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I'm considering buying a used piece of furniture at a huge discount. It has been disclosed by the seller that there is a "split on the right side". I'm not sure if that's the correct technical term, but to me it looks like the joint is separating along the top edge. In addition to the cosmetic issue it presents, I imagine it also affects it structurally as well. Is that a legitimate concern?

Is there a simple fix for something like this? I'm envisioning sliding some glue in there and placing a ton of weight on top and hoping it kind of joins back together leaving just a bit of touch-up to be done. Could it be that simple or is the "split" likely a result of water damage or something more permanent and complex for a novice to repair? If the latter, any idea what it may cost to have something like that repaired at a shop?

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EDIT

Here are a few more/better pics enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

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    Hi, welcome to Woodworking. I'm afraid this isn't answerable unless more (and clearer, or at least larger) photos are available for you to post, perhaps most importantly of the interior, although the back, if unpainted, may offer enough of a clue. The fact that this photo was quite small and enlarging it made the image blurry doesn't help any, but there's just not enough to go on from this image — we can't even tell if it's wood! Unless someone here is familiar with the piece it's pure guesswork about how this is constructed (especially given how varied modern furniture construction can be).
    – Graphus
    Jul 10, 2023 at 23:08
  • gotcha. that's what they sent when I asked for a larger photo of the area. I'll see if I can get them to take something new/better.
    – Daveh0
    Jul 10, 2023 at 23:12
  • "I'm envisioning sliding some glue in there and placing a ton of weight on top and hoping it kind of joins back together leaving just a bit of touch-up to be done." You're possibly on the right track, but that would only be guaranteed to work if the sides could be constrained. A likely outcome when the top is heavily loaded is that the now-unattached left side will just be pushed further out. Some long enough clamps would be ideal, although it's you might be able to do this successfully with cord/rope and a stick (q.v. Spanish windlass).
    – Graphus
    Jul 10, 2023 at 23:12
  • @Graphus - thanks for the input. I see what you're saying. So I'd need to clamp it essentially both top/bottom and left/right, correct?
    – Daveh0
    Jul 10, 2023 at 23:17
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    Well that first photo was misleading, the broken joint would be immediately evident from distance. Plus it seems that it's broken on the right also, and it's worse on that side. As for what this is made from (which factors into what kind of price this should realistically be) the photos are tantalisingly not quite good enough, but from the amount of & type of flaking on the joint on the right I'd say this is made from chipboard (particleboard) which shouldn't used used in anything that commands a premium price. If you're not familiar, it used to be synonymous with Ikea furniture....
    – Graphus
    Jul 11, 2023 at 1:43

1 Answer 1

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In addition to the cosmetic issue it presents, I imagine it also affects it structurally as well. Is that a legitimate concern?

Yes it is most definitely a structural concern. Even before the addition of the other photos it was clear the mitre joint had separated along that side, which means the top was no longer joined securely or, potentially, no longer joined at all to that side.

With the additional pics it's clear there is even greater cause for concern — since the joints at both sides are broken open the top might be ready to simply be lifted off.

I hate to say it but if the initial photos of the piece didn't include these images of the right side, where the damage appears to be worse, there seems to have been a deliberate attempt to deceive. Any time someone is selling something that is acknowledged to be damaged the seller should put photos of the damage front and centre so potential buyers know exactly what they're getting into.

Is there a simple fix for something like this? I'm envisioning sliding some glue in there and placing a ton of weight on top and hoping it kind of joins back together leaving just a bit of touch-up to be done.

Before we got a better look into the cracks you were possibly on the right track, but this method would only work if the sides could be constrained. Without that, a likely outcome when the top is heavily loaded is that the now-unattached left side will just be pushed further out1.

Some long enough clamps would be ideal for this, for clamping top to bottom as well as left to right. Although it's possible this could be clamped successfully with cord/rope and a stick (q.v. Spanish windlass) as long as it was done carefully, with steps taken to protect against the cord digging in.

any idea what it may cost to have something like that repaired at a shop?

Impossible to answer for a number of reasons. The first is probably immediately obvious, but the last may not be evident at all.

  • Repair costs are highly variable place to place, business to business.
  • Some repairs are taken on initially at a speculative basis, with a firm quote given only after investigation (which may or may not be free 2).
  • If this is indeed chipboard/particleboard some woodworkers, or dedicated repair shops, just wouldn't take it on, period, because of how difficult it is to repair.

And there's a follow-on financial aspect to this: is any piece of furniture made from this material cost effective to repair?

I'd have said not, but given the amount of sharp practice in the modern furniture world, and deliberate deception in the apparent materials and methods of construction3, who knows?


1 Not helped by the fact that many glues are highly lubricative, making joint surfaces very prone to sliding past each other!

2 Although often waived if the repair goes forward.

3 This piece for example, while it appears to be chipboard/particleboard, has surface features in the 'veneer' (laminate?) that mimic board construction and saw marks. So it's pretending to be made from wood under the black finish (but in a weird semi-rustic way that doesn't go with the modern lines, handles and clean black finish).

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