Furniture Purchase and Assembly
Furniture you buy online or in a store and
have to put it together yourself
Why Am I Writing this Article???
-- Before selling the house in El Paso,
TX, I spent months selling or giving away all of the
furniture I had. Since most of it was the
cheaper assemble it yourself furniture, I knew most of
it would not be able to make the move. Some of the
furniture was close to 20 years old and were
out-of-date or just too dinged-up to keep. In
fact, a TV cabinet I did want to keep, WAS
moved..... and almost fell apart when we moved into
our new home in Oklahoma.
End result......I needed a whole new bedroom set and
storage cabinets for inside of the new house.
This page will provide some tips for assembling this
type of furniture and reviews of the furniture I did
buy. Tips are in green.
My Skill Level --
Before I go any further on this topic I will first
address my level of expertise in putting together
this type of furniture. Or basically my skill
level in assembling anything. I am 60 years
old and have lived at a middle or low middle income
my whole life. So this "put it together your
damn self" furniture is pretty much all I have been
able to afford my whole life. Skill level,
after 40 years of self assembly hell, is now expert.
Yes, I now have the skills to build my own
my rolling cabinet here...), shelving, or closets myself.
However, I sometimes get lazy and just want to buy
something at a low price and slap it together.
Less overall work.
If this is the first time you are assembling a piece
of furniture out of a box, welcome to the DYI World
and be patient with yourself. Give yourself
extra time and expect to make some mistakes.
Basic Tools -- Before you buy your
first piece of unassembled furniture make sure you
have some basic tools. When purchasing a piece
of furniture I often read the online reviews to see
if there are any issues with the furniture. I
am always amazed at the people who whine about
having to buy a drill to drill a hole. Or the
complaints about having to use a tool at all!!!!
Every household should have some basic tools.
These basic tools are:
- Rubber Mallet
- Straight Head Screwdriver
- Phillips (cross) Head Screwdriver
- A drill with an assortment of drill bits
There are other basic tools every household
should have, which I will not cover here. For this
type of furniture, the above tools are all that you
will probably need. If the furniture requires
an Allen wrench (hex key) which is the metal L
shaped tool used for hex screws, most furniture
companies will include it with the hardware kit in
Important -- What you do not need is a
power screwdriver. Unless you are an absolute expert
with this type of tool.....DON'T
USE IT. You will end up
over-screwing or stripping a screw. This type
of furniture and hardware will become damaged,
because it is usually not made with real wood or
quality hardware. Power tool fanatics
suck-it-up and just use the manual tools.
Where to Buy Your
Furniture For the Cheapest Price
Twenty plus years ago, the unassembled furniture I
purchased was bought at a furniture or hardware
store in-person. Online options were limited
and consumers were hit with a freight bill for
shipping. UPS or FedEx did not deliver these
heavy items. If they did, it was at a stiff
Fast forward to 2018. Why on Earth would
anyone physically go to a store and purchase a
large, bulky, heavy, piece of furniture, load it in
their vehicle (if it fits), and then unload it at
A 70" high shelf unit will weigh close to a 100 lb.
Have the furniture shipped to you.
If you see a piece of furniture in a store.....
resist the temptation to buy it then, if you want to
save money and labor. Write down the
information on the item and take a picture of the
furniture. Then go home and spend some time
online doing your homework on an item. If you
are still tempted while at the store, do a
quick search on your phone to check on
prices. If the in-store version is
dirt cheap... .yeah...go for it.
When ordering online, you have it delivered
straight to your home. Shipping now
is usually free. Try to be at home when the
delivery is done for these big bulky items. I have the UPS or FedEx
person put it directly in my garage where I will
unpack it. Hell, I avoid any 100lb lifting
when I can, because of my back.
Ugh, homework you said? Hours online, yuck.
Really? Yes, really! If you don't want
to save money, then skip this section. If you
do, read on.
Example of savings: This past
week (Oct 8, 2018), I wanted a cabinet on Wayfair that would not be in-stock until
November. I set-up an alert 2 weeks
ago. Got an e-mail telling me the item was
now back in-stock (before Nov, yay!).
Selling price on Wayfair? $169.00.
