Varnishing Wood

How to Refinish Furniture

The easiest way to withhold the beauty and value of your furniture is by cleaning it. Often times refinishing old furniture like chairs, cabinets and couches is not needed if a simple cleaning will get the job done. It will also save you allot of hassle, restoring antique furniture isn’t necessarily the most enjoyable task in the world. It will take longer than a few hours to repair furniture in poor conditions and it’s going to take a bit of elbow grease. You will need to purchase sandpaper and a sanding machine if you want to speed up the refinishing process.

Don’t get discouraged when refinishing old furniture yourself. It will take practice and education to restore that antique bookcase the way you want it. However, if it is your first time restoring antique furniture, it may be wise to hand the project over to a professional. The last thing you want to do is destroy that precious piano that has been in your family for decades. It may be smart to contact an antique appraiser if the antique is old and is of high value. If you want to practice I recommend starting with something small, like a jewelry box, to get the hang of refinishing old furniture yourself.

Refinishing old furniture could actually decrease the value of many antiques if done incorrectly. If the goal is to repair furniture to increase its resale value, than by all means, give it everything you’ve got. Just don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come out the exactly the way you envisioned it, these things can take allot of practice.

Restoring Antique Furniture to Repair Furniture You Love

The best way to start your first restoration project is by picking furniture with simple surfaces, like a coffee table. Furniture with lots of corners and curves, like a bookshelf or piano, will be much harder to work with. Find a small test corner of the simple surface you have chosen and begin by removing the existing finish. Observe how difficult it is to remove the finish and then make your decision if you’re willing to put that much effort into the rest of the table. A tool to speed up this process and remove some of the frustration is called a furniture stripper. Using sandpaper is a possible alternative but it will eventually make your hands numb.

Unfortunately removing the existing finish is only the first step of refinishing furniture. It is much easier to strip the paint of the furniture if you’re able to move it out to the garage or yard. Restoring antique furniture can be a messy job when you arrive at the varnish and paint because the sawdust can stain the carpet.

Once the old finish and paint has been completely removed from the furniture it is time to start thinking about the new look. Wipe the table, jewelry box, or whatever you have chosen for this test run clean of any sawdust or other debris it has accumulated. When picking a new finish to repair furniture with, you must have goals for what you want to accomplish. Is the natural beauty of the wood the look you’re going for, or is it to get a darker or lighter shade? Many often like the look of pine wood being a brighter, reddish looking color, but everyone has their own preference. Check out some of these before and after pictures to get a better idea of what the final project will look like.  Whatever color of stain you choose when refinishing old furniture like a desk, bookshelf, or table it is important to cover it with a coat of varnish. This will give it a shinier look and will show off all of your hard work to guests.

What are the most common mistakes people make when starting on a refinishing project?

  • They use the wrong stain or paint.
  • They forget to sand down the piece.
  • The item isn’t absorbing the stain properly.
  • They don’t use the proper safety precautions such as being in a ventilated area and wearing a protective mask.
  • They run out of materials to work with.
  • There’s no place to hold the glued piece for drying and sticking together.
  • The wood or material is too hard or soft.
  • Working on a messy and cluttered environment.
  • They used the wrong brushes.
  • There is never enough clamps.
  • Forgetting to double, triple, quadruple check the furniture piece for any blemishes that need sanding or removal before painting or staining.
  • Being a newbie and working on a complicated piece. Simple first, then hard.
  • They don’t strip the paint.
  • They forget to use primer.

Refinishing furniture will repair furniture you already own! Start slow and start simple!

2 thoughts on “How to Refinish Furniture

  1. Thanks for your comment about making sure you use the right paint or stain when refurnishing your furniture. I didn’t know that even using the wrong brushes could affect the outcome of your final product. My husband and I are considering repairing some of our outdoor patio furniture. Since we lack the tools and time to repair them ourselves, we are considering looking into professionals.

  2. These are some really great points, especially the one about stating off with furniture that has simple surfaces. After all, it is very unlikely that you are going to get the hang of furniture restoration on the first go. Because of this it helps to have wide, flat surface like a table that you can practice your restoration on.

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