Office furniture has a finite lifespan and will eventually need to be replaced. Whether it’s a chair, desk, stool, conference table, file cabinet, shelving unit, etc., there comes the point when you’ll have to retire it. Maybe the style of a desk has become outdated, or perhaps the upholstery of a chair has worn away from excessive usage. Regardless, you’ll have to say “goodbye” to your old furniture and replace it with new furniture.
Before hauling your old office furniture off to the local dump, however, you should consider the following solutions.
#1) Convert File Cabinets into Planters
Indoor air pollution is a serious problem, yet it’s also something that business owners and office managers overlook. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor indoor air costs tens of billions of dollars in healthcare and lost productivity every year. You can promote cleaner air in your office, however, by growing plants in old file cabinets.
There are several ways to convert a file cabinet into a planter, one of which is to simply cover the drawers in a plastic wrap and fill them with soil. Alternatively, you can remove the drawers and place pots inside, as described in this Lowes article. Regardless of which method you prefer, make sure the bottom is waterproof to prevent water from seeping onto your office floor.
#2) Convert Two File Cabinets into a Desk
Another idea is to convert two file cabinets into a desk. Each file cabinet essentially acts as a “leg” for the desk, with one file cabinet being used as the left leg and the other being used as the right.
You’ll still need to create the actual tabletop for the desk, however. So, place a piece of rectangular-shaped lumber – popular, walnut, cedar, oak, etc. – over the two file cabinets. If you need help finding the right-sized wood, visit a local home improvement store and ask for assistance. After adjusting the wood according to your liking, drive several screws through the wood and into the top of each of the file cabinets.
This is a fun and innovative way to repurpose old file cabinets. You can even go one step further by painting the file cabinets and staining the wood desktop. From an outsider’s perspective, this looks just like any ordinary desk, complete with a wood top and pull-out drawers.
#3) Refinish Wood Desks
Of course, you can always refinish wood desks and other wood furniture. If you have a wood desk that’s faded over the years but otherwise still structurally sound, this is a great way to restore its luster and continue using it.
Some of the most common stains used on wood furniture include:
- Pigmented oil stains: typically consisting of linseed oil, mineral spirits or other solvents, pigmented oil stains are inexpensive and easy to use. Because they are non-penetrating, however, they aren’t the best choice for hardwoods. Pigmented oil stains also have a long drying time.
- Penetrating oil stains: on the other side of the fence are penetrating oil stains. Once applied, the stain settles deep into the pores of the wood, making it difficult to remove. Penetrating oil stains are great for both hardwoods and softwoods.
- Non-grain rising (NGR) stains: made of aniline dye and spirits, NGR stains are more expensive and difficult to use than the aforementioned stains. However, they offer one of the most cohesive, uniform colors after the stain has dried.
- Varnish stains: finally, there are varnish stains, which are usually made of aniline dye combined with a varnish. Normally, varnish stains are only used on hidden or concealed areas of wood furniture due to its messy appearance. Therefore, this stain isn’t recommended when refinishing old office furniture.
If you plan on refinishing an old desk or other wood furniture, you’ll need to clean and sand it beforehand; otherwise, the imperfections left behind will remain visible, even after you’ve refinished it. This DIY Network article offers some helpful tips on how to strip, clean, buff and sand wood furniture.
#4) Cubicle Wall Billboards
Do you have some old cubicle walls laying around your office that you no longer want or need? If so, consider using them as billboards. Most cubicle walls are made of a wood or metal base with a soft fabric covering, allowing workers to staple notes, posters, and other items to them. After the cubicle wall has been removed, though, you can still use it for this purpose.
If you have one or more empty rooms in your office, you can use an old cubicle wall as a decorative billboard. Simply mount the cubicle wall to an empty wall in the room, after which you can fill it with decorations – or even allow workers to place their own decorations on it. Billboards are also useful for notifying office workers about upcoming events.
#5) Reupholster Office Chairs
Normally, it’s the upholstery on office chairs that wears away over time. This is particularly true in the workplace, where office chairs are used for eight or more hours a day. All that use can degrade the upholstery, causing it to tear or crack open. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you must get rid of it, though. You bring your office chairs back to life by reupholstering them.
Reupholstering involves securing new fabric to the outside of the chair’s old fabric. Usually, this is done by stretching and stapling the new fabric to the chair. Check out this Instructables article for a step-by-step walkthrough on how to reupholster old office chairs.
#6) Moving to a New Office? Sell Your Old Furniture to the New Tenant
If you’re moving to a new office, perhaps you can sell your old furniture to the new tenant. Many business owners and office managers don’t want to mess with the hassle of trying to pack and move all their furniture. After all, moving is already a stressful process, and trying to keep track of your furniture makes it even more stressful. If you know the company or person who’s going to take over your current office space, you can ask to see if they are interested in buying your furniture.
