DIY Surface Refinishing | Restoring Household Furnishings

Surface refinishing is an efficient and economical way to make your home look like new. Keep reading to find out when and how you should restore your wood furnishings to their original look and luster.

Photo by Zbysiu Rodak on Unsplash

To refinish or not to refinish?

No matter how gently you use your furniture, you’re bound to observe some form of wear and tear over time. Particularly with wood pieces, scratches, stains, and worn-down finishing can be difficult to hide, rendering those costly, one-of-a-kind furnishings something of an eyesore. This is where surface refinishing comes in. Below, we explore a few ways to tell if your wood furniture is worth refinishing.

How much wear and tear is visible?

If you’re not a professional, it’s safe to assume that you won’t achieve professional-level results from a furniture piece that’s been through the wringer. When assessing a piece, consider dents, scratches, and other damage that will be difficult to hide with varnish or paint. The less perceivable damage the furniture piece has, the better the end product will end up looking.

TIP If a piece seems like it’s in good condition, but it’s been painted, remove the paint and assess the piece again. Paint can effectively hide damage, so it can be difficult to tell what’s lurking beneath a heavy coat of paint until you remove it.

How high-quality is the construction?

Dovetail joints in a cabinet construction

Dovetail joints in a cabinet

When assessing the construction, look out for things such as mortise and tenon joints and dovetails. These indicate the furniture is well made and sturdy. You also shouldn’t see any visible glue or staples and the piece should be sturdy to the touch. Finally, you should keep in mind that quality furniture is generally made out of hardwood, such as oak, maple, mahogany, teak, walnut, cherry, and birch.

Sanding vs Chemical Stripping

Once you’ve established that a piece is worth refinishing, you’ll need to determine what method of refinishing will yield the best end result.


If your piece has a shiny, clean, or smooth, surface, your best bet is to sand the item. Regardless of whether you’re using a sander or sandpaper, you want to make sure you are sanding with the grain for best results. Once you’ve sanded the piece so it’s smooth, remove the dust before moving onto the varnishing step.

Chemical Stripping

If your piece has layers of old or chipped paint, it might become difficult to get to the wood underneath. In this case, your best bet is to use a chemical stripper. Make sure you read the warning label carefully to find out how the product is best used, whether the product is dangerous or corrosive, and what kinds of safety precautions are recommended. 

Furniture RefinishingBest Practices

  • The first step to a furniture refinishing project is to dust, wash, rinse, and dry your piece. To wash, you can use a simple mixture of dish soap and warm water. Make sure the item is completely dry before sanding or stripping it. 
  • A sealant should be applied to the wood after you’ve sanded and/or stripped it. This step is important because the sealant protects the wood and fills in any porous areas, effectively priming it for varnish or paint. You’ll need to sand the wood one more time after the sealant has dried completely.
  • The last step to a furniture refinishing project should be to apply a coat of wood finish. Finishes protect your furniture from damage and moisture and accentuate the look of your wood.

Using Vishion to Explore Wood Tones

With Vishion, you can find thousands of paint samples at the push of a button from brands like Sherwin-Williams and Pantone. Use the Vishion IOS app or our website to explore designs and decor by COLOR.

  • Upload an inspirational photo or type in a HEX color
  • Search for paint & wallcoverings 
  • Select paint to view options by your chosen color
  • Find your perfect match and start your project today

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