How to Refinish an Old Piece of Furniture
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Do you have old furniture lying around your house or in the attic? Thinking about taking it to the dump, putting it on the street, or having a garage sale? Before you throw that piece of furniture out, think about refinishing it and giving it a new life.
Numerous designers and artists are looking to old furniture to spice up homes in need of a design overhaul. Clients are feeling the pinch of the economy and are looking for ways to stretch their dollars. Furniture refinishing is a great way to save money and keep items out of landfills.
You can do this too, using what you already have. If you don’t have something to refinish but need a new piece of furniture; consider visiting a salvation store or driving by a yard sale to “up-cycle” someones cast off.
Tips and Hints
- Something is considered an antique if it is over 100 years old. Any less than that is called vintage.
- Be careful with refinishing antiques that may be worth something monetary wise. US made antiques will lose half of their value if refinished or repainted. European pieces will not.
- It’s great to start with solid wood, however almost any surface can be refinished these days. Just take care with sanding and the use of any cleaners or other chemicals.
- Piece of furniture to refinish
- Drop cloth to protect your floor
- Mild soap or cleaner and cloth or sponge
- Medium to fine grit sandpaper
- Face mask and goggles (or other eye protection)
- Paint stripper (depending on item to be refinished)
- Primer (depending on item to be refinished)
- New paint or stain
- Sealant or clear top coat
Start with cleaning the piece you wish to refinish. Plain mild soap and water will usually work as well as a damp cloth for surfaces that might be a little more delicate. After cleaning, allow the item to fully dry.
Most pieces need a light sanding. Make sure to wear a mask and check what type of material the piece is made of. (Some materials should not be sanded due to health reasons.) You may want to start with a medium grit sandpaper and then switch to a finer grit depending upon the item you are refinishing and what type of finish you plan on using. When you are finished sanding, use a dry or slightly damp cloth to remove any residue.
If painting a piece, it’s always a good idea to use a primer. Zinsser makes a great water based primer that sticks to just about any material. Some paints do not require a primer. Make sure to read the instructions.
If you intend to stain a piece of furniture, you’ll want to remove the old finish with a paint or stain remover. Do this step before any cleaning or sanding. Keep in mind that choosing not to paint over a piece is more time-consuming.
Repaint or stain your item and consider a clear top coat to seal. If you are particularly creative; consider using stamps, stencils, or decals before adding your top coat.