sure you buy low, and don’t go crazy with luxury materials.
What Type of Furniture Is Easiest to Flip?
If you’re newer to the furniture flipping game, you probably want to know what type of furniture is easiest to flip.
And if you’re hoping to make some money, you definitely will want to start off with something simple.
Why? The steeper the learning curve and more complex the project, the more time you’ll be spending on flipping the item. And it’s also likely you’ll also have to spend more money on supplies and tools.
Trust me, flipping furniture can turn into a hair-pulling experience if you’re trying to go from 0 to 100.
Here are some of the easiest pieces of furniture to flip:
People always need nightstands. You can find these sold in all kinds of unique varieties, from vintage solid wood to modern wood. Cheap to buy, straightforward to stain or paint and sell!
Small Side Tables
Everyone needs a little side or end table. They’re fun and come in many different shapes and wood types. Most of them have super simple structures, which means they’ll be easier for you to flip.
Foot stools are small and simple to paint and upholster, due to their minimal components. They also look super cute, and sell like hotcakes. Some decor fanatics are obsessed with collecting adorable tchotchkes like these.
Dressers are an excellent item to flip, because they always sell really well. You won’t struggle to find buyers. And you can also get lucky and find them for really cheap or free. Why? People who are moving often don’t want to deal with selling or moving bulkier items like these.
Buffets are a big-ticket item! They’re not quite as easy to flip as, say, a small side table. But definitely simple enough to make it worth the project.
You can command $1,000+ for a quality upcycled buffet. Don’t believe me? Just look at upcycled buffets on Etsy and you’ll get a good idea of what’s out there!
Storage chests like trunks are a versatile piece of furniture, which makes them very marketable when it comes time to sell. They also typically have a simple structure and minimal hardware, making them straightforward to flip.
If you enjoy painting or staining and don’t want to deal with hardware, keep your eyes peeled for cheap or freebie wooden chairs. If you can find a set, you can make a good chunk of change refurbishing and selling them as a collection.
Check out these chairs I upcycled. This was a super easy project!
Pro tip: Stick to solid wood furniture. Real wood is higher quality, paints easier, and has better reselling value than composite woods. Wood chairs or stools with upholstery components are other good finds. If you want to try your hand at upholstery, you can really increase the value of the piece.
What Pieces of Furniture to Avoid Flipping
When you’re just getting started with furniture flipping, there are a few types of furniture you’ll want to avoid.
I know. You just really, really want that gorgeous $250 vintage armoire in mint condition! I understand the magnetic pull of a great find.
But if you want to get serious about making a profit off your flipping projects, you have to keep startup costs low. These things add up much quicker than any of us would like to admit.
By the time you buy an inexpensive piece and the tools or materials you need, you could be in the red by $100-$200.
To ensure you’re maximizing profits, resist the urge to snatch up that gorgeous but expensive furniture. Try to keep your budget for a used furniture piece under $50, if possible.
Totally Beat Up Furniture
Seems obvious. But when you’re in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to impulsively purchase a piece of furniture that’s lovely, but needs a ton of fixing.
If you’re dumpster diving, searching through a yard sale or garage sales, or flea market hunting, you might just feel tired of looking for the perfect furniture to flip and ready to grab the first piece you see.
But I promise you, if you keep up your search for a great piece just a little longer, you won’t regret it! The last thing you want is to end up with furniture you don’t know how to fix or that turns into a rabbit hole of wasted time.
Moldy and Smelly Furniture
This one is a little more individual, based on your personal skill set and comfort with cleaning.
But for beginners, it’s best to avoid fabric furniture you don’t know the origin of (potential for mold, fleas, etc!), or pieces that have heavily absorbed the smell of smoke or mildew.
It’s pretty tough to remove scents that have been thoroughly absorbed into solid wood or fabric, although it can be done. But we’ll cover cleaning later.
Here are some great tips for flipping furniture!
How to Start Flipping Furniture for Beginners
Okay, now it’s time to get started. Let’s discuss flipping furniture 101: buy low, sell high. At this point, you’re probably asking, where do I start when flipping furniture?
Here’s what I would recommend: before doing anything, you need to develop a clear mindset.
Here are a few questions you should answer before even thinking of picking up a hammer:
What types of furniture do I want to focus on flipping?
Pick 2-3 types of furniture to focus on at first. I’d recommend focusing on products that are always in high demand, so your piece doesn’t sit collecting dust for too long.
Refer to the list above. Also stick with furniture you functionally understand better, and know a bit about in the marketplace.
Am I in this for full-time income, or a fun side-hustle?
