How many times have you been intrigued by all those cool furniture makeovers you’ve seen in magazines or online? Maybe you’ve inherited a piece that needs a little help and restoration, or you can’t help but linger over those solid wood chairs that pop up at yard sales, thinking about the possibilities. Refinishing furniture is a popular DIY project, for sure.
Signs It’s Time to Refinish Your Furniture
Identifying the signs of finishes that are ready to be removed and reapplied will take a bit of elbow grease and detective work. First and foremost, you’ll want to be sure that your project is worth your time!
Wipe down the entire piece well so that you can get a clear picture of what you’re dealing with. Check the high-use areas. If you’re looking at cloudy finishes, water rings, cracking and flaking, or major discoloration, or if it feels sticky in spots, the current finish is not doing its job.
Time to get your supplies together and make it great again!
Wood Furniture Refinishing Supplies Checklist
You may not need every item on this list, as the amount of damage on your piece can vary. After you’ve evaluated its condition, print this off to help you determine what you’ll need.
For cleaning the piece and preparing the work area:
- A good cleaner
- Sponges and towels or rags
- Drop cloths
(Always read the label on products, and follow their safety precautions)
- Eye protection
- Chemical-resistant gloves
- Face masks
For removing the old finish
- Sandpaper in multiple grits (Palm sanders are a great tool, too.)
- Paint scrapers
- Thick paint stripper
- Paint brushes (also used for applying finish on the next step)
For adding the new finish
- Lacquer thinner
- Wood sealant
- Wood stain or paint
- Wipe- or brush-on finish
For optional repairs
- Wood glue, putty, and wax fill sticks
Our Best Tips for Repairing Furniture
Once you’ve done your shopping and gone over your piece, find a well lighted area with good ventilation. You’ll want a spot where you can spread out drop cloths and have room to work, and bright lighting so that you can see fine details.
Another important detail is dust control: make sure that you can thoroughly clean up any shavings or fine particles that can land on your fresh, damp finish later.
There’s nothing sadder than watching your hard work attract debris under its glossy new surface!
Step 1: Clean the Piece
Use a good quality cleaner. We carry an excellent cleaner by General Finishes that removes waxes, grease and oil but will not leave any residue behind that could foul the new finish.
Wipe the cleaner over the piece with one of your cloths, taking time to work it into any areas with moldings or carvings. If necessary, use one of your paintbrushes to get into those tighter areas.
Step 2: Assess the Furniture’s Current State
Look for peeling or cracking in high use areas. Older finishes will also begin to degrade leaving a gummy residue. These will tell you where to focus more attention and effort in removing the old finish.
At this time, also check for any missing wood, loose pieces, dents, or cracks that you’ll be able to tackle with your repair kit items. It’s easy enough to fill in cracks and do other minor fixes while you’re in the zone.
Step 3: Remove Old Finish
The most important step is the prep. You can use the chemical method by wiping on a finish stripper, do it all by hand with sandpaper or an orbital sander, or combine the two for more complicated pieces.
Make sure to sand the surface with a quality sandpaper. If using an orbital sander 180 to 220 grit is appropriate. If you are sanding by hand use 220 to 320 grit. Always work with the grain and be consistent. This is another reason you need good lighting! Do not "over sand" any areas.
Always use a good quality finish stripper such as "Jasco" brand. Be sure to read the directions and use protective gear. The chemicals are very caustic. Make sure that you have at least one pair of gloves and a spare, and keep the products away from any children or pets that might wander through.
Step 4: Do wood repairs
Go ahead and make those repairs now. Fill in any cracks or dents with wood putty, glue down loose veneer pieces, and sand them smooth and flush with the surrounding surface. You’ll be able to stain the wood putty to the right color in the next step.
Step 5: Stain or Paint the Wood
Once your piece is clean and ready for the transformation, you’re ready to start the process of restoring the color. Make sure your rag is soaked with stain, and work it the wood using circular motions, like you’re waxing a car. Use a clean rag to remove the excess stain. When it’s done and dry, you’re ready to seal and protect your handiwork.
Step 6: Apply a Coat of Finish
This step will vary depending on the finish, so read the labels carefully and be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. As a general rule, more and thinner coats are better than one very thick one. A little patience will go a long way on this step. Allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before you begin using or handling the piece.
Preserving & Maintaining Your Wood Furniture
You’ll want to show off and preserve your project, of course. Wood furniture is tough and long-lasting when properly cared for. Keep that gorgeous finish by cleaning with a soft cloth, and avoiding spills. We carry some excellent products for maintaining your fine furniture, and are happy to make recommendations.
How Can We Help?
Vancouver Woodworks is here to help with creating the home of your dreams and any and all things wood furniture.
Our family-owned business has been selling solid wood furniture since 1989! We know all about the best in furniture, are happy to share our knowledge, and are committed to helping you find the perfect pieces for your home.
Or get in contact by giving us a call: (360) 696-8590