This is arguably the easiest and most profitable way to sell old office furniture. You won’t get the full face value of your furniture, but you can still expect a decent sale price. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about breaking down or moving your old furniture. You can leave it in your office, and once the tenant moves in, they can begin using it.
Liquidation is another option to consider. There are dozens of companies that specialize in office furniture liquidation. They’ll purchase all or most of your furniture with the goal of reselling it for a profit. Liquidators usually work both sides, buying used furniture from businesses looking to move or upgrade to new furniture, and selling that used furniture to other businesses in need of inexpensive furniture.
There are both pros and cons to liquidating your old office furniture. On the plus side, it’s one of the easiest ways to get rid of office furniture while also putting some money in your pockets. The liquidation company will handle everything from disassembling to moving your furniture. However, you won’t get top dollar for your used furniture. Liquidation companies usually only pay between 5% to 10% of the furniture’s original value.
Here are some tips to get the most money from your liquidated office furniture:
- Contact and request quotes from multiple furniture liquidators.
- Inform every liquidator of the highest quote (others may raise their offer to compete for your business).
- Provide photos of your office furniture to liquidators.
- Don’t rush it. Liquidators will generally offer a lower price if they believe the company is trying to move out of the office in a hurry.
- Clean and maintain your office furniture, so it’s in good condition.
- Choose name-brand furniture over generic brands.
#8) Donate It to Charity
If you can’t sell your old office furniture, why not donate it to a good cause? There are numerous nonprofit organizations in the United States that will gladly accept your used furniture. Goodwill Industries, is one of the largest nonprofits, operating with more than 1,500 stores throughout the country. Once they’ve received your furniture, they’ll sell it in one of their stores. The proceeds generated through these sales are used to help people with disabilities, the homeless and others.
A side benefit of donating to your office furniture to charity is that many nonprofit charities, including Goodwill, will come to you to pick it up. You don’t have to worry about breaking down and moving the furniture. The organization will send a worker or team of workers in a truck to pick up your furniture.
Some business owners automatically reject the idea of donating their old office furniture, simply because they don’t make money from it. While it’s true that you won’t earn money, you may still be eligible for a tax credit. The charity organization will give you a receipt with the estimated value of the donated items, which you can use to offset your taxes for the respective year.
This Internal Revenue Website (IRS) article offers some helpful advice on charity deductions. Of course, you should always consult with a tax accountant before attempting to make any new deductions on your business’s taxes.
#9) Recycle It
Sometimes office furniture has sustained so much use and wear that it can longer be sold or even donated. Nonetheless, taking it to the dump still isn’t the best solution, as it quickly adds to the already congested landfills. Statistics show that textile waste accounts for roughly 4% of all landfill space in the United States. A better, more Eco-friendly solution is to recycle your old office furniture.
How does furniture recycling work exactly? Normally, furniture and other waste are dumped landfills where it’s left to slowly decompose. During this incredibly long process, however, the decomposing items release greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals into the environment. When office furniture is recycled, it’s broken down and reused for other purposes, such as building new furniture.
Recycling your office furniture will give you peace of mind knowing that you aren’t contributing to additional landfill waste. Additionally, some recycling companies provide itemized receipts for furniture, classifying them as donations. So, like donating your office furniture to a charity organization, recycling your furniture could offset some of your business’s taxes.
Some companies specialize in recycling furniture, whereas others recycle all materials, including furniture. Use the Recycling Locator tool on Earth991 to search for a furniture recycling company near you.
#10) Give It Away
Lastly, you may want to give your office furniture away. Craigslist has an enormous section of free items, including office furniture, for every major U.S. city. When a business owner or office manager wants to get rid of their old furniture, they can post an ad on Craigslist.
You won’t make money giving away your old office furniture, nor will you earn tax credits. You may, however, help other entrepreneurs and professionals in need. If a small business owner cannot afford to buy an entire suite of new office furniture, he or she may look for used freebies on Craigslist. Just remember to specify in your listing that the recipient must pick up the items; otherwise, they may expect you to deliver the furniture to them.
Be warned, though, you’ll probably receive some serious call volume inquiring about your free furniture. To prevent your phone from ringing off the hook, you should take down your listing once someone has picked up the furniture.
The Bottom Line…
These are just a few things you can do with old, unused office furniture. Even if you’re able to squeeze a little more life out of your furniture, though, replacing it may be the best option. New furniture is generally considered a business-related expense so you can deduct the cost from your taxes. It’s also a simple way to promote higher worker satisfaction and productivity in the office.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.