Refurbishing Furniture: A Beginner's Guide |
How to Make Your Old Furniture Look New Again

How to Make Your Old Furniture Look New Again

Our top tips for refurbishing furniture

Written by –
Mark Thompson
on November 10th 2018
Mark Thompson is an experienced woodworker with over 20 years in the industry. During his career, he worked on a number of projects involving furniture restoration and has developed an appreciation for this art. Currently, he is the founder of where you can find his opinions about the latest woodworking tools.

Whether you have aging furniture in your home or just like shopping for used pieces, refurbishing furniture can be a good investment. While refurbishing large pieces requires plenty of hard work, it is possible to restore antiques to their original condition. The process can even become an enjoyable hobby! Keep reading to find out more.

Refurbishing Furniture: Elegant French-inspired interior with antique chest of drawers and ornate gold frame mirror |
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The Beginner’s Guide to Refurbishing Furniture

Choosing the Right Pieces

There are many elements involved in determining whether furniture should be refurbished. These common tips can be helpful when it comes to choosing pieces for restoration.

Refurbishing Furniture: Vintage eclectic dining room with antique furnishings and boho accents |
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  • Look for quality. You aren’t searching for perfect pieces, however, it is important that the furniture has good bones. If a chair or table wasn’t built properly, no amount of restoration will help. Pieces should be sturdy with all moving parts working easily. Unless you are skilled enough to build replacement parts, defective furniture is best avoided.


  • Don’t forget your measuring tape! Furniture often looks smaller in an outdoor space or a large shopping center. You need to know your piece will fit into its intended space.


  • Consider the cost and skills needed for reparation. It’s possible to repair furniture made of wood, metal, and even upholstered pieces. Yet sometimes the cost or workload might be so great that finding a different piece would be more economical. For instance, taking a class or buying expensive new tools might not be worth the cost of one chair.


For more tips on buying vintage furniture, head HERE.

What Should I Avoid?

There are a few reasons to avoid buying a piece of furniture to upgrade. Sometimes, refurbishing furniture won’t be worth your time and effort. For instance, the project might be impossible to complete. Or even worse, it might even be hazardous to your health. Here’s what you should be avoiding.

Refurbishing Furniture: Shabby-chic 'She Shed' featuring a vintage upholstered armchair and floral accents |
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  • Upholstered furniture with sagging cushions or springs should be avoided. While you might have the skills to tackle upholstery, deeper problems may be hidden in these pieces.


  • Watch out for missing parts. It is often impossible to find replacement pieces.


  • Stay away from bad odors. Removing smells from furniture can be difficult and odors can spread.


  • Don’t trust potential danger. If you question whether a piece of furniture has been recalled, don’t buy it. Use special caution when buying nursery furniture.


  • Avoid pieces that might contain harmful chemicals. Older furniture may have paint or filling with hazardous materials. This becomes a danger when you remove the old paint or take the piece apart for repair.

Safety First

After selecting your furniture, you might be tempted to begin work immediately. But stop! Not so fast. Furniture repair can be dangerous, so it’s important to take precautions in order to avoid injuries.

Refurbishing Furniture: Vintage furniture store featuring mid-century modern pieces with colorful pattern accents |
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  • Use the proper safety gear. It’s essential to protect your eyes, ears, and lungs from harm. Common necessities are safety glasses, earplugs (tools can be loud), gloves, and masks.


  • Find proper ventilation. Stripping and applying paint is dangerous business. If you do not work outside, be sure your work space has adequate air flow.


  • Follow the instructions. If this is the first time performing the repair you’re about to tackle, find written instructions or tutorials so you know the basics. The same advice applies to tools you’ve never used before.


Head HERE to learn more about how to keep yourself safe while carrying out home DIY’s.

Techniques for Restoration

Different types of furniture call for different refurbishing techniques. Some of the most common repairs occur on wood. However, you can make repairs to metal furniture and upholstered furniture as well.

Refurbishing Furniture: Cozy rustic dining room with vintage chandelier and kinfolk dining setup |
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Wood Furniture

Wood is a favorite among restorers. It lasts for decades or centuries when properly cared for, and there are many ways to restore and change wood pieces. What’s more, wood is easy to paint, and often boasts natural beauty even without added color.

Refurbishing Furniture: Rustic dining room with vintage wood dining table and chairs |
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Step One

  • Stripping – If your wood piece needs to be refinished, the old paint or varnish will have to be removed. After cleaning and drying, sandpaper and elbow grease are the best tools for the job. Coarse sandpaper removes the most wood for deep damage repair. Fine sandpaper provides a smooth finish.


Step Two

  • Staining or Painting – Once the piece has been stripped and the dust and debris removed, your finish may be applied. Apply stain with a soft brush in one direction. After allowing the stain to soak into the wood, rub with a soft cloth to expose the grain. When the stain dries completely, top with a quality sealant. If using paint, be sure to use a clean brush and follow instructions for drying time between coats.

Metal Furniture

Metal pieces can be beautiful when refinished. Usually, rust removal is required. If you’re lucky enough to find a piece that is rust-free, a new color can be the perfect update.

Refurbishing Furniture: Vintage metal outdoor furniture in a bright Paris garden |
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Step One

Rust Removal – If the piece has heavy rust, a wire brush is the first tool to use. The sturdy bristles will remove big flakes of rust. Sand the entire piece using coarse paper to help with removal. Once the rust is removed, wipe the surface with acetone before painting.


Step Two

Painting – It’s best to begin with a high-quality rust preventative primer. Once the primer is dry, lightly sand and wipe away dust before painting. Apply spray paint in 2 – 3 thin coats to avoid buildup. Follow instructions for adequate drying time between coats.

What do you think about refurbishing furniture? Share with us your refurbished pieces on Instagram using the hashtag #N9Home!


Also don’t forget to check us out over on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!


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