Beginners Guide to Furniture Restoration How to Steps

furniture restoration how to guide // furniture makeover ideas // furniture refinishing //

Interested in giving new life to old wooden furniture but still trying to figure out how to begin? Then this furniture restoration how to guide for beginners is a great place to start!

Refinishing old furniture is the perfect solution to your budget decorating needs; it’s also a great way to repair any damage, such as water damage from a glass being left on a tabletop, by updating the original surface of the furniture.

You may have watched a million videos of flippers working how furniture restoration, but you’re left feeling overwhelmed by which products to use, when to strip and when to sand, what paint is the best, and more. If you’re just starting, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

This post is the perfect solution to all your questions. I’m going to cover the basics by giving you my exact supply list and review the entire furniture restoration process from start to finish, giving you the best methods, so you can walk away with a plan to tackle your furniture makeover!

I’m excited; let’s get to the good stuff!

Just a friendly reminder: I’m a DIY enthusiast, not a pro. I’m sharing my experiences with you here, but this information is no substitute for consulting a professional.

And about those affiliate links, all opinions and recommendations are genuinely mine, but I have to tell you that I earn a small commission when you purchase using my link.

Thank you, because this helps financially support this blog!

Furniture Restoration: Must Have Supplies

I bet you only like to spend money on things if they are absolutely necessary, yes? That’s why I’m giving you this concise list of must-have for furniture restoration. You don’t need fancy, top-of-the-line gadgets to get going with this! 

In fact, I discourage you from buying anything other than what’s on this list until you’re more confident in your skills and ready to invest cash into tools. 

Here’s what you need to get started with furniture restoration:

  1. a soft cloth and something to clean your furniture – I prefer Krud Kutter, and an even more affordable option is Dawn dish soap and water mixed into a spray bottle.
  2. a screwdriver to remove the old hardware.
  3. something to strip your furniture and some rubber gloves to protect your hands – Sunnyside is the best paint stripper (and it is safe)
  4. a sanding block, a power sander, and sandpaper.
  5. a paintbrush (any type will do, I love my short-handle angled brush) and a foam roller to paint your furniture.

Here are links to the exact products I use in all my furniture makeovers:

To Refinish or To Refurbish?

Refinishing furniture is a term used broadly; when I say it, I’m referring to stripping and painting. However, refurbishing and restoring furniture also falls under the refinishing umbrella. 

Furniture refurbishing or restoration means that you are cleaning the piece and rubbing a special wood revitalizer over the surface to bring the natural beauty of the wood and original look back to life. There is no stripping, sanding, or painting involved.

So, now that we cleared that up, let’s talk about what you need to consider before refinishing furniture. Painting wooden furniture has the potential to devalue it if the piece of furniture is a valuable antique. Before starting your restoration project, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this antique furniture worth something, and by painting it, will I devalue it somehow?
  • Do you care about the value of your piece?
  • Would I be crushed if this didn’t turn out the way I’m envisioning (i.e., your first project shouldn’t be a family heirloom)
  • What is the best choice for this piece – do I restore it or refinish it?

Furniture Restoration Process

Every furniture refinishing project follows the same general process. First, you prep the furniture piece by cleaning and removing the hardware, then determine if you need to strip or sand, then take care of any furniture repair, and lastly, prime and paint. 

Even as a more seasoned diy’er, something always goes wrong. Know that these lessons make us better, so lean into the experience and try not to get so up when something doesn’t go exactly as planned.

Also, working with high-quality pieces will make everything in the furniture refinishing process sooo much easier. If you need help finding quality furniture, then this >> freebie resource right here is exactly what you need.

Lastly, when just starting out, go for smaller items such as an end table, nightstand, plant stand, coffee table or smaller dresser is a good idea. And definitely do not use something with sentimental value!

Furniture Restoration How to Clean

furniture restoration how to beginners guide to painting furniture //

The first step in furniture refinishing is cleaning, and my go-to product for this step is a degreaser. You’ll also need a clean cloth and some warm water which I use to wipe everything down once I’ve done a round or two of the degreasers.  

When refinishing old wood furniture, even if you know where the furniture piece has been, you have to remove residue on the surface before you start (and trust me, things are always dirtier than you think). And if you did get this item second-hand, one can only imagine where the furniture has been, so spray and wipe it away!

