I know what you’re thinking. “So the guys selling a refinishing service are going to tell me if I should refinish or buy new? They won’t hold a biased opinion…..” And to that I say; guilty as charged… We are biased! But we also try to be as open and honest as possible when we are asked this question. And we do have a few thoughts on
when you SHOULD NOT have a piece refinished, vs when you SHOULD.
First, refinishing is a labor intensive and time consuming process. We occasionally have folks call in to request pricing only to find out that it is going to cost far more than they expected. Sometimes it can cost even more than the piece is worth on the second hand market. To these folks we would say that unless the piece has personal or sentimental value to you, you are often better off buying a new piece. Mass market furniture manufacturers are able to sell furniture for low prices due to economies of scale. This is why it is always cheaper to buy a piece from one of those large online retailers than a small local shop. This also means that if you purchased furniture from a discount furniture store, or even second hand on Facebook or Craigslist, it is going to be harder to justify refinishing over buying new as refinishing is often more expensive. There are occasional exceptions in the second hand market, especially if you are able to find something really exciting and rare, however you still may not necessarily be saving money by refinishing.
However, if you purchased a higher end or more expensive piece of furniture up front, it is often cheaper to have it refinished than trying to buy a new piece of the same quality. Refinishing can save you money, and if you hire a good refinisher, your piece of furniture can end up restored to like-new condition. You can also have your piece customized to be completely unique from everyone else. If you bought something a little nicer up front you will likely be more satisfied with a refinish in the end.
The other thing to consider if you are looking into refinishing vs buying new is what kind of quality piece are you looking to buy. Folks often don’t expect to hear that if they purchased a Theodore Alexander table in 1999 for a few thousand dollars, that it may cost double what they paid to purchase a new piece of the same quality (thanks inflation). Even though refinishing may cost just as much as what they paid for the piece, they are still saving over purchasing new.
So there are times where you would want to consider buying new instead of refinishing. But refinishing is a great way to restore an heirloom, save some money on fixing a high quality piece, or give yourself an entirely custom look, unique to you. Hopefully this helps you make that decision!