A person putting wax on wood.

10 Steps to Help You Refinish Furniture

How to Refinish Furniture

If the last year has taught us anything, it is that the space we inhabit daily should be one that visually pleases us. The furniture in your house serves both a practical purpose and a very important aesthetic one, so we are going to teach you how to refinish furniture.

You might own a sentimental piece of furniture that was handed down to you but has seen many years of neglect. Maybe you bought an item at a second-hand store for a bargain that needs some TLC. Whatever the case may be, if you are planning on finding out how to refinish furniture, there are a few things you need to know.

What to Expect

When learning how to refinish furniture, the first step is to determine what kind of material your furniture is made of. Older furniture is often made of solid wood. More recently, manufactured wood furniture could be made of a laminate material or particleboard, which doesn’t always require refinishing.

When you have a piece of wooden furniture that has been painted over, your first course of action will be to remove the paint. Remember that when an unpainted antique piece of furniture is refinished, it will come out darker than its original color.

Take note that a DIY refinishing project requires a lot of effort. Depending on the state of the piece, you have the option of reviving it with a good clean and wax. You can also repair and touch up certain areas and cracks selectively. Going the whole refinishing route will require stripping the existing and old finish, sanding the entire piece, and refinishing it.

What You Will Need

So, you have decided to go ahead and take on the project, and now you need to equip yourself on how to refinish furniture. Make sure you have the following items ready before starting the process:

Supplies list:

  • Cleaning supplies such as dish soap, a sponge, and a towel to dry
  • Paint stripper
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Epoxy putty (if there are any cracks to fill up)
  • Wood sealant or varnish
  • Wood stain or paint (optional)
  • Wood finish or varnish
  • Wax coating

Equipment and tools:

  • Sander and sandpaper (it is best to have a variation of grits available)
  • Paint scraper (to gently remove the stripped paint)
  • Protective eyewear
  • Protective gloves (for when you are working with chemicals)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Clean cloths or rags
  • Small wire-bristle brush

Refinishing in 10 Easy Steps

The same process will apply whether your chosen piece of furniture is a table, dresser, or chair.

Prepare the Area

Since you will be working with chemicals, ensure that you work in a well-ventilated area and wear protective eyewear, face masks, and gloves. Place your furniture on a leak-proof drop cloth.

Working in a well-lit space will help you identify any imperfections or missed spots when refinishing. It is also important to keep your surroundings clean and dust-free so that the dust particles do not end up sticking to the stains and coats. Remove any removable non-wood hardware such as knobs and handles before you start.

Be sure to leave enough drying time in between each step.

Step 1

Clean your piece of furniture with dish soap. This is especially important for items that have been left in storage and have a buildup of dust and dirt. The surface might even feel sticky to the touch. Use a sponge with dish soap and warm water to gently clean all surfaces and then pat dry with a towel.

Step 2

Use a chemical stripper to remove old finishing or paint. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product. The old finish or paint will start to bubble and crack. Allow it to sit for the recommended time.

Step 3

Use the paint scraper to remove the stripped paint. For detailed woodwork, use the wire-bristle brush to get into crevices.

Step 4

Wipe down the wood with a lacquer thinner to remove any residue and let it dry for about 15 minutes.

Step 5

Sand down the piece — starting with the coarsest sandpaper and working down to the finest grit. Be sure to wipe down the whole piece between sanding.

Step 6 (Optional)

Inspect the piece for any imperfections or cracks that you might want to fill with epoxy putty.

Step 7

Apply a thick layer of sealant and allow it to soak into the wood. Sealants protect the wood and create an effective base for the wood stain or paint that might follow. Allow it to dry completely.

Step 8 (Optional)

If you are staining or painting your furniture, apply your selected option. Follow the product manufacturer instructions. Work in the direction of the grain and complete small areas at a time. Remember, the more layers of wood stain you apply, the darker the final look will be.

Step 9

Apply a finishing coat to the whole piece — either a varnish or oil finish. Oil finishes are recommended for items like chairs and dressers since they don’t need too much surface protection. For tables, decks, and other surfaces that are prone to wear and tear, you can use polyurethane or wipe-on varnish.

Step 10

Lastly, cover your piece of furniture with a wax coating to give it that extra shine and protection from scratches.

Now that you have given your furniture a new lease on life, you can sit back and enjoy looking at your handy work. Remember to regularly dust and clean to preserve it for many more years to come.