How to Refurbish Old Furniture

furniture image by Luisafer from

Giving new life to old furniture is a challenge that is well worth the effort it requires. By refurbishing furniture, you allow yourself the opportunity to salvage a treasured piece of furniture with a family history or a garage sale find you love. Wooden furniture and upholstered pieces both offer different challenges, yet, with the proper techniques, both types of furniture spring back to life. Study the methods, gather your materials and prepare to refurbish your old piece of furniture today.

Choose the proper commercial product made to remove paint or varnish for the type of wood you are refurbishing. Chemical solvents are available for metal, wood and even plastic furniture.

Strip the old varnish or paint from the furniture. Put gloves on your hands to protect them from the strong chemicals. Wearing a face mask is also a good idea. Pour paint or varnish remover in a container and apply a thick coat on a piece of the furniture. Let it sit for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Scrape the paint or varnish off with a plastic scraper, making sure you do not gouge the wood. Repeat the process until the paint or varnish has been removed.

Sand the piece of furniture by hand or with a hand sander. Use fine gauge sandpaper. Remove any remaining paint or varnish and smooth out the wood. If there are any gouges, fill them in with wood filler that matches the wood as closely as possible and let it dry thoroughly. Sand the filler until it is even with the surface of the wood. Decide, ahead of time, if you want to stain the wood filler first or put a coat of sealer on before you stain the wood.

Match the colour of the wood filler, as the wood filler does not absorb stain the same way wood does. Stain the wood with a brush made for stains. Brush it on evenly. Wait for ten to twelve minutes and wipe it off with a lint-free cloth.

Consider adding new hardware to the piece. Drawer pulls add personality to the doors and drawers and make an old piece of furniture seem new.

Check the frame of the furniture and make sure it is sturdy. Cosmetic changes may be all you need to do. A good shampooing or an attractive throw cover breathes new life into solid pieces of furniture with good filling. Torn fabric and lumpy filling require more time and effort to refurbish.

Remove the staples holding the material in place. Gently remove the fabric, saving the pieces if you plan to use them as a pattern for the new upholstery. Carefully remove the stuffing or cushioning. Remove the webbing if it is worn or old.

Replace the webbing. Stretch the 3 ½ inch webbing across the frame from side to side. Weave more strips across the first webbing going from front to back. Nail four or five tacks to the webbing on each end to hold it in place and make it sturdy enough to support the weight of a person sitting on the furniture.

Choose the type of filling according to the style of furniture. Thinly upholstered material calls for a firm stuffing and an upholstery job that includes tucks and draping calls for a stuffing that is fluffier. Place the filling on the chair. Cut muslin to fit the seat, back or side. Cover the filling with the muslin. Tack the muslin into place with small tacks or a staple gun.

Choose a fabric that matches the style of the chair and pleases your personal style. When choosing your fabric, consider the wear quality, fibres and blends, texture types and how easy it is to keep clean.

Cut the upholstery, using the old fabric as a guide. Place the fabric over the stuffing. Pull the fabric over the front of the chair and tack it into place. Then stretch the fabric to the back and tack it under the chair. Repeat the process on the two sides.

Fold the front fabric on the corners to form a mitred square; fold the front fabric to form a 45 degree angle. Do the same with the material on the side. If necessary, cut off some of the fabric that is folded in to avoid bulk. Pull the fabric on the side section over the front material. Tack it into place. Trim excess fabric where the leg of the furniture meets the frame.

Cut out the pieces for the front and back of the chair top, leaving a seam allowance. Sew the two pieces together and form a cover for your chair that will stretch over the filling and the framework. Slip it over the top and pull it tight. Tack it into place, pulling it under the bottom of the chair or folding it up and sewing it.

Add gimp, a decorative border, to the chair. Glue the border in place with hot glue. Add decorative tacks around the gimp at regular intervals.

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