Before this, I had done my homework. I
found that Walmart also sells this same
exact cabinet under a different name.
On Oct 8, 2018, Walmart now had the item in
stock for $98.19 for the 31 inch wide
cabinet. The same price as the 18 inch
cabinet. Mistake??? Probably.
I was not going to wait around until they
figured it out and raised the price. I
ordered two of these cabinets at $98.19 for
a total of $196.38. If I had purchased
the cabinets at Wayfair I would have spent
$338.00. A savings of $141.62.
This is a more extreme example. Most
of the time, I have saved around $20 by
shopping around. What I have
discovered, in the past few months, is that
the prices for this type of furniture
fluctuates, sometimes almost daily.
Before ordering the first item you see,
watch it for a week or so to see if there
are any changes. The shelf unit on
Wayfair and Walmart?? Stayed at
$169.00 on Wayfair. On Walmart, Oct 8, 2018
- $98.19, Oct 10, 2018 - $108.00, Oct 12,
2018 - $118.00.
Finding the same
furniture on a different website is tricky.
This is where those websites that try to
give you the cheapest online price for an
item fail miserably. Also, they may be
listing items for companies that paid for
this service. They fail because the
same piece of furniture is called different
names made by different manufacturers.
Or are they? Is one item the original
and the other a Chinese knock-off?
The websites that I have found, that have a
lot of duplication of the same item, are
Wayfair, Walmart, Overstock, Home Depot,
Office Depot, Hay & Needle, Amazon, etc.
On both Amazon and Walmart you have to watch out for
the drop shippers. (see side bar at right)
Look for furniture shipped directly
by Walmart or Amazon, not a third party.
What the hell is a drop shipper?
Why should I care?
Drop shipping is not a new concept and has
been around for years. For large
national manufacturing companies this is a
cost and time saver for getting merchandise
where it needs to be.
What it has morphed into, is a regular person
with no physical place of business, other
than their couch at home. They set-up
an online account with Amazon, Ebay, Walmart,
etc. Then list items sold by Home
Depot, Wayfair, Overstock, etc, in their
online store at a higher price.
You find a rug you like, on say Amazon, and
you order it. The drop shipper goes to
their account at the Home Depot and orders
the rug giving your home address as the
Huh?? Yes, you just actually bought a
rug from the Home Depot. Chances
are... you bought the rug on Amazon at a
much higher price than the same rug on the
Home Depot website. This is how the
drop shippers make their money.
Yes, I was the sucker who bought this rug.
I had no idea this was going on. I
thought I was ordering from a company that
shipped the rug from their warehouse.
The packing slip I received with the rug
should have been from the Amazon online
company. However, the packing slip I
received, was from the Home Depot.
Ooops the drop shipper screwed up.
I did complain to Amazon.
They don't care. They get their
percentage of a sale, no matter who
makes the sale. Home Depot does not
care because they made a sale.
Drop shipping has exploded on the internet
in the past 5 years. There are now
more drop shippers than there are legitimate
companies. It is now considered a "work at
Why should you care?
1) Drop shippers charge you more for an
2) If there is a problem with the item and
you need parts or a replacement, you now
have to deal with the drop shipper who is
acting as the middleman. Meaning, your
problem may never be resolved.
Here is an example of the cabinet mentioned above
that I purchased from Walmart at a huge savings over
Is the Buckhead and the
Farmington the same thing???? If it is
available, download the assembly manuals.
Compare. Same instructions. Same item. Just
different names. Ameriwood is the
manufacturer. System Build is a brand of
Many folks attempt to avoid Sauder furniture.
However, Sauder uses many other names. You do
not know you are getting Sauder until the furniture
arrives and it is on the manual. One of the
cabinets I bought ended up being Sauder. I
ordered two of the same cabinets. One unit had
a damaged shelf. The other unit was missing
some hardware. I called Sauder directly twice, via their
800 number for the replacement parts. Each
customer service rep was pleasant to speak with.
I received my replacement parts in two different
shipments the following week. Easy no hassle
phone calls. I am happy with the furniture,
even though there were a few glitches.
So how do you find the different furniture names???
You just have to do your search in a search engine.
