Dos and don’ts of refinishing furniture

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Sep 27, 2019, 4:46 PM | Updated: Sep 30, 2019, 1:12 am


It’s satisfying to take an old piece of furniture and turn it into a work of art you can enjoy for years to come. There will always be more chores to do, but a refinishing project gives you something you can be proud of accomplishing — and show to every visitor to your home.

That said, there’s a right and a wrong way to go about a refinishing project. You might be tempted to cut corners, but you’ll end up with a sub-par piece with flaws you’ll notice every time you look at it.

Do something you’ll be proud of, with these dos and don’ts for your next refinishing project.

Do clean your surface first

Jumping straight into sanding and staining is a rookie mistake.

“Before you even get to stripping the current finish, thoroughly clean off any dirt, oil or grease (otherwise you’ll just be grinding all of that into the wood as you sand),” says Architectural Digest.

For metal projects, remove surface rust with a wire brush to cut down on the sanding you’ll end up doing later.

Do remove old stain

Before sanding, use a stripping agent to remove old paint or stain to save some elbow grease later.

Depending on what you need to remove, you could apply the stripper with a paintbrush or use an aerosol spray. Wait for the finish to bubble, then use a paint scraper to remove as much as you can.

Don’t skip conditioning or priming

Sanding may be the most time-consuming step, especially if your piece has many details, so don’t waste your effort by staining or painting without preparing it.

For an even texture of stain, use a conditioner like Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner to reduce the likelihood of blotchiness.

“The conditioner works by penetrating and temporarily sealing the wood to even out the rate of absorption, thereby creating a much more uniform stain coat,” according to the Spruce Crafts.

When painting, primer creates an even, non-porous surface for your final color. Use a white primer for light colors and a dark primer for dark colors.

Don’t use a cheap brush

If you want a quality finished product, use quality equipment.

You have a few options when it comes to applying stain. For a small project, you might be able to get away with applying the stain with a rag in circular motions going in the direction of the wood grain.

When painting or staining a big project, you’ll benefit from using a paintbrush. Choose a natural bristle brush to apply oil-based finishes and a synthetic brush for water-based finishes (a natural-bristled brush will swell and lose its shape with a water-based finish).

Handmade brushes like those created by Purdy are known for being well-made and leaving an even coating. You can check how sturdy a brush is by feeling the contour of its handle, gently tugging the bristles to test how firmly the handle grasps them, and ensuring bristles are soft and pliable.

After brushing on stain, wait 5 to 10 minutes before using a clean cloth to wipe lightly with the wood grain to remove excess moisture. The longer you wait, the deeper the stain will penetrate the wood and the darker the finish will be.

Do finish with a clear coat

Help your project stand the test of time and give it a beautiful sheen by finishing with a layer or two of clear coat.

For more refinishing tips and to stock up for your next project, visit your local Ace Hardware store.

Ace Hardware



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Dos and don’ts of refinishing furniture