Refinishing Antique Furniture: Avoiding Damage

Refinishing an older piece of furniture makes for a fun DIY project with tangible benefits. However, there are some risks to any piece when you decide to refinish it. If you aren’t careful, it’s easy to damage an old piece in the refinishing process. This isn’t inevitable, though, and there are a few steps you can take to make sure that your project comes out perfectly.

Transport Carefully

Many of us find antique furniture at yard sales or secondhand shops. Once you’ve bought your piece, be cautious when bringing it home with you. Many older pieces are fragile and may not hold up well. If you’re putting it into a vehicle, lay down tarps or blankets to protect the sides from bumps or scratches. You should also cover the piece with another blanket or tarp– this is true whether you’re putting it into the back of a pickup truck, or transporting it inside of an SUV trunk. Secure the piece with straps as well so that it doesn’t slide around during the drive.

Use Safe Products

Many common cleaning products are actually harmful to antique furniture. You should avoid using wood furniture polish, as it leaves behind a residue that can damage delicate finishes. If you’re wiping the piece with a damp cloth, be sure to dry it thoroughly afterward so that water doesn’t remain behind– you don’t want to risk warping the wood.

Consider Not Stripping the Piece

Chemical strippers are messy and time-consuming, and they’ve been known to damage some pieces. If your piece is in good shape, you may not even need it– you don’t always need to strip a piece to refinish it. Many times, a coat of gel finish will restore the piece to its original luster, even if you haven’t stripped the old finish before you apply the new one. Afterwards, apply a coat of wipe-on finish to complete the look.

Work Without Distractions

It’s best to do your work in a quiet location that’s dedicated specifically to the project. If you’re working while distracted, it’s much easier to make a mistake that might damage the piece. Set aside a space in your home for your project, and ask that pets or young children be kept away from the area for the duration of the work.

By working carefully, you can refinish that antique furniture without running any risks of harming it. Once you’re done, you’ll have a beautiful DIY piece that will serve as a functional conversation starter for years to come.


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