Helpful DIY hints to refinish, fix and protect wood furniture

July 27, 2015

If the paint or varnish on a piece of cherished wood furniture is worn, cracking, or peeling, it may be time to refinish, restore or fix it to prevent future problems. Here are some things you should know to keep it protected for years to come.

Helpful DIY hints to refinish, fix and protect wood furniture

Working with wood strippers

Though stripping is a common do-it-yourself project, it can be very time-consuming, especially if the item has an intricate design or lots of pieces.

Before starting, you should know two types of wood strippers are available: solvent-based strippers and water-based strippers. Solvent-based strippers require a well-ventilated area, gloves, long-sleeved pants and shirts, and goggles for protection. They strip more quickly than water-based ones, but as a result, are more hazardous to work with. In either case, use gel or paste strippers, as they adhere well to vertical surfaces. All strippers need time to work, and the more layers of paint or finish you are removing, the more time it takes.

  1. Remove all drawers, doors and hardware from the piece of furniture before starting, and work the surfaces one at a time.
  2. Brush on a thick coat of stripper and leave it in place for at least three minutes per layer of finish. Tough jobs take as long as 20 minutes; you may need to purchase special plastic wrap to keep the stripper wet while it works.
  3. Remove the dissolved paint or finish with a flexible putty knife; avoid stiff tools that might gouge the wood.
  4. On intricate carvings, use an old toothbrush to get into tight spots. Use No. 2 steel wool to remove any remaining stripper.
  5. Finish stripping by cleaning off the residue. For chemical strippers, use turpentine or denatured alcohol; for water-based strippers, water.
  6. Let the wood dry, then lightly sand the surface before applying a new finish, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Gluing pieces back together

Serious wood furniture repair is for professionals, but you can attempt minor fixes yourself, such as regluing a loose joint. Basic joint repair involves some disassembly of the piece, regluing with wood glue and clamping the joints securely until the glue sets.

  • Before you begin, work out exactly how you will clamp your piece of furniture while the glue sets and dries.
  • Squeeze clamps, C-clamps or web clamps are good for small jobs, but sliding clamps or pipe clamps are usually necessary for big jobs.
  • You can also improvise with rope or bungee cords in no-stress areas.

Preventing problems

Beside overlaying a table completely with glass, there are other preventive measures for wood furniture.

  • Cut felt or leather pads to fit under decorative accessories and lamps. Glue the pieces to the base.
  • When dusting, polishing or just using a table, make it a habit to lift up the tabletop items, without sliding them, to prevent scratching the wood.
  • Use UV-grade shades or blinds at windows to protect wood furnishings from strong sunlight and heat. Close curtains and draperies during the brightest hours of the day to prevent wood from fading and drying out.
  • Store unused furniture in a location that is dry and slightly cool. Attics and garages are poor storage places that can encourage mildew, mold, cracks and warping, and can destroy inlays and veneers.

With just a little extra effort, you - and maybe even future generations - will be sure to enjoy your favourite furniture pieces for many more years.

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