Ready To Assemble Furniture

Dec 5, 2023 | Tips & Tricks

In today’s modern age of home furnishings, ready to assemble furniture, also referred to as RTA, has become exceedingly common. Other abbreviations one might see are KD, for knock down, or FPF, for flat pack furniture or even Kit furniture. It is so common in fact, that many people only know furniture that has been assembled by hand or needs to be. In the golden age of furniture manufacturing, and specifically, American furniture manufacturing, there was really no such thing as RTA furniture. Yes, there were a handful of short lived attempts at marketing furniture that the consumer could assemble themselves in the late 1800’s. In part to ease the transportation efforts. Well, as the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” As the American furniture manufacturing market came upon hard times in recent years, manufactures began to outsource the production and manufacturing of goods to other countries. Aside from the quality issues that needed to be addressed to meet the demands of discerning consumers, was the issue of transportation. How can large furniture pieces be shipped across the world at the cheapest cost and with the least amount of wasted space on a shipping container? The answer, make each piece in such a way that it could be shipped disassembled. Honestly, a brilliant idea. In fact, some of the best and most well know furniture brands all do this. This process allows even some of the largest pieces to be shipped in much smaller boxes. Dining room chairs for example take up very little space when they are disassembled and shipped in a flat box!

Okay, so you’re probably asking yourself, how does this relate to any type of furniture repair or restoration? After all, this is a website for Furniture Fixation!  I do like imparting information to my customers on various topics and RTA furniture related issues are a fairly large part of my business.

By far the most common issue that I am asked to repair are broken legs. Typically dining room pieces such as tables, chairs, buffets or servers. Living room pieces such as cocktail/coffee tables, sofa tables, etc. I have probably repaired hundreds of dining chairs. Almost all of these repairs involve the same type of problem. The customer is rarely the one who does the assembly. In most cases, as I mentioned, the end customer has no idea that their pieces have been assembled prior to delivery or pick up. The retailer is tasked with the assembly once the item is sold. The most important factor in whether an issue is going to arise is a bolt or bolts that are either over tightened or have begun to loosen. If the bolt is overtightened initially or somewhere down the line in the home, it can cause the wood that surrounds the threaded inserts in the leg that the bolts go into to crack or break away. Depending of the severity of the break, a repair can be relatively easy or nearly impossible. In the event that the bolts become loose and are unnoticed, they can cause undue pressure on the weakened area causing something to break.

The best advice that I can give is to periodically check all of the connecting hardware to make sure that things are still tight. If loose bolts are discovered, tighten them snug and don’t overtighten. And remember to never push or drag furniture. Always pick the piece up or use sliders to move it.

Another issue that is commonly seen is the quality of the hardware t being used by overseas manufacturers. Cheap hardware such as bolts, screws, washers and lock washers do not provide an adequate level of quality to last. In every repair that I do involving RTA furniture issues, I always replace the inferior hardware with high quality American made steel hardware.

In closing, always use hand tools such as screw drivers or socket wrenches. Don’t be tempted to use power drills or drivers as it is very easy to over tighten and or strip the hardware.