Beginners Guide to Refinishing Furniture

April 6, 2023

Refinishing or putting furniture together can be a hassle, especially when you can't find the correct tools to use. Refinishing furniture can be a great way to give the old furniture new life and make the area look better. In times of these delayed supplies, choosing to refinish rather than buy new is undoubtedly the best approach.

Are you hoping to revive some of the old pieces from your grandparents? Depending on what you want to bring back, you will follow a few common steps for a complete refinish.

How to Refinish Furniture

Clean the Furniture Thoroughly

Especially if they are older pieces of furniture, there is a good chance there is some dirt and grime on them. So you will need first to clean it, making sure it is perfect.

Use dish soap, warm water, and a rag or cloth to clean your furniture. Give it a good scrubbing, rinse the soap off, and dry the furniture thoroughly with a towel. Avoid paper towels; they leave little paper remnants behind, which will show through later.

Strip the Wood

If the furniture has any existing stain or paint you want to be removed, your next step is to remove it. To remove the old paint or stain, you must ensure you are in a well-ventilated area wearing rubber gloves and protective eyewear; then, apply a chemical stripper to the entire surface. Let the chemical stripper sit for about 20 minutes before removing it.

If the chemical stripper is wash-away, you need to rinse it off after waiting. You can move straight to sanding if it's not the clean-up type.

Sand It all Down

Your next step is to sand the surface and ensure the new paint or stain applies evenly throughout the entire piece of furniture. You can use block sanders or fine-grit sandpaper for small pieces of furniture, but for the more oversized furniture, you may want to invest in an electric sander to save energy and time. You can find every tool you need at Home Depot, your local pawn shops, or Lowes. Pawn shops are definitely cheaper, but at Home Depot and Lowes, you will get a few more options (and double the price). By buying tools from either one of these places, you may be able to find furniture and get two birds with one stone.

Make sure that no matter what type of sander you use, you are sanding in the same direction as the grain. It needs to reach a uniform smoothness across the entire piece. After sanding, wipe it down to remove any dust or wood particles.

Seal the Wood

Next, use a paintbrush to apply a sanding sealant to the entire piece. It will help prevent your furniture from absorbing any excess stain and unwanted shifts in color. It will help the stain look more even. Don't move on any further until the sealant is completely dry.

Apply the Paint or Stain

Now it's time to stain or paint the furniture. There are many options to choose from, including oil-based stains, gel stains, and water-based stains. If you don't know which stain would work best for your wood, ask a pro at your local hardware store.

Then follow the directions on your specific stain or paint when applying it to the furniture. After applying the first coat and seeing how it looks, you may want to consider doing more coats to get the look you want.

Finish Piece

Finally, once the 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 pick from and consider, so make sure you speak with a pro to get the best for your project.


If you're considering refinishing an antique or high-value item, you might want to consider whether it is worth it. If you want to do it, make sure you don't screw up and do anything wrong. To prevent that, you can speak with a pro who will point you in a safe direction. Some antique woods often require special treatment and care, especially if you want to keep that historic look.


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