Wood furniture is reliable and beautiful, but not every piece is worth refinishing. Before you put in time and effort into this kind of project, you need to first understand whether you should fork over the cash to refinish the piece, and the following guide will help you determine when wood furniture is worth refinishing.

Is the piece painted?

There’s usually a reason why a piece of furniture has been painted, and in most cases, it’s to hide stains, missing veneer or burns, or worse, poor-quality materials. It’s better to buy pieces that have old varnish, lacquer, or shellac on them or that just need to be stripped because they are easier to refinish. Older pieces can also be painted with lead paint, making them very difficult to strip and refinish. Typically, painted pieces older than 1970 could have lead paint, and should be treated with caution.

Is the construction high quality?

Furniture that is sturdy will give you decades of service, and it would be worth refinishing because of its quality. Good pieces of furniture will have a maker’s mark, beautiful veneer or intricate marquetry, or dovetail or other joinery showing its craftsmanship. Cheap furniture will not provide you with any value, and it may be useless even after refinishing. You should, however, be careful, as refinishing certain pieces yourself can harm their value. Antique pieces should be handled by restoration professionals who will use the right tools and techniques to maintain value. 

Is the piece in good condition?

Wood moves over time, and even the best wood furniture will have some issues after a few decades. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the furniture isn’t worth it; rather, like a classic car, it needs a bit of TLC (sometimes as little as waxing drawers or a bit of glue) to restore its lustre. Test the piece (open the drawers, sit on chairs, etc.) and see how sturdy it feels to determine if it is worth refinishing.

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What will the piece look like when you’re done?

In order to get an idea of what your piece will look like refinished, you need to find a protected spot where the original wood is visible to complete a test. The results will help you understand what colour you’ll come out with in the end, and old wood does tend to finish darker than newly milled wood.

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It’s also important that you understand the refinishing process and how complicated it can be. You need to be prepared for the level of involvement it entails, and the following are signs that your project may need extra steps or advanced techniques to restore the piece to its former glory:

  • Deeply carved or applied filigree. It is time-consuming to strip out the old finish from all the nooks and crannies, which means refinishing will be tricky.
  • The need for different applications. A piece with ornate sides or slats, for example, may need a delicate touch on the ornamental parts, but several coats of polyurethane will be required on the arms to ensure they are durable.
  • Slats or spindles set close together. You will need a spray gun to strip off and refinish.

The piece is made from random boards that are not all from the same tree. This is something you may notice after stripping, and you will either have to accept the piece as is or spend a lot of time trying to stain it to achieve a more uniform appearance. This is a complicated finishing process that only a professional should do.

When it comes to furniture refinishing, it is highly recommended that you consult a professional for advice. Here at Howard’s Second Generation, we specialize in wooden furniture restoration, refinishing, and repair services and will provide you with honest information regarding your piece and whether it is worth refinishing. Contact us today at 905-844-2584 for a free consultation!