Look at a lot of pictures of the furniture you want,
compared to all of the others. If the same
item is out there, it will pop-up. With the
Buckhead / Farmington cabinet above, it had an
unusual color called "smokehouse" (now changed to
grey). I searched using the terms "smokehouse
cabinet". I also searched using "greyleigh
cabinet", "farmington cabinet".
This Type of Furniture
This is cheap particle board
furniture, most likely made in China, Malaysia,
Indonesia, Thailand, or any other number of
countries where labor is cheaper. It is not
solid wood, hand made by a craftsman in America. (see
my rolling cabinet here for a custom made piece...)
have to think realistically. Therefore, you really
cannot expect it to be solid and sturdy to be handed
down for generations. This is not heirloom
It is hilarious reading the
reviews for this type of furniture. Where the
one or two star reviews complain about an item being
flimsy in contrast to a majority that says an item
is not flimsy. Which is it???
For the one
and two star-ers, expectations were probably for a
solid wood item and then they realize that it is
just particle board. You need to fully read
the description of the furniture. If it is
solid wood, it will say it is, along with the wood
species. The price will also reflect this.
If the item is inexpensive compared to others, then it is most likely
just particle board, manufactured wood, or press
board. If there is absolutely no
description of the furniture......look for something else.
Read the reviews -- Always keep in mind that
some of the people who write the reviews may not be
very mechanically inclined or just plain idiots.
I look for items that have at least 4 stars. I
then read the good and the bad reviews. For the
cabinet mentioned above, it got good reviews.
A major reoccurring problem reviewers mentioned,
were that the holes for the screws, needed to be
drilled. To me, this was not a problem.
When the items came in, I had my drill ready.
The reviewers were correct. The wood was just
marked with dimples where the screws should go. A small drill bit on my drill
was all that was needed to make the screw hole
larger and screwing easier.
If reviewers all say the furniture is flimsy and it
only has two stars out of 100 reviews, then most
likely the furniture is super flimsy. Stay away from
Keep The Furniture Stationary --
Once you put
this furniture together, put it in one spot and
leave it alone. If you plan on moving it
around your home a lot, add plywood on the
bottom and attach casters. I did this for my new
heavy solid rubber wood TV cabinet. I don't
plan to move it, but if I need to to clean behind
it, I can move it.
If you only spent a couple hundred bucks or less on
an item, it will not be able to handle being dragged
or pushed around, particularly on carpeting.
If you must move it, get help and lift it up and
place it down. Dragging it around will loosen
the screws and cam locks. It will not handle being moved
from one house to the next every few years. If
you do a lot of moving, invest in more expensive
Cam Locks -- You will either love them or
hate them. Most folks hate them. If you think
they are cheap and break easily now-a-days, you are
correct. What used to be made out of steel is
now made out of aluminum. When assembling my
bedroom set, some of the cam locks basically
disintegrated when I tried to screw them in with cam
bolt. Fortunately I saved the cam locks from
the old TV stand that did not make the move from El
Paso to Oklahoma and I used them. These older
cam locks were from 10 years ago and were made from
One thing is clear. Line them correctly.
Twist them only until tight. Do not over
tighten them or they will break. During the assembly
process try to avoid any stress on areas where you
just tightened the cam locks. Try to keep the
furniture as square and level as possible until all
of the parts are put together.
Complexity and Time to Assemble Furniture --
If you are new to assembling your own furniture, you
will probably find the amount of pieces and the
instructions daunting. This is normal.
You are not alone. You will get through it.
Take it one step at a time.
Oh..... and READ
the bloody instructions!!!!
Having assembled furniture for over 40 years, I can
tell you the instructions have gotten better over
the years. It is obvious that many companies
are now using native English speakers to write their
instructions. Yay! We spoke and some have
listened. However, there are some
manufacturers that don't use native English
speakers, which makes for hilarious reading and a
lot of head scratching.
If you are new to this, just know it will probably
take you longer than you think to assemble it.
If you know this going in, you will not be so
frustrated that it took you 4 hours instead of 2.
Lay out all the pieces and make sure you have
everything. Then READ the instructions
starting with Step One. Sometimes I download
the instructions from the website ahead of time and
read through it before the furniture arrives to make
sure it makes sense.
