How To Refinish Furniture: In 5 Steps Guide

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Whether it’s repurposing items you already own, or purchasing old furniture to upcycle, you can restore your old furniture to look as good as new. And learning how to Refinish furniture allows you to transform your favorite pieces, giving them a new lease on life.

Refinishing furniture is a great way to breathe new life into old furniture. It’s inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and puts no harmful chemicals in your household. Refinishing furniture is a fairly simple process, but it’s important to keep in mind that it may turn out differently than you expected.

Tools and Materials

Before you get started, make sure you have the following tools and materials:

  • Sandpaper (coarse, medium, and fine grits)
  • Tack cloth
  • Stain (if desired)
  • Polyurethane
  • Paintbrush
  • Rags
  • Old tablespoons or paint stirrers

Preparation Work Before Refinishing

Refinishing furniture can be a great way to breathe new life into a piece that is starting to show its age. However, it is important to prepare the piece correctly before starting the refinishing process. Otherwise, the new finish may not adhere properly or may not look as good as intended.

  • Remove all hardware from the piece of furniture. This includes any screws, nails, or other fasteners.
  • The piece should be sanded down to create a smooth surface.
  • Once the sanding is complete, any dust and debris should be removed before applying the new finish.
How To Refinish Furniture

Steps On How to Refinish Furniture

Step 1: Sanding

Step 2: Staining (optional)

  • If you want to change the color of your furniture, now is the time to do it.
  • Apply a coat of stain with a brush or rag, working in the direction of the grain. Wipe off any excess stain with a clean rag.
  • Allow the stain to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 3: Painting (optional)

  • If you’re not staining your furniture, now is the time to paint it.
  • Choose a paint that is suitable for use on wood surfaces.
  • Apply a thin coat of paint with a brush, working in the direction of the grain.
  • Allow the paint to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 4: Applying Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a clear finish that will protect your furniture from scratches, stains, and everyday wear and tear. It is available in both gloss and matte finishes.

  • To apply polyurethane, pour some of the finish into an old tablespoon or paint stirrer.
  • Starting in one corner, brush the polyurethane onto the surface of the furniture in long, even strokes.
  • Work your way across the piece until the entire surface is covered.
  • Allow the first coat to dry completely before applying a second coat.
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Step 5: Final Steps

  • Once the final coat of polyurethane is dry, your furniture is ready to use.
  • Be sure to place it in a location that is out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources to prolong its life.

Additional Tips

  • If you’re not sure how much stain or paint you need, start with a small amount and add more as needed. It’s easier to add more than it is to remove excess.
  • Be sure to wear gloves when working with stain or paint to avoid getting it on your hands and clothes.
  • If you’re not using a pre-made stain or paint, be sure to mix the finish well before applying it to your furniture.
  • If your furniture has drawer pulls or other hardware, remove them before you start refinishing. This will make the job easier and give you a chance to clean or replace the hardware if desired.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area when refinishing furniture to avoid inhaling fumes from the stain, paint, or polyurethane.
  • If you’re not sure how long to wait between coats of stain, paint, or polyurethane, consult the instructions on the can. As a general rule of thumb, you should allow each coat to dry for at least 24 hours before applying the next one.
  • When sanding furniture, be sure to use sandpaper with a higher grit number for the final pass. This will help to avoid leaving behind any unwanted scratches.
  • Be sure to remove all of the dust from sanding before moving on to the next step. Otherwise, it will become trapped under the stain, paint, or polyurethane and may show through as a dark spot.
  • If you’re not happy with the results of your first refinishing project, don’t despair! It takes practice to get a perfect finish.

Safety Precautions

Refinishing furniture can be a great way to give an old piece a new lease on life. However, it’s important to take the proper safety precautions to protect yourself from harmful chemicals and fumes.

  • Make sure that you’re working in a well-ventilated area.
  • Open windows and doors to let fresh air in, and use a fan to circulate the air if necessary.
  • Always wear protective clothing, including gloves, a mask, and goggles.
  • Follow the instructions on your refinishing products carefully, and be sure to work in a well-ventilated area.

Identifying the Type of Furniture Finish

There are three basic types of furniture finishes- shellac, lacquer, and varnish. Each has their own unique properties that make them ideal for different types of furniture.

  • Shellac is a popular choice for antiques and other delicate pieces because it dries quickly and is very thin.
  • Lacquer is a durable finish that can be buffed to a high gloss, making it perfect for coffee tables and other pieces that see a lot of wear and tear.
  • Varnish is the most durable of the three finishes and is often used on outdoor furniture or pieces that will be exposed to sunlight.

To refinish furniture, you will need to remove the old finish, sand the piece down, and then apply the new finish. The type of finish you choose will depend on the piece of furniture and your personal preferences.


What are some tips for refinishing furniture?

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Why is it important to sand between coats of finish?

Sanding between coats allows the new finish to adhere properly and creates a smooth surface. Without sanding, you may end up with a finish that is bumpy or uneven.

What kind of finishes can be used on furniture?

There are a variety of finishes that can be used, including paint, stains, lacquer, and varnish. You can also create a distressed look by using a technique called “distressing.” This involves lightly sanding the surface of the furniture to create a worn look. Experiment with different finishes to find the one that best suits your needs.


Refinishing furniture is a great way to protect your investment and make it last longer. By following a few simple tips, you can refinish your furniture like a pro! Remember to sand the surface before applying the finish, and let the finish dry completely before using the piece of furniture. With a little time and effort, you can transform any piece of furniture into a like-new condition.

Why trust Handyman.Guide?

s written by Itamar Ben-Dor, who has 25 years of experience in renovations, carpentry, locks, creation, landscaping, painting, furniture construction, and furniture renovation, works with concrete, plumbing, door repair, and more.

Itamar Ben-Dor has been in the home improvement business for over 25 years. Itamar Ben-Dor is a jack of all trades. He's worked in the renovation field for years, doing everything from locksmithing to carpentry. He's a small repairs specialist. But his true passion lies in furniture construction and renovation - he loves seeing old pieces come back to life with some new woodwork or a fresh coat of paint.

He has taken courses on many topics in these fields at professional colleges in Israel. Over the years, Itamar has also become quite skilled in gardening, carpentry, and renovations. He's worked on projects of all sizes, from massive renovations to small repairs. No job is too big or too small for him!

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