So, what degreaser should you use? Well, you’re in luck because I’ve also tried numerous degreasers and have compiled the best options here in this post on the best cleaning solutions.

Furniture Restoration How to Strip

The good news is that this wood-stripping process is quite simple (and super satisfying!). The not-so-good news is that if this is your first-time stripping, then there are a few things you need to know to ensure you’re happy with your results. 

Are you working with solid wood or veneer? What is the old finish – are you stripping old paint or stain? There are just a few questions you’ll need to know the answers to before you start stripping your furniture piece.

Before you jump in, go read up on stripping wood furniture here.

Once you’re ready to begin stripping, here is how to do it:

  1. Apply the stripper: Depending on which stripper you are using; you may be able to spray it directly onto your surface. If you’re using a gel, I suggest spreading the paint stripper with a putty knife or old paintbrush.
  2. Remove the stripper: Next step is to remove the chemical stripper and all the old paint that comes with it. Using this game-changing paint scraper, applying light pressure, and going with the wood grain, begin to scrape the top of your surface, removing the stripper and layers of paint or varnish. This process is messy, so I keep damp towels to wipe my hands and scraping tool and place a drop cloth under my work area. I also try to scrape the larger chunks of scrapings into a paper bag. It’s important to know that it may take several applications of your paint remover before you get down to the existing finish. 
  3. Apply mineral spirits: Once you’ve stripped away all the layers of paint and varnish, you need to clean any remaining goo using mineral spirits. The mineral spirits will remove any remaining paint and residual stripper. For best results with the next steps in furniture refinishing, you can’t skip this step (coming from experience because I have ignored it, and it never worked out well).

Furniture Restoration How to Sand

Starting with coarse grit sandpaper, using your power sander, and going with the grain of the wood, it’s time to remove any remaining traces of the old finish by sanding. Do the entire surface with 60-grit sandpaper and then work your way up to higher-grit sandpaper to get the smoothest finish possible. After sanding, remove any sanding dust with a tack cloth or leaf-blower works great if you’re outside.

Furniture Restoration How to Paint

furniture restoration how to guide for beginners //

Now you’re ready to prime and paint. My go-to primer is Zinsser 123. This is the only primer I use for my home projects and refinishing furniture, and it covers wood knots and sticks to surfaces like no other! It may cost a little bit more, but I’m always satisfied with the results. 

The two most important things to know about priming and painting furniture are:

  1. Do not skimp and buy a cheaper primer. Aside from sanding, the quality of your primer is essential to your paint sticking when refinishing furniture.
  2. Two coats of primer and two coats of paint. Never less!

If you’re dipping your toes in refinishing furniture, then a regular ol’ paint brush gets the job just fine! Keep things simple and stick with a basic brush.

After you’ve applied one coat of primer, let it dry for at least an hour, and then give it a light hand sanding. I use 220 grit for this step. Before sanding, you’ll want to check that the primer is no longer tacky. The trick is to apply gentle pressure; you’re doing the slightest sanding to scuff and smooth the surface between coats.

After giving the area a quick wipe down with a clean cloth, you’re ready to add a second coat of primer. Once the second coat of primer is dried, repeat the light hand sanding step from above.

Finally, follow the same steps you did for priming to paint your furniture.

How to Stain

Staining wood is trickier than painting, and honestly, if you’re a beginner, I do not suggest you attempt this quite yet. I have had years of experience in furniture refinishing and stain still trips me up, so the best option is mastering the basics before you jump to staining.

furniture flipping freebie //

How to Seal

The last step is to decide whether you’ll apply a topcoat or leave it as is. If you want to leave it as is, there is the potential for water damage or paint chipping. That said, I prefer not to put a topcoat sealer on my painted furniture. 

There are different types of protective finishing – polyurethane varnish, wax, water based, and shellac. My fav is a wax (but not always the best choice, especially for a tabletop), and another good one is Polyacrylic protective finish

There you have it! Everything you need to know to get started with furniture refinishing. I gave you the supplies, and a step-by-step guide so now you’re ready to tackle your furniture makeover. I hope you’re feeling more confident about refinishing furniture now that I’ve covered all the essential steps.



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