Refinishing Furniture: A Guide for Beginners

Refinishing Furniture: A Guide for Beginners

Refinishing furniture can be a great way to give old furniture new life and spruce up your property at the same time.

In times of delayed supplies, choosing to take the refinishing approach instead of buying a brand new item is also one helpful alternative to waiting for fresh stock to arrive.

And it’s even a pretty easy task to DIY.

You just need a handful of supplies and the paint or stain you want to use. The rest is a matter of old fashioned elbow grease (plus some time out of your busy schedule).

Are you hoping 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: How to get started

Finishing wood furniture requires a bit of 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 complete list of what you should have at the ready:

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

All set to go? Just 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 first things first, 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 the furniture 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 to 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 have to rinse it off before you progress to the next step. If it’s a no clean-up type, feel free to move right into sanding.

3. Sand it down.

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

Sand in the same direction as the grain, and try to reach a uniform smoothness across the entire piece. Once you’re done, wipe the piece down to remove any lingering 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 excess stain and prevent unwanted shifts in the final color. It can also help your stain look more even.

Next, apply your sealant heavily with a paintbrush, and allow it to completely dry before moving on to the next step.

5. Apply your paint or stain.

Finally, it’s time to stain or paint your furniture. There are many options to choose from, 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 for the aesthetic you’re looking for — you may want to consult a pro at your local hardware store. They can help point you in the right direction.

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

6. Finish your piece.

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

A note of caution when it comes to refinishing furniture

If you’re thinking about refinishing an antique or high-value item, you might want to first consult a professional restoration company before you get started. Antique woods can often require special treatment and care — especially if you want to retain the historic look of the piece. Always consult a pro before taking the DIY approach on something that has historic or sentimental value just to play it safe.

On a home improvement kick? You have options.

Is refinishing that old table just one of the many projects you’re tackling around the house right now? Need resources to buy supplies or call in a contractor? A cash-out refinance may be able to help. 

If you’re weighing a larger scale home improvement effort, Embrace has a variety of renovation loans to consider, including the FHA Full 203(k), the FHA Limited 203(k), and Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle renovation loan. These financing options allow borrowers facing the tighter inventory of today’s real estate market to achieve their dream vision of home without worrying about buying a brand new house. 

Depending on the loan that suits your needs, improvements can range from minor updates to more involved remodeling and renovations, including bringing severely damaged or neglected properties up to habitable, insurable standards. 

Get in touch with Embrace Home Loans to discuss your options.

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