Restoring Wooden Furniture - Common Mistakes to Avoid

Learn all about restoring wooden furniture and how to avoid the most common mistakes.
Restoring Wooden Furniture - Common Mistakes to Avoid

Last update: 24 November, 2018

If you’re thinking about restoring your old wooden furniture to give it a new lease of life, the following article will tell you the mistakes to avoid.

You might have some old furniture that is simply crying out for a makeover. This could be because it’s not been well looked after, or simply because it has gone out of style. Whatever the reason, now’s the time to give it the attention it deserves.

If you have some old furniture that’s looking past its best or you simply want to update its look, you should really think about restoring it. Whether you want to undertake a complete or only a partial restoration, we’ll show you how to give your furniture a longer life.

Plus, as we’ll explain, restoring old furniture is something you can easily do yourself at home, and without spending too much money. You simply need to follow some basic rules.

If you want great results when you restore your furniture keep reading.

Sanding is the first and perhaps the most important stage in restoring wooden furniture.

1. Sanding

This is the first step in restoring any piece of wooden furniture. How well you sand your furniture will have a huge impact on the final result, whether it’s a wardrobe, a dresser or a table.

Sanding helps to smooth and level the entire surface, eliminating imperfections and splinters. You should be able to run your hands over the surface without feeling any splinters or rough patches.

If you don’t do sand properly, it will be much more difficult to apply paint or varnish.

It’s also important to choose the right type of sandpaper when restoring your furniture. Some can be used manually, while others are mechanical. Remember that you can find lots of different grades of sandpaper and that you should always work in the direction of the grain.

Don’t forget to lightly sand the wood after each layer of paint or varnish. For this, you should use sandpaper with a finer grain.

2. Cleaning the furniture properly

Before you go on to varnish or paint your furniture, you’ll need to clean it thoroughly. Otherwise, you’re likely to find imperfections when it comes to painting or varnishing (or both).

When restoring wooden furniture, it's important to sand after each layer of paint or varnish.

Firstly, you’ll have to give the wood a good dusting. You can find many different cleaning products to help you do this – some of them you can even make yourself.

Once you’ve got rid of all of the dust, wipe it down with a damp cloth. When you’re done, wait for the wood to completely dry and then you can start to paint and varnish.

Once your furniture is completely restored, you’ll have to clean it regularly to keep it in good condition. Make sure you give it a thorough dusting whenever you clean your house.

3. Not waiting for the paint and/or varnish to dry

Next, you need to paint and varnish your furniture. If you want a more natural look, you should just use varnish. Varnish is designed to protect the wood from damage. You can find satin, matte or gloss-finish varnishes.

On the other hand, if you want to completely change the look of your furniture, we recommend that you paint it first, and then add a layer of varnish. Whatever you do, you need to give it enough time to dry. Otherwise, there will be blobs of paint and imperfections which will spoil the final look.

One original way to paint your furniture is to use the two-tone style, which you can also use on walls. If you like the vintage, retro and shabby chic styles, you could also paint your furniture to give it that antique or faded look.

4. Choosing the right place for restoring old furniture

Finally, we want to bring your attention to the importance of choosing the right place to restore your furniture.

When restoring furniture, it's important to choose a well-ventilated space.

Obviously, paints and varnishes have a pretty strong smell. So, if you can, you should try to make sure that you do all your work in a well-ventilated space – either with the doors open or in a room with windows.

If you decide to work outside, it’s important that the part of your garden or terrace that you choose is not exposed to direct sunlight. It goes without saying that the sun will affect the drying time, and could potentially spoil the overall look. So, our recommendation is to choose a shaded, but well-ventilated space.

Finally, we want to remind you that the quality of the materials will often vary according to how expensive they are. This will be reflected in the final result.

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All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Spörr, Walter; Von Mehart, Nenna: Cómo hacer belenes, Ceac, 2003.