How To Refinish Wood Furniture – Forbes Advisor – Forbes Advisor

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  • Working hours: 1 to 2 hours
  • Total time: 2 to 4 hours
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Project costs: $ 60 to $ 100

Refurbishing furniture can be a rewarding and engaging project that you can do yourself. Learning how to refinish wooden furniture like chairs, cabinets, and tables is an easy way to transform old furniture into your new style. All you need is sandpaper, cleaning rags, wooden spatula, and wood paint to bring dusty furniture back to life. The good news is you don’t have to be an expert in carpentry to paint antique furniture like new.

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When should wooden furniture be refurbished

Before peeling off the surface of wooden furniture, you need to decide whether it needs to be refinished at all. Sometimes a clear coat of wood care products is enough to revitalize it.

There are several signs that it is time to redesign wood furniture that you should look out for when considering a restoration project. How to recognize when it is time to recondition antique wood furniture:

  • Under the current finish there are noticeable rings and water marks that won’t go away with conditioners or wood cleaning products.
  • The surface feels sticky even after cleaning.
  • Even after cleaning, wear and blemishes can be seen.
  • The wood has changed its color, has mostly become darker and the clear lacquer has turned yellow.
  • The existing finish has broken through the wood and it is starting to peel or peel off.

Security aspects

Safety considerations are critical when you take on a project like furniture repair. Make sure to read the labels of any materials you intend to use, especially as you will be working with various chemicals that are hazardous to health and fire.

Always use safety glasses, dust masks and protective gloves to protect yourself. Choose a well-ventilated work area to avoid fire and inhalation of the chemical fumes. Finally, remember to keep all items out of the reach of children and pets to prevent them from coming into contact with dangerous substances.


  • safety goggles
  • spatula
  • Electric grinder
  • Sandpaper
  • Dust mask
  • working gloves
  • Cleaning cloths or microfiber cloths


  • Paint remover
  • Steel wool
  • Wood filler
  • Wood stain or paint
  • Furniture wax
  • Polyurethane
  • Wood oil


Follow these simple steps to learn how to refinish wooden furniture at home.

1. Clean the furniture

Every DIY repair project starts with basic cleaning. Use mild detergent, warm water, and a sponge to remove dirt or debris that has stuck to the furniture. Dry it thoroughly with a clean cleaning cloth or microfiber cloth.

2. Remove the finish

This is probably the most time consuming part of finishing wood furniture. Remove old paint, varnish, or wood stains by sanding the entire piece. Another option is to use chemical paint strippers or paint strippers.

This method is probably the quickest and easiest method. If you choose chemical strippers, follow the instructions carefully, use rubber gloves and eye protection, and choose a room with good ventilation.

Most chemical strippers will need to be scraped off with a putty knife and steel wool to remove the entire surface. With some paint strippers, you may still need to sand the piece of wood to remove any remaining chemicals.

3. Prepare the wood

After peeling off the previous finish, let it dry. Now is the time to prepare the wood for the following steps. Start with 120 grit sandpaper to clean any remaining surfaces and smooth the wood. Then follow up with 200 grit sandpaper to smooth the surface. Highlight any rough spots, swirl marks, or other noticeable imperfections. Taking the time to do an excellent sanding job will make a world of difference when the piece is done.

4. Fill the cereal

Depending on the wood you are working with, you may or may not need to complete this step. Woods like oak and mahogany tend to have open grain that needs to be filled in if you want a smooth finish. You can find grain fillers as pigmented paste in different colors. Choose the one that is closest to your furniture. When changing the color of your wood furniture, choose one that comes closest to the finish you expected.

5. Color or paint the wood

Your wooden furniture is now ready for a new coat of paint or stain. Apply your selected stain or pain according to the directions on the paint. Let it dry completely before deciding whether or not to apply another layer.

Oil-based wood stains penetrate the wood without lifting the grain. These offer the most control as more layers can be used to darken the color. Water-based stains increase the grain of the wood but are easier to use. Another option is gel stains, which offer more control due to the thickness of the stain, but they require the wood to be polished between coats for a smooth finish.

6. Finish the furniture

The final step in reworking wooden furniture is to apply a wood decor. You can choose from wood oils, waxes, lacquers or polyurethanes. Polyurethane is one of the most popular options because it lasts the longest. Apply a thick coat of sealer to your furniture, let it soak into the wood for at least 30 minutes, and then wipe off any excess with a clean cloth.

If scratches or defects are still visible, a simple sanding over and further rubbing with wood oil on the affected area is sufficient.

When to Call a Pro

Most wood repair projects require beginner knowledge. However, sometimes one has to consider whether it is best to hire a professional. As you look at the one-off item to be restored, ask yourself the following questions to help you decide whether or not it is worth embarking on this restoration project:

  • Is that an antique? Pieces from the 1950s and 1960s are usually built from solid wood instead of laminate or chipboard. These materials are usually not worth reworking, but they can be very valuable. If you’re not sure, consider consulting an antique specialist before embarking on a repair project.
  • Is the part stable? Test the sturdiness of the part. When things need to be taken apart or re-glued, these may be steps that require professional supervision. This is particularly often the case if you want to refinish more complex wooden furniture such as chests of drawers or cupboards.
  • Do I have the right place? Finally, you need to know if you have space in your home to carry out the project. Since you will be working with chemicals and other substances, a well-ventilated room is key to fighting the fumes. When sanding, you can expect a lot of dust in the room, which can be dangerous without protection.

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Bottom line

Whether you’re upgrading a thrift store or refurbishing old furniture, this is a project to complete in the afternoon. In addition, learning how to repair wooden furniture will also help you preserve furniture for years to come. If you want to refurbish a piece of furniture in a special or difficult way, do not hesitate to contact a general contractor.

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