When It Breaks: DIY or Professional Restorer?

Antique Furniture Restoration ceramic restoration repic

We've all felt that horrible sensation in the pit of our stomach when a treasured piece of china crashes onto the floor. Did it break? How badly is it broken? Can we salvage it at all?

Whether the damaged item is a cherished antique Blue Delft vase or an antique Belgian dining chair, it can be difficult to decide how to proceed. Some repair or restoration projects are do-it-yourself in nature, while others perhaps should be left to a professional.

As you might imagine, we do quite a bit of repair and restoration work around here. Not every item that arrives in a shipping container from Europe survives the trip unscathed. Thankfully, we have Greg's mother, Kathy, to perform expert repairs and restoration on items that need tending. By the way, if you ever have a question as to whether we've repaired or restored an item in our inventory, please don't hesitate to ask. Usually, we tell you right in the description, but I'm never offended by questions!

Because 'tis the season when glass and china items get dropped, knocked off the shelf, or otherwise broken, I asked Kathy for some tips on how to decide when to use a professional restorer. We focused on ceramic items because Kathy is a certified expert in fine ceramics restoration, as you can tell from this photo!

Step One: Consider the Monetary Value of the Object

The value of an object after restoration should be the same as it was before the object was broken. If the cost of repairs will be significantly more than the item is worth, you might want to try repairing it yourself. Obviously, you wouldn't want to professionally restore a $2 coffee mug. And sometimes you can go on Replacements.com to find china pieces for a fraction of the cost of a professional restoration.

Step Two: Consider the Sentimental Value

You may feel an heirloom item is worth professional restoration, regardless of the cost. That's OK. If you have a piece you want to continue to pass down through the generations, and if you can afford the cost to have it restored, then why not do it?

Step Three: Consider How the Item is Used

Most professionally restored ceramics cannot be soaked or washed in a dishwasher. This means a repaired object must be relegated to decorative status. If you've broken a utilitarian piece, such as a dinner plate, you may want to check other sources for a replacement rather than trying to repair the piece. If, on the other hand, the broken object is a vase, you may wish to proceed with the repair even though you know you won't be able to display fresh-cut flowers in it anymore.

Step Four: Consider the Expense

A truly skilled restorer can make a broken piece look new again, but this expertise comes at a price. You should also take into account these factors that can increase the cost of any professional ceramics restoration:

  • If the object is broken into many pieces
  • If pieces are missing and must be fabricated
  • If the pattern has to be researched (for example, to determine the correct shape for a handle to be fabricated)
  • If a repair (such as gluing) has already been attempted and the old bonding must be removed
  • If the object includes decorative pieces in raised relief, such as flowers, that must be cast in a mold

It's also worth noting that Royal Doulton and Dux items usually cost more to repair because cracks tend to "travel" during the restoration process, making the whole thing trickier and more time-consuming.

How to Choose a Professional Restorer

If you decide to have that heirloom vase restored, here are a few things to look for in a professional restorer:

  • Professional certification from a noteworthy training institute or school
  • A portfolio of repairs for you to review to evaluate the quality of work
  • Customer testimonials available on their website or referrals to clients willing to discuss their experience with you

If you have any questions about professional ceramics restoration, we're always happy to chat with you by phone!

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ceramic restoration repic
Aimee @ EuroLux Home

Aimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. With over 20 years' experience in acquiring and selling French Antique Furniture, she is very knowledgeable about furniture styles and how they are influenced by historical events. Aimee has shipped antique furniture and antique furniture reproductions to all 50 States and over 50 foreign countries. Subscribe to this blog for articles about antique furniture construction methods, style trends and even repair tips. Check out our YouTube channel!