Have you ever seen a piece of old furniture and thought that it would look perfect in your house — if only it were a different color? Or if you could possibly make all that old varnish disappear? Maybe you stumbled upon a gorgeous hutch or the perfect living room table, but it was so scratched with “character” that you thought it would never work.
The happy news is that hope for old furniture does exist. With some paint thinner, a little bit of elbow grease and a touch of imagination, you can transform that old bench, chair or headboard into something spectacular.
Time takes time
Before you begin on your refinishing adventure, think long and hard about whether you have the time and energy to devote to the project. Though refinishing furniture might seem exciting, it really is a time-consuming process that can take away a few weekends of your time. The last thing you want to do is jump into a project that is then left half-done because you underestimated the time it would take!
Steps to take before you break out the varnish
If you have a few free weekends to devote to the project and you have fallen in love with that unique piece of furniture, then it’s time to get started. Begin with a thorough inspection of your piece. Do some research on it. This is necessary for two reasons: first, you might have stumbled upon a very valuable piece of furniture that could be worth even more money if it is not refinished. Second, you might want to figure out what the piece originally looked like — especially if you prefer to restore the piece to its most natural look.
Once you know the history of your piece and you’ve decided to refinish it, these tips can help you go from “junk” to “jewel.”
Refinishing furniture step by step
If you must take the furniture apart to refinish it, take pictures from every angle and label every piece, especially the hardware. This will be an important guide when it comes time to put it all back together.Choose the proper chemicals and tools for your project.
You might want to strip the wood, but consider: how many coats of paint or varnish does it have? Will you need a simple paint thinner or something more caustic? Are you going to need sheets of sandpaper, or will you need a power sander? If you’re not sure, consult an expert to get a list of what you will need to handle the job yourself.
Give the furniture a very thorough scrub with warm water and a good soap. A layer of dust and grime is inevitable with very old pieces of furniture, and this initial cleaning can make your project much easier. Do all your work in a well-ventilated area. The last thing you want is feeling lightheaded from breathing in those fumes! You might also be creating sawdust, or sending grime flying everywhere. An open area, such as a garage or carport, is perfect for this.
Don’t feel rushed
Take your time. Whether you are stripping ten layers of paint or simply sanding the furniture down a bit, this is a job that can’t be rushed. If you want your new (old) furniture to look beautiful for years to come, take a few extra hours now.
Finally, don’t hesitate to go to the pros if necessary. You might find that your furniture needs some serious repair or refinishing that you can’t handle on your own; if that’s the case, then a professional refinisher can help you decide whether the piece is worth the cost.