It’s crucial to set your intentions early on. This will frame every decision you make along your journey.
What are the biggest challenges I’ll likely face?
It’s useful to have foresight on the hurdles you’ll personally encounter, so you can properly prepare.
Maybe your painting technique needs work. Or maybe the social aspect of selling locally makes you nervous.
1. Stock Up on Basic Furniture Flipping Tools
Once your mindset is clear, it’s time to make sure you have some essential furniture flipping tools.
The good news is, if you’re already into woodworking and DIY crafting, you should already have plenty of these on hand.
Here are some basic flipping furniture tools you might want to have in your arsenal:
- Quality paint
- Quality paint brushes
- Paint stripper or heat gun
- Various sandpapers, or electric sander
- Painter’s tape and/or stencils
- Nails and screws
- Drawer liners
- Surface cleaners and fabric disinfectants
- Stain or varnish
- Tide pen
Pro tip: Trying to make a profit off your restored furniture projects? Be careful not to go overboard with your initial investment in tools and materials. Ask friends and family to donate spare tools they don’t use, or see what you already have in storage.
2. Create a Seller Account on an Online Marketplace
Before purchasing your first piece of furniture to flip, create a seller account on your online marketplaces of choice. Since selling through online marketplaces is so popular, you have an abundance of options.
Here are a few popular online marketplaces for selling upcycled furniture:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Amazon Home
- IG or TikTok
At the time of writing, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are definitely the kings of online marketplace selling.
These are great because you can often find local people who are willing to come and pick up – no shipping costs required! Facebook Marketplace is also great for setting certain filters and distance parameters.
And don’t forget the magic of in-person yard sales right at your home or local flea market.
3. Create a List of Local Furniture-Hunting Spots
There’s one last thing you should do before you start your first project: do your market research and create a list of local furniture hunting spots.
I promise you, this will save you so much time, frustration, and rash purchases down the line when you’re actively furniture-hunting.
There are a couple things to consider here:
What day of the week is trash day in your town and surrounding towns?
Trash day can be a goldmine for spotting free finds on street curbs and next to dumpsters in your community. Free furniture equals increased chance of profit!
And just for fun, see if your town has a “free stuff” Facebook page. Many cities have one. These can also be a goldmine if you act fast.
Do you live near any apartment complexes or college campuses?
Add those to the list! Figure out when move-out week is at your nearby university–you’d be amazed at the unwanted furniture college students give away for free, because they don’t want to deal with movers or selling.
What local discounted furniture stores or sales are nearby?
Now that you’ve researched all the options for freebies near you, widen your net to look for in-person discounted furniture spots, open-air markets, or other vendors that sell used furniture.
Great local spots to find inexpensive used furniture include:
- Flea markets
- Estate sales
- Thrift stores or antique stores (i.e. Goodwill, Savers)
- Community yard sales
Pro tip: Did you find a free piece of furniture that looks too beat up? Take a second look-over before walking away. Does it have a piece of quality hardware you can salvage? Beautiful handles and doorknobs can be installed on future upcycled pieces, and increase the value of your flip at no extra cost.
Okay. Now that you’ve prepared your mindset, materials, online seller accounts, and local resources, it’s time for the fun part: your first flipping furniture project. Let’s get started!
How to Flip Furniture: 9 Steps for Beginners
Source & collect your item to flip.
Once you’ve done all the planning and preparing, you’re ready for furniture-flipping adventures. First thing’s first: you need to find a piece of furniture to flip.
But guess what? You already did the heavy lifting by creating that list of furniture-hunting spots. Now all you have to do is begin your search.
Hunt for Furniture Locally
Monitor your town’s “free stuff” Facebook or Craigslist page. Or take a cruise around your local apartment complex on trash day, or check out local yard sales.
Check out this dining room furniture I found for free in my area. This is a prime candidate to be flipped.
You can also swing by your local thrift stores on a Monday. Any given thrift store usually gets a big influx of donations over the weekend.
And if you’re struggling to find anything good in-person at estate sales or flea markets, you can use online marketplaces to surf for great steals.
Hunt for Furniture Online
The same sites you can use to sell your upcycled furniture can be used to find cheap wood furniture for your project. Think Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Facebook Marketplace is great for finding good deals because you can filter your search by type of furniture you’re looking to refurbish, location distance of the seller, and price range.
A good rule of thumb, especially if you’re trying to turn a profit, is to filter for furniture under $50.
Set alerts on your Facebook Marketplace app as well. That way when a new deal gets listed, you’re one of the first to know about it. Great deals usually get snatched up fast.