Review of The Furniture I Bought and Assembled
Before leaving El Paso, I sold
all of my bedroom furniture on Craigslist. I
had a dresser with mirror, and two night stands.
The TV cabinet with drawers in my bedroom, was the
item I tried to move to Oklahoma. It did not
make the move, so I needed a new TV cabinet.
My personal preference is to have the TV enclosed
during the day in a cabinet to keep off dust.
Drawers on the lower half of the cabinet are a plus.
Since I was furnishing an entire bedroom, I needed
to look for matching furniture. I started
looking for the TV cabinet or armoire which would
hold my small 32" screen TV. Then searched if
there were matching dressers and nightstands.
For my bedroom set, I wanted
something that would last at least 20 years or more.
Also, at my age, this would probably be the last bedroom set I
would ever own. I wanted sturdy furniture,
made of solid wood. I also planned to pay a
little more for this furniture.... but not a
fortune. My budget for a TV cabinet/armoire,
one dresser and two nightstands was between $1000 -
$1500. I did not need a new bed frame or
headboard. The black iron bed frame I
purchased in 1997 was still in great shape and is a
The furniture I finally decided on, after a week of
searching, was on Overstock. Doing my
homework, I searched on the internet for the same
furniture. I discovered that Overstock was the
only online store selling these items. Walmart
and Amazon both had the items but the Walmart page
said "Ships directly from Overstock". On
Amazon, the item was being sold by a drop shipper at
$100s over the Overstock price.
When I purchased this furniture on June 20, 2018, it
was called Gracewood Hollow Aristo Dark Grey.
Manual has no manufacturer name. Manual just says Aristo Burnt Grey. That is it. So
manufacturer is unknown. As of October 13, 2018,
Overstock now calls this line of furniture Jasper Laine Aristo Dark Grey by Jasper Laine Studios.
Price I paid with a coupon was:
Armoire - $620.99
Dresser - $305.09
2 Nightstands - $277.18
Total paid for 4 pieces was $1203.26
This furniture was made in
Malaysia and is constructed of solid rubber wood.
Yes, it is heavy. Overstock used a freight
company to delivery these items.
When a freight company is used to deliver your
furniture, you absolutely need to be home to sign
for the items. Usually you can call the
freight company to arrange a day and time.
Your street needs to be large enough for an 18
wheeler. If it is not or has low hanging
electric lines, you need to let the freight company
know so that they can transfer the items to a
The armoire came in 4 boxes, the dresser in 2, and
each nightstand in one box for a total of 8 boxes.
Know how many boxes are coming. The freight
truck driver almost shorted me one box. When
he looked in his truck, he found the last box. Hmmmm. Also, the boxes were on pallets which
he loaded in my garage using a forklift. Oh
yeh!!!! This was a major delivery. The
pallets are also yours. In my case, I asked
v-e-r-y nicely for him to take the pallets with him.
He told me that the boxes came with the pallets.
HOWEVER, because I asked him v-e-r-y nicely he took
them. Don't count on this happening all the
time. Pallets for me are a hardship. I
have to break them down to get them into the trash
or haul them to the landfill.
|I started with the easiest piece of furniture, the
nightstands. This way I could get used to the
directions before I got to the most difficult piece,
This furniture has an overwhelming amount of pieces
and hardware. 18 pieces and 11 different types
of hardware (screws, cam locks, cam bolts, drawer
slides, drawer pulls, for each nightstand.
I unpacked the pieces in the garage to keep any
styrofoam packing trash in the garage. I first laid
out all of the pieces to make sure I had everything
and nothing was damaged. If you are doing this
on a tile or wood floor, put an old blanket down to
protect the furniture pieces.
For this nightstands, most of the pieces were for
the drawers. For furniture with drawers, I skip
around with the assembly steps. I do the drawers first.
Why?? Since most of the pieces are for the
drawers, I assemble them first and then move them
out of the way in another room. Now I am
looking at less pieces to assemble for the frame.
For the nightstand, 10 of the 18 pieces were for the
drawers. With the drawers out of the way, I
now had only 8 pieces to work with. Now I went
back to Step 1.
