Refinishing furniture takes work and a lot of attention to details. Your main goal here is to make sure you don’t ruin your piece of furniture and make all the necessary groundwork before you start. The whole process won’t be quick, but if you make it right, the result will genuinely surprise you and make you happy.
We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide for those who want to refinish their furniture and add an exclusive piece of furniture to their interior.
Make sure you save this tutorial and at least try to make some of your old furniture pieces more stylish, exclusive, and charming. Then you’ll have a limited edition chair, table or sofa. Isn’t it exciting? Let’s start!
Shop for the required supplies beforehand
When we say ‘groundwork,’ we actually mean that you have to do some preparations before you start. This includes buying everything you may need: tools, oils, and other kinds of supplies.
You can find them in your local shops or on Amazon and other online shops. Thankfully, nowadays it’s quite easy to find the needed supplies for the furniture refinishing. When you shop locally, you can also take some advice from the seller, and it’s also handy.
Here’s what we’ll need to start:
- Cleaning spray, paper towels, and just a regular cotton towel
- Sandpapers of different sizing
- Automated or manual sander
- Tack clothing (make sure it’s clean and dry)
- Primer, paint, and stain
This is your ‘Refinishing 101’; you won’t be able to make it right without these supplies, so make sure you get everything beforehand. Have you got those?
Read the instructions first and follow the safety tips
Now you’ve got all the tools and supplies on the table. We understand how seductive it is to roll your sleeves and get your hands dirty. However, it’s not quite time yet. First of all, you’ve got to read the instructions that those tools (like mechanical sander) may have. You should know how to use the tools to avoid rookie mistakes.
Safety tips can be found in those manuals as well, but we also recommend you browsing the internet to find out how to avoid cuts and scratches while working with wood. It may sound simple and obvious, yet it needs to be done.
Determine what kind of furniture you deal with
Now you have the fundamentals, and it’s time to get to real work. Let’s see the piece of furniture you’ve got there. What kind of furniture is it?
Is it a vintage luxurious chair that you’re trying to restore? Or is it just an old table that has the old oil scratched and you want to make it look like new? These two cases will need two different approaches.
Old and luxury furniture will obviously require you to be super-careful and pay a lot of attention to details of the old finish. Sometimes it’s even better to try and find the paint or oil that will match the original one in this case.
If you’re just trying to change the finish or restore the regular chair/table/etc., you can easily clean it without the need to save the old furniture finish.
Prepare the surface: clean, clean and clean again
Did we just say ‘clean’? Yeah, it’s time to start the cleaning. Basically, the cleaning process is the key to successful furniture restoration and refinishing.
When we clean the furniture — we not just peel off the old finish, we return the chair’s look to its original look before the first finish was applied. Cleaning will allow the new paint or oil to fit in.
So cleaning is crucial. Use your sander and sanding papers of all kinds to clean everything that needs to be cleaned off your furniture unit. Here is a quick cleaning checklist that you should follow:
- First goes the sanding tool that helps you peel off the most significant parts of the old finish
- Then you start cleaning with the sanding paper with the biggest grain
- Then you go from the biggest grain to the less grainy one
- Continue reducing the grain until you see a clean and smooth surface
Strip the first finish
Also, you can use the stripper to remove the old finish. The aerosol strip that you can easily apply to your furniture will help you deal with the first layer of old finish in an hour or so.
So you apply the strip, wait for 30-60 minutes, and start cleaning the surface. You’ll see how the paint or oil will go off. This can also be used before the sanding as the first step of cleaning. You can use just stripping without the sanding as well.
It actually all depends on how old the finish is and how far you’re ready to go with the cleaning operation.
Buff the imperfections and restore your furniture if needed
Sometimes you decide to apply the new finish when it’s actually time to fix your furniture as well. This means that you see different deep scratches, cuts, and imperfections in your table or sofa, and you want to make it look as new again.
Then you’ll have to start applying the new finish only after you deal with those imperfections. But what can you actually do to deal with those?
The best thing that you can do nowadays is to buy the wood filler and fill in those scratches and bumps with it. Once you apply your new finish, you won’t even see the real difference between the new table and the one you’ve used the wood filler on.
Apply some sealant to prepare the surface
Before you apply the paint or stain, you’ve got to prepare the surface. Right now you’ve got a super smooth wooden surface, and you can help you paint stick faster to it.
To do that you’ve got to apply the special sealant that you can buy in the furniture repair stores or online as well. This sealant is usually transparent and doesn’t affect the look of your furniture at all. You just apply it to make the surface more sticky before you start applying the new finish.
Apply the finish to your liking
Choose the finish you like among the different paints, lacquers, and ols and apply it to your furniture piece. Once you’ve finished the refinishing, you’ve got to wait and not rush it. Make sure the paint has dried out before you start using the furniture again.
Common mistakes while refinishing the wood furniture
- Not Heeding Safety Precautions
Not paying your attention to the safety tips from the tools manufacturer and general rules may result in real problems and medical issues. You’ve got to make sure that you know how to use your tools and work with the supplies you’ve got. Don’t forget that finishes usually are toxic and you shouldn’t work too long with them without the special mask.
- Not Cleaning the Surface
If you neglect the process of cleaning and skip this step, you’ll get yourself a piece of furniture with the super-bad finish. The old paint will conflict with the new one, the fresh paint or oil will be applied only in some spots, and you’ll simply ruin your furniture.
- Failing to Strip Completely
The same goes for stripping. If you decided to clean your surface with chemical strip, you’ve got to make sure the process is complete before you apply the new finish. Also, don’t forget to apply the sealant after that.
- Not Waiting Long Enough
As we’ve already said, you shouldn’t rush it. Make sure your furniture has dried out and is ready to be used before you sit on it or place something on it. It’s too risky to ruin the entire refinishing process and start it again.
- Failing to make necessary repairs
Once you’ve cleared your furniture piece, you’ve got to review it and make sure you don’t miss the cuts and scratches it may have. The imperfections should be fixed before you apply the sealant, not before you apply the new finish. This is a crucial step that you cannot skip if you aim for a perfect result.
- Not sanding properly
Sanding is like a breakfast that everyone gotta have to have a perfect day and have enough energy to sustain the working condition throughout it. There is no way to apply the new finish without the proper sanding. We’ve mentioned all the supplies that you may need for sanding, make sure you don’t skip that step and work really hard to sand your table or chair before continuing. Take your time and make it perfect.
- Applying too thick a coat
If you apply too thick a coat, you’ll get yourself an uneven surface that will not just look weird but will also be uncomfortable to sit on or simply use.
In case you’ve decided to apply a few layers of new finish, you’ve got to give it some time for the first layer to dry out and only then start applying the next one.