When many people spend time at home, they often look around and evaluate the state of their home. The homeowner is more likely to notice the cracked light switch, slight paint chip, or old, fading furniture than a guest is. When people look to furnish their homes, they often face a choice: buy cheap furniture that may need more frequent replacement or buy expensive furniture that will last a lifetime. The answer for everyone is different based on their current and projected future situations, both personally and financially. Many who purchase solid wood furniture realize it lasts a lifetime, although the stain may not. Heirloom-quality wooden furniture may be passed down to you from relatives—for example, a solid wood media console. When you’re looking to spruce up the way it looks, you’ll most likely consider refinishing it. Refinishing wood furniture is something many people think about doing at some point in their lives. It’s a task you can do at home, given you have a good space that’s well-ventilated to work with, time, and painting clothes. Most people don’t have a ton of experience in working with refinishing wood and are bound to stumble across a few roadblocks along the way. Here is a guide to the most common mistakes to avoid when refinishing wood furniture and how to avoid them.
Removing the finish improperly
The first step in the wood refinishing process is to remove the piece’s current finish. This requires stripping away the finish completely. To do this, most people choose to use a chemical stripper. Chemical strippers are available at most home improvement stores and online. This step is typically the most dreaded one for beginners and professionals alike. It is the most time-consuming and labor-intensive part of wood furniture refinishing. You need to follow the directions for the chemical stripper exactly. The most common issues in removing the finish from wood are not removing it entirely, waiting too long for the chemical stripper to work, and not waiting long enough for the chemical stripper to work.
Waiting too long for the chemical stripper to work can cause the finish to re-harden. Chemical strippers work by softening the finish enough for you to peel it off with only gentle scraping. They are tricky to time for all, especially those new to refinishing. Apply it in a thick, even layer to the entire surface of the wood. Applying an uneven layer can also cause issues in that there will be patches where the finish is not completely removed.
In cases where the finish is not entirely removed, it will set you back when attempting to sand and refinish the wood. The finish must be removed entirely to proceed to further steps.
Just as waiting too long for a chemical stripper to work is an issue, not waiting long enough is also a common mistake that new furniture refinishers make. Not giving the chemical stripper enough time to work will mean the finish is not soft and will need to be scraped off. This can damage the wood and make stripping the wood much harder than it needs to be. This is one of the most common mistakes first-time refinishers make out of fear of leaving the stripper on too long.
How to avoid finish removal issues
Use your chemical wood stripper exactly as directed. Once you’ve applied a thick and even layer, set a timer for the exact amount of time the directions say. Be prompt, and remove the finish when the timer goes off.
Sanding incorrectly is another common mistake to avoid when refinishing wood furniture. Sanding wood is essential to smoothing out any imperfections and creating a nice surface to apply your new stain to.
Many people sand in the wrong direction, going against the grain. This may seem like a minor indiscretion at the time, but DIYers will quickly realize how much it matters when they go to apply the stain. Be sure to sand with the grain instead of going against it, much as one does when shaving. Sanding correctly will help to cut down on the appearance of rough places or swirl marks once you apply your new stain in the next step in the process.
Another common issue with sanding is sanding too much or too little. Sanding too much can damage the wood and make it appear thin and uneven. Sanding too little can leave flaws and imperfections in the wood which will most likely lead to an uneven finish when applying the stain.
How to avoid sanding incorrectly
If you’ve never sanded wood before, get a practice piece of wood and try out your skills on that first. This way you can identify any troubles or setbacks you may experience before it counts. When you sand the wood furniture you’re really working on, be sure to let the sander do the work for you—in other words, don’t apply tons of pressure. Sand with the grain, and stop sanding when the piece feels finished.
Applying finish coats incorrectly
Applying a finish is the last step in the process of refinishing your wood furniture. Once you’ve chosen a stain, try to avoid these common mistakes: applying too few coats, applying too many coats, and applying coats unevenly.
Applying too few coats can give your wood furniture the appearance of a thin and see-through paint job. The wood’s actual color will be visible, and you will be able to see all the natural flaws in the wood’s surface. One thin layer is not enough to give your wood the appearance of a high-quality and professional-level stain.
Applying too many coats can give the wood a plasticky appearance or make it look cheaply made. The best way to tell if your furniture has the right number of coats is to give the layers time to dry and to inspect the piece before applying additional coats. Stop applying coats once the piece looks the way you want it to.
Another common issue with applying coats of finish to wood furniture is not correctly rubbing it out, leaving the layers uneven. This can lead to the undesired plastic appearance, dried drip marks, and uneven thickness around the piece.
How to avoid applying finish coats incorrectly
Wait for the coat you applied to dry before deciding to apply another coat to avoid putting too many or too few layers on your piece. Rub out the finish when it’s time so you’ll avoid an uneven coating.