How to Refinish Furniture

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refinish furniture

Refinishing furniture is an excellent way to extend the life of your older furniture or update furniture to coordinate with the decor of your home. There are many options for refinishing furniture from re-upholstering fabric chairs to painting and re-staining wooden furniture. The best methods of refinishing furniture take into account the type of furniture, the condition of the furniture and the long term plans for the piece.

Tip 1: Always work in a well ventilated area when working with chemicals or sanding.

Tip 2: Wear protective gloves and goggles when working with chemical strippers.

Tip 3: Do not leave chemical strippers on furniture for too long because they can damage wood.

For wooden furniture, you may be limited in your refinishing options if the condition of the bare wood is poor. Many times, you will not know the true condition of furniture until you have removed the outer layers of varnish, paint, stain or fabric. For upholstery-based furniture, it is best to recover in a similar type of material to maintain the shape and structure of your furniture. You may find that you need to replace cushions and other materials when you re-upholster furniture. Learn the basic steps for how to refinish furniture in this handy guide.

Step 1: Remove the Finish or External Covering

Wooden Furniture

If your furniture has paint, stain or varnish, get a wood stripper from your local home supply store. Opt for thicker solutions as they typically work better and are easier to work with.

In a well ventilated area, with a covered floor, apply the stripper liberally with an old cloth and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes per the instructions on the stripper.

With a metal putty knife, carefully removed the stripper and the paint or stain.

For thick paint, you may need to apply stripper several times to get to the bare wood.

For stain, you may need to use some steel wool to help remove stubborn or set in wood stains.

Upholstery Furniture

Determine if you can cover over the existing fabric, or if it needs to be removed. If you need to replace cushions, you will need to remove the fabric.

Take off the external covering. It is easier to start at an edge or seam at the bottom of the furniture.

Take out any internal cushioning that needs to be replaced.

Step 2: Sand and Prepare the Furniture

Wooden Furniture

Sand your wooden furniture until you have a smooth finish and even color.

Apply denatured alcohol to the wood with an old cloth to help remove final bits of color and all sanding dust.

Upholstery Furniture

Remove all excess threads

Ensure the basic structure is stable and reinforce places with extra screws or nails where needed

Replace any underlying cushioning

Step 3: Apply the New Finish to Refinish Furniture

Wooden Furniture

Stain or paint the bare wooden furniture.

Apply additional coats until you have the finish and color you desire.

After it is completely dry, apply a polyurethane topcoat to make your furniture durable and resistant to water damage.

Upholstery Furniture

Cut the fabric to the shape of your furniture. It is better to cut it big and trim it later than to risk cutting it too small.

Replace the fabric by carefully using furniture staples to attach the fabric to the furniture frame.

Hide your staple lines with piping or an over layer of fabric for a finished look

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