A Beginner’s Guide to Refinishing Furniture 

how to refinish furniture

Refinishing can be a great way to give old furniture new life — not to mention spruce up your property in the process.

Thankfully, it’s a pretty easy task to DIY, too.

You just need a handful of supplies and the paint or stain you want to use. The rest is a matter of good old elbow grease (not to mention a little time out of your busy schedule).

Are you looking to revive an older piece of wood furniture? Want to know how to refinish a table, chair, or other treasured piece you’re not ready to replace just yet? This beginner’s guide can help.

Refinishing furniture: Getting started

Finishing wood furniture requires a little setup first. To start, gather your supplies. You’ll need dish soap, a few rags, a towel, paintbrushes, paint stripper, sealant, and something to sand the furniture with. If you have a power sander, this will make your job easiest — especially if you’re working on a larger piece of furniture. If not, sandpaper or a handheld sanding block can work, too.

Here’s a full list of what you should have on-hand:

  • Several rags (ones you don’t mind getting messy)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint stripper
  • Sealant
  • Bucket
  • Dish soap
  • Sanding tool or block
  • Varnish
  • Tarp
  • Protective eyewear
  • Rubber gloves
  • Your preferred paint or stain for the final product

Varnish is optional, but it’s a good idea if you want your finished piece to have long-term staying power.

How to refinish furniture

Once you have all of the materials together, clear some space in your garage or yard and lay down your tarp. Place the furniture you’ll be refinishing on top, and get ready to get to work. (Make sure you’re in comfortable, flexible clothes you don’t mind staining or sweating in, too.)

Then, follow these steps.

1. Clean the furniture thoroughly.

If it’s an older piece of furniture, there’s a good chance it’s built up some dust, dirt, and grime. So before going any further, you’ll need to clean the piece thoroughly.

Dish soap, warm water, and a cloth rag work fine here. Give all the visible wood a good scrubbing, rinse the soap off, and dry thoroughly with a towel. (Make sure to avoid paper towels here, as these can leave paper remnants behind).

2. Strip the wood.

If the furniture has an existing stain, finish, or paint color you want removed, your next step is to remove it. To do this, apply a chemical stripper over the entire surface. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area and while wearing rubber gloves and protective eyewear. Then, let the stripper sit for about 20 minutes.

If your stripping liquid is the wash-away kind, you’ll need to rinse it off before moving onto the next step. If it’s the no clean-up type, you can move right into sanding.

3. Sand it down.

Next, you’ll need to sand the entire surface of the piece to ensure your new paint or stain applies evenly. Fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block is a good option on smaller items, but if you’re working on a larger piece, you may want to invest in a power sander to save some time and energy.

Make sure to sand in the same direction as the grain, and try to achieve a uniform smoothness across the entire piece. Once you’re done, you’ll need to wipe the piece down to remove any remaining dust or wood particles.

4. Seal the wood.

After you’ve sanded the furniture, use a paintbrush to apply a sanding sealant to the entire piece. This will keep your furniture from absorbing too much stain and turning an unwanted color. It can also help your stain look more even.

Then, apply your sealant heavily with a paintbrush, and make sure it’s completely dry before moving onto the next step.

5. Apply your paint or stain.

Finally, it’s time to stain or paint your furniture. There are many options here, including gel stains, oil-based stains, and water-based stains. If you’re not sure which is best for the type of wood you’re working with — or what you’re going for aesthetically — you may want to consult a pro at your local hardware store. They should be able to point you in the right direction.

Follow the directions on your specific stain or paint when applying, and follow any post-application instructions, too. (For example, gel stains will need to be wiped off afterward). You may also need to apply multiple coats depending on the final look you’re going for.

6. Finish your piece

Once your paint or stain is dry, you can apply a varnish to finish the look and give it that nice shine. Again, there are many options here, so make sure to consult a pro if you’re not sure which one is best for your project.

A note of warning when it comes to refinishing furniture

If you’re considering refinishing an antique or high-value item, you might want to consult a professional restoration company first. Antique woods often require special treatment and care — especially if you want to retain the historic look of the piece. Always consult a pro before DIYing work on something that has historic or sentimental value just to be safe.

On a home improvement kick?

Is refinishing that old table just one of the many home improvements you’re tackling right now? Need resources to buy supplies or call in a contractor? A cash-out refinance may be able to help. Get in touch with Embrace Home Loans to discuss your options.

Share this:
By Aly Yale / August 23rd, 2021 / Categories: / Tags: ,

Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at AlyJYale.com or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.