How to refinish wood furniture

Learn how to refurbish furniture by refinishing the wood in 10 simple steps.

Updated 19 July 2019

plank of wood being painted with medium brush

Key Steps

  • Check for chips, flaking and cracks which could indicate your furniture needs refinishing.
  • Always wear protective clothing.
  • Strip the wood first – sand to bare wood.
  • Apply sanding sealer.
  • Apply your chosen stain.
  • Apply a clear coat to finish.
  • Use good quality products like Cif to keep your furniture looking fresh after you’ve learned how to refinish wood furniture.

A simple method of sprucing up wooden furniture or making it match the décor of a house is to refinish it. Try our ideas of how to refurbish furniture – and tips on how to clean and care for it afterwards – to give your furniture a new lease of life.

The most important step when refinishing your wood furniture is to ensure you wear protective gear. This includes gloves, eye goggles, and a dust mask. 

Signs you need to learn how to refinish wood furniture

Before we show you how to refurbish your furniture you need to decide if it’s what you need. Here are the main signs your wood furniture needs some TLC:

  • You begin to notice rings and watermarks under the existing finish.
  • Even after cleaning, the surface is sticky to touch.
  • Patches and blemishes appear even when you thoroughly clean the surface.
  • There are cracks through the existing finish.
  • You notice flaking and/or chipping to the existing finish.

How to refurbish furniture: A 10-step guide to giving your furniture a new lease of life

Once you’ve established that your furniture needs refinishing, follow our guide below to get the job done. We’ve written the guide based on how to refinish a wood table but the steps can be applied to other types of furniture too.

1. Gather your supplies. There are a few things you will need to refinish your furniture:

  • Tarpaulin or an old sheet
  • Finish stripper
  • Scraper tool
  • Sanding block or sandpaper
  • Sanding sealer
  • Wood stain or coloured paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Clear coat

2. Put on protective gear including gloves, eye goggles, and a dust mask.

3. Ensure the room you’re working in is well ventilated. Keep children and pets out of the area.

4. Lay down an old sheet or tarpaulin to protect the floor while you work.

5. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, use the finish stripper and scraper tool to remove the existing finish from your furniture.

6. Using a sanding block or sandpaper, remove any remaining finish, paint or stain down to the bare wood. Always sand in the direction of the grain.

7. Although it is not necessary, it is worth applying a sanding sealer as the next step. This will allow the wood to absorb the stain more evenly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying, and once dry, lightly sand for a more even surface.

8. Using a paintbrush, add your chosen wood stain or coloured paint. This is a great opportunity to get all your furniture in the same colour and match your home décor.

9. Following the manufacturer’s guidelines, apply a layer of clear coat.

10. Once dry, lightly sand and apply a second and final coat to seal your finish. Your furniture is now ready to display and enjoy within your home.

If your furniture is past the point of refinishing, check out our guide to how to get rid of unwanted furniture or see if it’s fit for some of our other DIY ideas – like how to make a wooden ladder shelf or how to upcycle old wooden furniture.

How to care for your new look furniture

Now you know how to refurbish wood furniture, we have a couple of tips to make sure it stays looking its best.

  • Clean regularly with good quality cleaning products like Cif.
  • Take care of accidental spills and stains as soon as possible.
  • Avoid having your furniture in direct sunlight – it can fade the colour.
  • Read our top tips for how to clean and polish wood.

Now you have an easy guide to ensure you know how to refurbish wood furniture, you are sure to be able to give old furniture a new lease of life. Got the DIY bug? Why not check out these furniture restoration project ideas to keep busy at the week.

Originally published 19 July 2019