Good wood furniture can take a lot of wear and still look beautiful. It does require some maintenance, however, along with the right environmental conditions. Most importantly, it can last for hundreds of years. Many antique aficionados constantly look for good pieces for their DIY furniture refinishing projects.

There are several reasons to restore old furniture. First of all are the savings. If you find yourself with a hand-me-down antique, a little loving care can turn it into a valuable piece of history. Upcyclers look for beat-up old pieces on the cheap, knowing that restoration will pay off in the end.

It’s also better for the environment. Restoring a fine piece of solid wood furniture keeps it out of the landfill. It also reduces the need for manufacturing more furniture. These days, that means particleboard and MDF. And even though these materials use recycled wood byproducts, it still costs energy to make them. Furthermore, they can release harmful formaldehyde into your home from the adhesives used to keep all those wood chips together.

And most importantly, solid wood furniture, when loving used and treasured, is simply beautiful. Learning how to restore your furniture is one of the best things you can do for the environment and your home.

Does Your Piece Really Need Furniture Restoration?

Sometimes, a good piece of solid wood furniture doesn’t require a complete restoration. You can often rejuvenate an old piece of wood furniture by cleaning and waxing it. For antiques, it’s often a bad idea to remove the original finish. So, trying a restorative oil may be the best first step in DIY furniture refinishing. There are a number of products that can bring new life back to old pieces.

Howard Restor-A-Finish

Howard Restor-A-Finish removes heat rings and water marks while blending out scratches. It’s a mixture of wood conditioning oils and stains. In addition, it comes in several colors from dark to light for all types of wood.

Briwax Furniture Wax

Available in a range of light to dark shades, Briwax diminishes scratches without stripping. It conditions the wood and prevents further damage, while leaving a glossy, protective sheen.

Rustoleum Rejuvenating Oil

This Satin Wax cleans and renews in one easy step. It removes greases and stains, while providing moisture to the wood. This product doesn’t contain any stains or colorants, so it can be used on all your wood furniture.

Is Your Furniture Worth Refinishing

Aside from sentimental and aesthetic value, some pieces are better candidates for DIY furniture refinishing than others. In some cases, it may cost more to restore than it’s worth. Here are a few things to check before making a decision:

How good/bad is the condition of the wood?

Pieces with excessive water damage and warping may not be recoverable. Take a look at a protected corner of the wood, where it isn’t stained. This may be at the bottom or inside a drawer. Look for warping or mildew stains.

2. Do any parts need to be glued or nailed back in place?

Check if the piece is rickety and falling apart. Test drawers, and sit on chairs. You may need to take it apart and re-glue it all together again. DIY furniture refinishing might not be enough. If you don’t have the skills, tools, or patience, you may need a professional.

3. Has it been painted?

Paint can hide a lot of damage, which is exactly why the previous owner painted it. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth your time. You’ll have to strip it completely, unless you’re planning to paint it again. You may need to take it to a professional for a spell in the dip tank to get that beautiful wood look back.

4. How complicated and ornate is the piece?

Ornately carved pieces can be difficult to strip completely. Slats in chairs can be hard to reach if they’re set too close together. Furniture made from a variety of different woods might be difficult to stain to a uniform color. DIY furniture refinishing might not be enough for deeply carved pieces, and again, a professional with a dip tank may be necessary.

Despite the downfalls and obstacles, however, DIY furniture refinishing can be both fun and satisfying.

Furniture Refinishing Basics

There are a few basic steps to refinishing an old piece of furniture. The first is to find the space. You’ll need a well-ventilated area for DIY furniture refinishing, with plenty of room to work. You’ll need a room with low humidity and somewhat stable temperature, with room for a drop cloth.

The next thing is to gather your materials. The first thing you’ll need is protective gear.

  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
  • Dust mask

Then you’ll need your tools and supplies:

  • Chemical stripper (gel, spray, or liquid)
  • Putty knife
  • Steel wool
  • Sandpaper/ Palm Sander/ Sanding block
  • Wood filler
  • Rag or old paint brush
  • Rags/ cloths
  • Stain
  • Paintbrush or staining pad
  • Clear coat or finishing oil

Step 1: Remove the old finish

This is the messiest part of DIY furniture refinishing. There are a number of chemical strippers available from your local home improvement store. Read the labels carefully to determine which product is best for your application. Thicker formulas, such as gels, are usually easier to work with. Additionally, you can get spray stripper to get into tight areas.

  1. Remove all hardware possibly, including drawer pulls and hinges.
  2. Put on gloves, mask, and goggle to protect against contact with stripper and inhaling noxious fumes
  3. Follow the directions for applying the stripper. They will recommend a waiting time for the product to work.
  4. Once the stripper has dissolved the old finish, use the putty knife to scrape it off the furniture.
  5. Wipe the knife off with a rag with each stroke.
  6. Use steel wool to remove tough patches of remaining paint or stain.

Step 2: Sanding

You’ll need to sand the piece before re-staining. This removes any lingering finish and prepares the surface of the wood for fresh stain. It also removes any nicks or dents. Remember to sand with the grain of the wood for best results.

  1. Don gloves, a dust mask, and goggle to protect against sand and sawdust.
  2. Use the palm sander first at 80-150 grit to get rid of the rest of the finish and remove any nicks or scratches.
  3. Once you’re down to bare wood, use a finer grit 150-200 to smooch the wood and
  4. You can use the sanding block or just the sandpaper to remove the rest of the old finish.

Step 3: Filling

You can use wood filler for deep dents and nicks in the surface of the furniture.

  1. Choose a pigment for the wood filler that closely matches your wood.
  2. Apply wood filler with a rag and remove excess with the putty knife.
  3. Sand the with the fine sandpaper to level the surface. Remember to sand with the grain.

Step 4: Staining the Wood

Even if you don’t know how to stain wood, it’s pretty easy if you have patience. That’s the most important part, along with choosing the right stain. You’ll need to use several thin coats, evenly applied, rather than trying to do it all in one step. Choose from water or oil based stains. There are gel stains that are easier to apply and tend to run less. You can also get products that stain and finish in one step.

  1. Put on gloves to protect your hands from the stain. Use a mask to protect against fumes in oil-based stains.
  2. Using a paint brush or staining pad, apply an even coat of stain.
  3. Wipe off any excess with a clean cloth along the grain of the wood
  4. Apply additional coats as necessary, wiping away all excess.

Step 5: Finishing

If you didn’t use a one-step stain and sealant in Step 4, you’ll need to apply either an oil finish to condition the wood or a polyurethane clear coat to protect it.

  1. Put on gloves and mask to protect your hands and avoid fumes in oil-based clear coats.
  2. Provide your first coat of sealer in a thin layer.
  3. Allow the piece to dry completely.
  4. Sand the piece with 200-grit sandpaper to smooth any imperfections and help the next coat go on smoother.
  5. Apply the second layer.
  6. Allow thorough drying .
  7. While waiting, clean and polish up the hardware.
  8. Affix the drawer pulls and other hardware.

By this time, you should have a gorgeous piece of furniture, ready to add style to your home for another century. Best of all, DIY furniture refinishing is fun. It’s satisfying to be the force behind the restoration of heirloom table or chair. Furniture refinishing is a simple, earth-friendly way to make your home more beautiful, while reducing waste and preserving our history.

Featured Image CC by 0, by Activedia via Pixabay

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