For furniture with drawer glides, you have one shot
to get it right. The flat head screws need to
go in absolutely straight and need to be screwed in
until they are flush with the glide. If just a
small edge of the screw sticks up, the drawer will
hit the screw and make a noise and prevent the glide
from operating smoothly. If you mess up, you
can usually put the screw in through another hole on
the glide. However you will need to have a
drill to drill a small starter hole for the screw.
|Both nightstands had no problems except for one of
the drawer pulls. The inside of the pull was
not machined properly so the screw would not go in
properly. I ended up gluing the pull to the
I then put together the dresser with no issues.
Then I put together the armoire which took about 3
days working on it for about 3 hours a day.
The only issues I had were the stupid cam locks.
This furniture was the one where I had the
disintegrating cam locks. Twist too hard, and
they break into a bunch of little pieces that have
to be pried out of the hole piece by piece.
For the armoire, I knew it would be too large and
heavy to move once it was in place. Even
though I had no plans to move it after it was in
place, I put 4" casters on it. Eventually I
will need to clean behind it or move it to replace
the carpeting in the bedroom. It can now be
carefully rolled out of the bedroom if needed.
Before putting the casters on, I needed to add
plywood on the bottom of the frame to attach the
casters to. I wanted the casters underneath
the cabinet almost hidden from view. I just
attached 2 pieces of wood across the bottom of the
frame and screwed the plywood on. 4" casters
were needed for the weight of the armoire and the
height of the legs. The armoire looks like it
is sitting on the legs, but is actually on the
casters. The carpeting hides the 1/8" that the
legs are raised off the floor.
For this set of furniture, extra
pieces of hardware were included in the kit.
Of note, this rarely happens. For all of the
other furniture I have put together, it had exactly
the amount of screws and parts needed. No
extras. I safe these extra pieces. I
also save the reusable hardware from older furniture
that I have taken apart to throw away. You
never know when something will come in handy.
On September 27, 2018, I
purchased the set of 2 farmhouse style
cabinets on the Walmart website for $394.20.
The items came in Oct 3, 2018, 3 days
earlier than stated on the website. A
FedEx did the delivery of these items.
One box had 2 small unremarkable holes on
one side. The other box had no damage.
The 2 small holes on one box did become a
problem. Along this side of the box
was where the smaller shelves for the
cabinet were packed. Between the
cardboard and shelves, there was no packing
material like styrofoam. The 2 small
holes had dented one shelf on the box side
and cracked the same shelf on the other
side. In the undamaged box, I was
missing the hardware to hang the door.
This was the first furniture I have ever
purchased, in all these years, that had
missing hardware and a damaged piece.
This was the Sauder furniture I referred to
above. I had no idea I was buying a
piece of Sauder furniture until I had the
instruction manual in-hand. Either
Sauder has been licensed to use the BHG
trade name or BHG uses Sauder to manufacture
furniture with their name. Either way,
the website did not mention Sauder.
Some reviewers appear to have a major
problem with Sauder. I had never had a
piece of furniture made by Sauder, so I was
This manual, unlike the generic manuals for
my bedroom furniture above, clearly had the Sauder
name complete with a toll free number to
call them for either assistance or for
parts. As mentioned above, I called
Sauder twice and was treated politely and
efficiently. The replacement shelf and
missing hardware were sent to me free of
charge less than a week later.
The instructions for this Sauder furniture
were clear and written by a native English
speaker. They even make attempts at
humor by suggesting that it is snack time
between some steps.
I assembled this set according to the
instructions, starting at Step One. No
The difference I made to one of the sliding
doors was to flip around the way the
decorative wood was angled and the location
of the door handle. I wanted to mirror
the look of the World Market Cabinet.
To do this, I carefully measured and
marked where to drill the holes for the
handle and piece of diagonal decorative wood
on the opposite side of the door.
Before drilling, I made a small dimples in
the spot where the drill bit would go with
an awl and a hammer. Just one tap to
create a little dent. If you don't
have an awl, a nail will do the trick. This
way a small drill bit will grab in the dent
and not skate around the wood damaging the
When drilling holes in furniture particle
board, you need to start with a tiny drill
bit, then work your way up to the size you
need. I used 6 different drill bits
working my way larger to match the 1/4" wide
holes on the other side of the door. With my
last drill bit, I worked the bit around the
hole a little to make it a little wider to
fit the door handle posts. If you
start with a large drill bit you will rip up
the particle board.
