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DIY Guide: An 8 Step Guide On Refinishing Furniture at Home

Giving old furniture a new lease on life through refinishing can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to transform your living space. Whether you're revamping a thrift store find or updating a piece you've had for years, refinishing allows you to customize and modernize furniture to fit your style. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started on this satisfying DIY project:

Step 1: Assess the Furniture

Begin by evaluating the condition of the furniture. Look for scratches, dents, or old finish that needs to be removed. Decide if the piece needs repairs such as tightening loose joints or replacing hardware. This initial assessment is an important part of guiding your refinishing strategy.

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies

To refinish furniture, you'll need the following tools and materials:

  • Safety Gear: Gloves, safety goggles, and a mask for protection.

  • Stripping Agent: Chemical stripper or sandpaper for removing old finish.

  • Sandpaper: Various grits (coarse to fine) for sanding surfaces.

  • Wood Filler: For repairing any holes or imperfections.

  • Stain or Paint: Depending on your desired finish.

  • Finish: Polyurethane, lacquer, or oil as a topcoat.

  • Paintbrushes, Rags, and Stirring Sticks: For applying stripper, stain, or finish.

Step 3: Prepare Your Workspace

Choose a well-ventilated area such as a garage or outdoor space to work in. Lay down a drop cloth or newspapers to protect the floor. Ensure there's enough room to maneuver around the furniture and set up your tools.

Step 4: Remove the Old Finish

If the old finish is varnish or polyurethane, use a chemical stripper following the manufacturer's instructions. Apply it evenly with a brush, wait for it to bubble, then scrape it off with a putty knife. Once stripped, wash the piece down with water, making sure to dry off any standing water. Lastly, sand the entire piece with progressively finer grits of sandpaper until smooth. We like 120, 150, and 180 grit.

Step 5: Repair and Prep

Fill any cracks or holes with wood filler, sanding smooth once dry. Wipe down the furniture with a tack cloth to remove dust.

Step 6: Apply Stain or Paint

If you want to stain the wood, choose a stain that complements your decor. Apply evenly with a brush or rag, following the grain of the wood. Remember “wipe on, wipe off.”  For painting, use a primer if needed, then apply thin coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry completely.

Step 7: Apply Finish

Once the stain or paint is dry, apply a clear finish to protect the surface. Polyurethane provides a durable clear coat, while oil offers a more natural look. Apply multiple thin coats, sanding lightly between coats for a smooth finish.

Step 8: Reassemble and Enjoy

After allowing ample drying time, reattach any hardware and assemble the furniture if it was disassembled. Place your revamped piece in its new spot and admire your handiwork!

Tips for Success:

  • Take your Time: Rushing can lead to mistakes. Allow each step to dry and cure properly.

  • Follow Manufacturers Directions: Be sure to read the label of each product you use and follow the instructions carefully.

  • Protect Yourself: Wear appropriate safety gear, especially when working with chemicals and sanding.

  • Experiment: Test finishes and techniques on a small area before committing to the entire piece.

  • Clean Up: Dispose of chemicals properly and clean your tools immediately after use.

Refinishing furniture is not only a sustainable way to redecorate but also allows you to create unique pieces that reflect your personal style. With patience and attention to detail, you can breathe new life into old furniture and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your supplies, and get ready to transform your space—one piece of furniture at a time!


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