Wooden furniture refinishing: Essential prepping steps


Wooden furniture refinishing is a popular practice that allows individuals to restore the beauty and functionality of their old or worn-out furniture pieces. Whether it’s a cherished family heirloom or a thrift store find, refinishing wooden furniture can breathe new life into these pieces and make them the centerpiece of any room. However, before diving into the refinishing process, it’s crucial to understand the essential prepping steps involved. This article will guide you through the necessary preparations to ensure a successful furniture restoration project.

Assess the Condition of the Furniture

Before starting any refinishing project, it’s essential to assess the condition of the furniture. Look for any structural damage, such as loose joints or broken parts, that may need to be repaired before refinishing. Additionally, check for any existing finishes, such as paint or varnish, that will need to be removed. Assessing the condition of the furniture will help you determine the extent of the restoration required and plan your refinishing process accordingly.

Gather the Necessary Tools and Materials

To successfully refinish wooden furniture, you’ll need to gather the necessary tools and materials. Some essential items include:

  • Sandpaper in various grits
  • Paint scraper or putty knife
  • Wood filler
  • Paintbrushes
  • Stain or paint
  • Clear coat or varnish
  • Protective equipment (gloves, goggles, mask)

Having all the required tools and materials on hand will make the refinishing process more efficient and ensure that you have everything you need to achieve the desired results.

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Remove the Existing Finish

Once you’ve assessed the condition of the furniture and gathered the necessary tools, it’s time to remove the existing finish. This step is crucial to ensure that the new finish adheres properly to the wood. Depending on the type of finish, you may need to use a paint scraper or putty knife to gently scrape away the old paint or varnish. Sandpaper can also be used to remove any remaining finish and smooth out the surface of the wood.

Repair Any Damaged Areas

After removing the existing finish, it’s important to inspect the furniture for any damaged areas that need repair. Common issues include scratches, dents, or gouges in the wood. To fix these imperfections, use a wood filler that matches the color of the furniture. Apply the filler to the damaged area, smooth it out with a putty knife, and let it dry. Once dry, sand the repaired area to make it flush with the rest of the furniture.

Sand the Surface

Sanding the surface of the furniture is a crucial step in the refinishing process. It helps to remove any imperfections, smooth out the wood, and prepare it for the new finish. Start with a coarse-grit sandpaper to remove any remaining finish or rough spots. Then, gradually work your way up to finer grits to achieve a smooth and even surface. Be sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid damaging the furniture.

Apply the New Finish

Once the surface is properly sanded, it’s time to apply the new finish. Depending on your preference and the desired look, you can choose to stain the wood or paint it. Stain enhances the natural beauty of the wood grain, while paint allows for more versatility in color options. Apply the chosen finish using a paintbrush, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Multiple coats may be necessary to achieve the desired depth of color or coverage. After applying the finish, allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

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Protect the Finish

To ensure the longevity of your newly refinished furniture, it’s important to protect the finish. Applying a clear coat or varnish acts as a protective barrier, guarding against scratches, moisture, and UV damage. Use a clean paintbrush to apply the clear coat evenly, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the clear coat to dry completely before using or moving the furniture.


Wooden furniture refinishing is a rewarding process that allows you to transform old or worn-out pieces into beautiful and functional furniture. By following the essential prepping steps outlined in this article, you can ensure a successful restoration project. Assessing the condition of the furniture, gathering the necessary tools and materials, removing the existing finish, repairing any damaged areas, sanding the surface, applying the new finish, and protecting the final result are all crucial steps in achieving a professional-looking refinishing job. With proper care and maintenance, your refinished furniture can be enjoyed for many years to come.


  1. How long does it take to refinish wooden furniture?

    The time it takes to refinish wooden furniture depends on various factors, including the size of the piece, the extent of the damage, and the complexity of the refinishing process. On average, a simple refinishing project can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, considering the time required for each step, including drying and curing times.

  2. Can any type of wood be refinished?

    Most types of wood can be refinished, including hardwoods like oak, mahogany, and walnut, as well as softwoods like pine and cedar. However, the specific characteristics of the wood, such as its grain pattern and porosity, may affect the refinishing process and the final results. It’s always a good idea to test the refinishing products on a small, inconspicuous area of the furniture before proceeding with the entire piece.

  3. Do I need to strip the furniture down to bare wood?

    Stripping the furniture down to bare wood is not always necessary, especially if the existing finish is in good condition and you plan to apply a similar finish. However, if the furniture has multiple layers of paint or varnish, or if you want to change the color or type of finish, stripping down to bare wood is recommended to ensure proper adhesion of the new finish.

  4. What is the difference between staining and painting?

    Staining involves applying a translucent or semi-transparent color to the wood, allowing the natural grain to show through. It enhances the beauty of the wood and provides a more natural look. On the other hand, painting involves applying an opaque color to the wood, covering the grain and providing a uniform appearance. Painting offers more versatility in terms of color options and can be used to achieve different styles and finishes.

  5. How do I maintain refinished wooden furniture?

    To maintain refinished wooden furniture, avoid placing hot or wet objects directly on the surface, as this can cause damage. Use coasters, placemats, or trivets to protect the finish. Regularly dust the furniture with a soft cloth or vacuum with a brush attachment to remove any dirt or debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that can strip or damage the finish. Instead, use a mild soap and water solution for cleaning, followed by a gentle wipe with a clean, damp cloth.

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Julia Snown

A seasoned home enthusiast and garden lover, Julia believes that everyone's abode should be their personal paradise. At EverydayGardenHomes, she shares daily inspirations to transform your space into a haven of tranquillity and beauty, one day at a time.

A seasoned home enthusiast and garden lover, Julia believes that everyone’s abode should be their personal paradise. At EverydayGardenHomes, she shares daily inspirations to transform your space into a haven of tranquillity and beauty, one day at a time.

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