Completed 2 cabinets. Door on left cabinet was
modified by changing handle
from the left to right side of door. Decorative diagonal wood was
Cabinets were then placed next to each other to
mirror the look of the
more expensive World Market cabinet.
What about the original pre-drilled holes I
was suppose to use on the door? They
were covered up using the stickers included
with the hardware kit to cover-up the cam
locks. Barely noticeable, unless you
are looking for them.
If these stickers fall off in the future, I will fill the holes with
some wood filler and dab some gray paint on
them. The distressed wood look
veneer of this furniture makes doing
touch-up paint easy, because of the
This furniture, after assembling, is pretty
solid. There are round plastic screw-on
bases for the legs so that you can level
it on an uneven
floor. They also came with wall mounts
to keep them from falling over.
However, in my home, I don't have small
children nor would this shelf fall over
unless it was yanked down. So I did not use
the wall anchors. I did however use
the wall anchors for the cabinets I
assembled for my office below.
Matching wood look stickers to cover unused
pre-drilled holes on modified door.
Spare Room Storage Cabinets
In one of the spare bedrooms of
my new home, there are piles of boxes with my
office supplies, books, and art supplies.
In El Paso, I had these items spread
throughout the house in different cabinets.
The plastic bins, which contain my large
puppet collection (former children's
librarian) that is slowly being sold off on
Amazon and Ebay, also take up a lot of
space. I do have shelving, but I
needed cabinets with doors for the smaller
items. I prefer the doors for a more
I found the cabinet pictured to the right on
Wayfair and then found it cheaper on Walmart.
The price I paid was $159.00 each. The
price now on Walmart is cheaper. Grrr.
This is the same brand of furniture as the
first cabinet shown at the top of this page
(so the links are there.) This line of
furniture has a 31" cabinet with 2 cabinet
doors. A 30" cabinet with one drawer
and 2 cabinet doors, and an 18" cabinet with
one door. There are also a few other
pieces of furniture.
instruction manual for these cabinets is
clearly labeled with the System Build
information. If there is a problem,
the manual asks for you to contact them
I had no missing or damaged parts and the
instructions were clear. The cabinets
went together easily. I had no need to
contact the company. 26 pieces for the
cabinet with drawers. No extra
hardware was provided so you need to get it
right the first time.
This is the cabinet where I
needed my drill, to drill holes for all of the wood
screws. I used the tiniest drill bit I had, set to
less than 1/2" depth to keep the bit from going
through the pieces.
The cabinets are sturdy enough however, the weight
limit for the shelves is only around 20lbs. So
I cannot use these shelves for heavy books.
They recommend no weight on the top of the cabinet.
So I will just use it for empty boxes or really
When I say sturdy, it is medium sturdy. Not
flimsy but not rock solid. The kitchen
cabinets shown above feel more solid. Because
this shelf is tall and narrow, I DID use the
provided wall bracket to secure the top of the
cabinet to a wall stud. Doing this also made
it feel more stable and move less when opening the
Dimples in furniture parts where wood
Tiniest drill bit used to drill
small starter holes
2 cabinets with drawer. Empty boxes piled on
top taking advantage of my 9 foot ceilings.
These cabinets can only handle light objects on top.
Cabinets hold a bunch of my little stuff.
Shelves have a limit of 20 lbs, so no heavy books.
I ordered two more of these
cabinets without the drawer. These were the
cabinets I bought at a really low price mentioned at
the top of the page.
All of this furniture came in huge boxes.
Some boxes with a lot of styrofoam to
protect the furniture pieces.
All of the large
pieces of styrofoam are now in our attic
over the garage to help insulate the garage.
To cut costs in our new home,
the contractor did not insulate the area
above our garage which is attached to the
house. But yet, they installed insulated
garage doors. Go figure.
The larger pieces of foam lay over the
rafters. The smaller pieces between
the rafters. Easy to move around, if
needed. Keeps the styrofoam out of the
Ordered 2 more cabinets without drawer