When it comes to refinishing furniture, the first thing that most people do is to strip the old finish away. Although this usually creates the best foundation for a new finish, it isn't always necessary. Unless your furniture is showing specific signs of damage to the finish, you can easily refinish it without having to strip that old finish off. This is important if you're preserving a piece of wood furniture that's very old or you want to protect the history of a piece of furniture. Here's a look at how to refinish your furniture without stripping, and a few times when you should go ahead and strip it anyway.
Steps to Refinish Furniture Without Stripping the Old Finish
- Address Any Damage – treat any small surface damage with a coat of shellac. You can use most any color shellac, because you'll finish the furniture afterward, so it won't be obvious. Just apply a thin coat over any damaged areas to protect them and seal them in before you finish the furniture.
- Sand the Surface – If there are any small cracks that you need to treat, use fine grit sandpaper to sand them lightly away. Just don't sand too heavily, because then you'll start stripping away the old finish.
- Clean the Surfaces – Wipe the entire surface area of the furniture with a cloth soaked in mineral spirits to clean it. This is essential, because any dirt left behind between the layers of finish can cause your new finish to bubble and flake. Once you've wiped it all down with mineral spirits, wipe it dry with a clean, soft cloth.
- Apply the Finish – Once you've treated, sanded and cleaned the furniture, it's time to give it a whole new finish. Apply the new finish in thin, even coats. Allow it to cure between coats to ensure that you don't just cake it up on the furniture and end up with a gummy mess. The curing time will vary by product, so check yours carefully.
When Do I Need to Strip the Finish Anyway?
There may be some situations where even your best efforts won't allow you to leave the old finish on the furniture. If the finish has become heavily discolored, sticky or too damaged to provide any protection, that usually means it's time to let it go.
A sticky finish won't allow new finish coats to harden properly, and any finish that's flaking or peeling is going to just create bubbles under the surface that will cause your new finish to do the same.
With the tips presented here, you can not only understand how but also when it's possible to refinish wood furniture without actually stripping the old finish away. If you are uncertain, talk with a refinishing specialist like The Strip Joint who can inspect your furniture and tell you what your options are.