How can I Refinish Wooden Furniture?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Rather than throwing a piece of furniture out because it is in poor shape, you may want to consider refinishing it instead. It is relatively easy and low cost to refinish old or damaged furniture. Before you refinish furniture, make sure that it is not a valuable antique which could be damaged by your refinishing job. If you are refinishing for the first time, it is also a good idea to select a simple piece of furniture for you to experiment with before embarking on a large and complex project. There are three basic steps for a refinish: stripping, preparing, and applying the new finish.

To strip furniture, many people like to use a chemical finish remover. Sandpaper can be used, but it is important that only the top layer of finish be removed with sandpaper: you do not want to damage the actual grain of the wood. When using a chemical finish remover to refinish, apply it liberally and in sections from top to bottom. Follow the manufacturer's directions, which usually involve leaving the chemical on for approximately twenty minutes and then removing it with a scraping tool. Be careful not to gouge the wood with your tool while you remove the old finish. Remove remaining bits of finish with a buffing cloth.


After stripping the old finish off, you can prepare the furniture. If the furniture has been damaged, repair it before you refinish it. You can fill in dents in the furniture with putty, buff out scratches with sandpaper, and make sure that there are no protruding edges, nails, or screws that could potentially hurt people. If the furniture needs structural repairs, these should be undertaken at this time as well. Sand the surface of the furniture down so that it is even and smooth.

When the furniture is prepared, you can see the grain of the wood, and decide on the best way to refinish it. Many people like to stain wood darker, while others like to simply varnish it to bring out the natural glow of the wood and protect it. In some cases, you may wish to paint over the wood. This is the final step in refinishing a beautiful piece of furniture, so make sure that you take your time. Apply the refinish coats evenly and with care, making sure that there are no drips and bubbles.

When you refinish furniture, you can give it a new lease on life. Make sure that you undertake the process with care, using the correct tools and keeping your work area tidy and free of dust. It is not difficult to refinish furniture, and you may want to embark on the project with your children to introduce them to basic construction techniques and the proper way to handle potentially dangerous tools and chemicals.


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