It’s also good practice to meet someone in a public place for a purchase pickup. Or at the very least, provide the pickup address to someone you know and trust.
Stranger danger is still a thing, even if someone’s listing is attached to a real Facebook profile!
Prep and clean the furniture.
Now that you’ve acquired your piece, don’t forget to thoroughly clean it before working your flipping furniture magic. This is imperative!
Be wary of upholstered items, especially those with origins you can’t really trace. I’m talking to you, sidewalk recliner!
If you are dragging something with fabric home, you should at least apply some sort of disinfectant spray to kill off anything unsavory. Leaving it out in the sun for 24 hours can also help naturally destroy bacteria.
The deep cleaning step can be done using a few different methods, depending on your budget and on-hand supplies.
Here are some cleaning methods to prep and disinfect your furniture:
Soap and water / vinegar and water: A vinegar and water or soap and water solution mixed together in a spray bottle is a classic, budget-friendly way to prep clean your thrifted solid wood furniture. With a sponge and a little elbow grease, your bookshelf or buffet will smell and look fresher.
Brush and baking soda: Want to disinfect and eliminate odors from wood or upholstered furniture? Baking soda might just do the trick. Scrub it dry into the nooks and crannies of the fabric, and let it sit for a few hours. Or brush it across the wood and wash it off with a vinegar and water solution.
Steam cleaner: Have a steam cleaner on hand? This is a powerful way to eliminate odors and remove stains from any piece of furniture with fabric components.
Simple Green: Simple green cleaning spray is a great product that was designed for various surfaces. Give your wooden piece a thorough spray-over, then wipe down with a wet towel. It’ll smell like summer breeze.
Pro Tip: Did you score a beautiful solid wood piece that sadly has a heat stain embedded? Not a problem–check out my simple guide on how to remove heat stains from wood.
3. Sand, Prime, Paint, and Seal the Furniture.
Sand the Furniture
If you’re flipping furniture, chances are you’re going to be doing some painting. And if that’s the case, the goal is to get the wood surface as smooth and even as possible. That’s where sanding comes in.
Hopefully you have sandpaper of varying grit in your toolkit. Whip those suckers out and get ready for a great upper-body workout!
If you’re serious about creating a real furniture flipping business and turning it into a full time income, it might be worth investing in an electric sander for furniture.
An electric sander can save you so much time on your furniture flip, especially if you like to work on large pieces like buffets and desks.
Prime the Furniture
Once you’re done sanding, it’s time to add a coat of primer to your item before adding any paint. This will ensure the surface of the furniture is sealed, smoothed over, and can adhere the paint more effectively.
Primer is useful for increasing the longevity of your coat of paint. This step is especially crucial if you’re working with vintage furniture.
Is there any occasion where you can skip primer? Well, mostly only if you’re using a paint that has a primer pre-mixed in, or if you’re staining your wood furniture instead of painting.
Looking for a few good primers? Here are a few dependable options:
Paint (or Stain) the Furniture
Now, onto the fun part: making your piece look brand-new! Hopefully you’ve selected the paint colors that you like, and have a vision for any cute stenciled patterns or hardware in your mind’s eye.
As a side note, the chalk paint look is all the rage these days, so why not employ that style for your flipped end table or nightstand?
If you scored a gorgeous piece of solid wood furniture and you simply don’t want to cover up all that natural beauty, staining is another great option.
Stain will protect the wood. But instead of covering it up, stain enhances the wood’s natural colors and grain patterns.
Seal the Furniture
Once you’re finished with painting or staining, consider sealing the furniture to lock it all in. This extra step will help protect your gorgeous upcycled piece from scratches and dings.
There are many affordable sealers and topcoats on the market that you can find at any home improvement store.
4. Stage and Photograph the Item.
Now that the flipping portion is over, it’s time to take high-quality photos for your seller listing. This step is something newbie furniture flippers often cut corners on–don’t be that person!
The professional look and appeal of your furniture in photos can often determine if you sell the piece, how fast, and how much money you can command for it.
Take the extra time to set up (or stage) the furniture in your own house so that potential buyers can visualize it in their own home.
Put a lamp on the nightstand, a stack of books on the desk, or a vase of flowers on the buffet. Make sure the lighting is bright.
You can take smartphone photos and enhance them using photo editing apps like Adobe Lightroom. Or kick it up a notch and have a shoot with your digital camera.
5. Create an online listing to sell furniture.
Since you already created a seller account on your online marketplaces of choice, go ahead and list your flipped furniture piece.
Make sure you’re clear on what you’re willing to offer: shipping? In-person pickup only?
