Furniture refinishing can make old, scarred furniture look new or different. It is done to remove paint and refinish with stain to see the grain of the wood, to change the color lighter or darker, to make one piece match another and/or to finish raw, unfinished wood.
Refinishing also applies to painting furniture and applying “faux” finishes, which is the use of special paint, glazes and techniques to make furniture look like a totally different material such as marble, crackled paint, etc.
The traditional refinishing process starts with necessary repairs, such as regluing of loose parts or peeling veneer, replacing broken or cracked pieces, etc. Then the piece is stripped of old paint, stain, varnish and/or other finishes. It may be bleached to lighten the wood or remove stains, is carefully sanded, often several times. Then stain, if desired, is applied, before it is finished with varnish or other protective finish.
Often furniture does not need to be completely stripped and refinished and will benefit from less aggressive care called “refurbishing.” The first step is to thoroughly clean it to remove built-up dirt and wax. If most of the original finish is still intact, it may just need just a little light sanding and touch-up staining to match the original finish, with a final coat of varnish or other protective finish. This is far less time consuming and costly than complete refinishing. This is frequently advised for antiques, because usually the less done the better.
Furniture repair, refinishing and upholstery require experience, skill and labor, and they are not always the most economical way to replace old or broken furniture. Because wood is a natural product and it may not always be possible to know how furniture has been treated in the past, results may not turn out exactly as a consumer hopes. A reputable professional can help consumers decide if a piece of furniture warrants the investment of professional refinishing.