How to Refinish and Restore Wood Furniture
- Do you have an antique or older piece of furniture that needs some work?
- Would you like to refinish that bargain piece you picked up at a yard sale?
- Do you need to remove that annoying white ring on your table?
- Are you planning to paint over your kitchen cabinets or an old dresser?
- Did someone have an accident that damaged the finish on a piece of your furniture?
- Do you want to restore the woodwork in your home?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, or have a similar project in mind, then you've come to the right place for help! It doesn't matter if this is your first project or if you've been doing this type of work for years, your participation is welcome. Newcomers can use the refinishing and restoration articles on the site for guidance, while veteran pros answer questions on the Q&A Forum.
Is there a Difference between Refinishing and Restoring?
If you restore an object, you return it to it's original or usable and functional condition. With wood furniture, this can include removing a failed or improper finish (e.g., paint) and replacing it with new finish appropriate to the age and use for the piece. Replacing the old finish with a new one is called refinishing. But restoration can include a whole lot more!
Restoration can include replacing missing or broken doors, drawers, feet, trim pieces, hardware, and any other part of the original piece. It can include all kinds of repairs including burn marks, cracks, splits, loose and damaged veneers, loose joints of every type, worn drawer slides, and every other conceivable kind of wear and tear that comes from use and abuse.
On the other end of the spectrum, restoration may simply consist of a thorough cleaning, minor touch-ups, applying a new coat of finish, and/or applying a coat of paste wax. For the purposes of this website, restoration is an all encompassing word that means "Whatever it takes to return the piece to it's original condition, or at least make it functional and pleasing to the owner (you)." Replacing the old finish (refinishing) is often just one of the steps in a restoration project.
What's Best... Refinishing or Touch-Ups?
Every project has a starting point. Restoring old and antique wood furniture, wood cabinetry, or architectural woodwork is no exception. The first step is always the same... evaluate the condition of your piece(s) and based on your findings map out a plan to achieve the results you want.
First, a word on value. If you don't know the age or history of the piece(s) you have, then don't do a thing to it until you find out. Though it's rare, once in a while folks will pull a prized collectible out of Grandma's attic or get a treasure for practically nothing at a yard sale or even an antique shop. These pieces are generally most valuable with the finish or paint that's on them, even if it doesn't look like it's in great condition.
With that word of caution, it's time to move on to the first step which will guide you in evaluating the condition of the item and developing a plan to correct the problems you want to fix. Click on the link to the article at the top left labeled "Repair vs. Refinish".