A good strategy is to post your piece on more than one online marketplace, which will increase your potential buyer pool.
During the negotiation process, establish clear boundaries with the potential buyer. If they’re being flaky, tell them you’ll only hold the piece for 24 hours before accepting another offer.
Also mentally prepare a minimum amount you’re willing to sell for–people will try to get something for nothing, so don’t let yourself be swayed just to make the sale.
Hold out for someone who sees the value in the piece and is happy to pay accordingly.
Flip Furniture For Profit: Additional Tips & Tricks
I’m sure you’re wondering at this point: is there money in flipping furniture?
Flipping furniture can be a great and easy way to make money as a woodworker in 2023.
You can make anywhere from $30-$250 in profit off the average upcycled piece, and upwards of $500-$1000 a month if you commit to making this a regular side-hustle.
Some people have even turned this skill into a full-time business. The proof is in the pudding.
Does that sound like something you want to do? Here are some useful tips and tricks for flipping furniture for profit:
- Keep your generic supplies costs down. Don’t buy the most expensive supplies on the market, as these repeated purchases will eat into your earning potential. But don’t buy the cheapest versions either. Keep basic supplies run-of-the-mill, like industrial cleaner (Zep 505), but invest a little more in paint and brushes.
- Invest in higher-caliber tools to increase efficiency. If you’re really in this for the long haul, it makes sense to eventually upgrade your sandpaper to an electric sander, or a hand saw to a table saw. You’ll move faster on turnaround, and conserve your energy. Here are some great table saws, if you’re newer to the game.
- Install newer, eye-catching hardware. This will enhance the appeal and value of that peace, meaning more cha-ching. Source these cool door knobs or handles from other free furniture you find lying around.
- Keep up with the going market resell rates. Treat this as a business and keep up with the competition! If dressers are starting to command $200 in 2023 instead of last year’s $100, adjust your pricing accordingly. Else, you’re just leaving money on the table.
- Be picky about the furniture you source. Don’t just grab any ol’ junk (more time commitment, more flaws). Avoid certain red flags: too many paint layers, sticky or broken drawers, broken pieces you don’t know how to fix, or wobbly, cheaply made pieces (don’t you dare touch that cheap particle board furniture!).
- Consider renting out a space for your furniture flipping side hustle. Time to delegate a middle-man in your furniture flipping business! This should only be an option once you’re making consistent profit, but renting out a space at an antique store or flea market can unburden the administrative side of things. Less overhead, more visibility for your pieces.
Can you really make money flipping furniture?
Absolutely! Flipping furniture can be extremely profitable. I know several flippers who make 6 figures from this side hustle alone!
How much money can you make flipping furniture?
The average hobbyist might make a few hundred dollars of cash each month flipping furniture. While those committed to furniture upcycling as a business can enjoy a profit of anywhere from $500 to $10,000 a month.
Where do I start when flipping furniture?
Start by acquiring the basic tools and supplies you’ll need for general DIY and woodworking projects, like quality paint and paintbrushes. You should also research what types of furniture you want to learn how to flip, and seek out local furniture-hunting spots for sourcing your inexpensive (or free) furniture. Practice your painting, sanding, and basic construction skills.
What is the most profitable furniture to flip?
If you can flip an entire set, such as a wooden bedroom set or wooden chair patio furniture set, you can make a great chunk of change. Other profitable furniture to flip includes large buffets, dressers, and hutches.
There you have it: our comprehensive flipping furniture guide for beginners! I hope by now, I’ve thoroughly answered the question, is flipping furniture profitable?
I also hope you feel confident in your knowledge of what flipping furniture is, and how to get started with this fun craft.
As you can see, this DIY activity is a great way to learn new skills, have fun, and even make a profit.
There’s just something special about taking a discarded piece of furniture and turning it into a beautiful new creation.
What’s more, you even get to share that joy with someone who will appreciate it in their home. So grab some paint and paintbrushes, and enjoy the art of flipping furniture! You’ll be a master furniture flipper in no time.
Jessica Vaillancourt is a freelance writer and blogger obsessed with the Travel, Wellness, and Personal Development industries.
She has 5+ years of experience helping human-first agencies, global companies, and entrepreneurs crush their content marketing goals, and serve more people. Jessica’s work has appeared on leading websites like UpgradedHome.com, BetterHelp.com, and TheDiaryofaNomad.com.
Today, her sole focus (besides finding the world’s best coffee shop) is writing to serve humans, and slow traveling abroad to expand her mind. You can get to know her work at JessAnneWriting.com.