Update Your Furniture For Spring With These DIY Refinishing Tips

| March 12, 2013 | 20 Comments

Side Table


Spring is around the corner and this makes people do some crazy things -like throw away their old furniture to make room for new pieces that will hopefully take their place.

If the thought of refinishing your old furniture to make it new again gives you a panic attack-let me ease your fears. For only a few bucks and one weekend of your time you can have a new-again piece of furniture that you will love and cherish even more because you’ve made it all your own.

Here are some easy to follow DIY furniture refinishing tips that will have your home dazzling and your spirits lifted-just in time for spring!

What you will need

  • Stripping Gloves
  • Stripping pads
  • Sand paper 150 grit
  • A well ventilated area
  • A nose and mouth cover/mask
  • Protective eyewear
  • A heavy duty plastic sheet to place the furniture on
  • Heirloom Furniture Stripper (this stuff is amazing)
  • Metal scraper
  • Paint with primer or a separate primer if you are not staining
  • Stain of your colour choice if you are not painting
  • Minwax Finishing Paste or Varathane
  • Small high density foam rollers
  • Small paint roller
  • Small paint tray
  • Paint brushes x 2 (one for paint or stain, and one if you are using Varathane)
  • Turpentine
  • An old soft rag
  • Cheesecloth (if you are using Minwax)

1. Stripping your furniture-

If you want to repaint or put a new stain finish on your piece you will first need to strip the old paint and finish off. I have had people ask me if this is really necessary-The real answer is that it depends on the piece. My answer to simplify things  is always yes- I always strip my pieces because I am able to guarantee that the surface will be properly prepared to be refinished for a client. In the past I have found that simply sanding existing surfaces can cause the new paint or stain to chip and peel off quite easily. Not only that, but sanding can ruin your furniture piece because its easy to get carried away and press too hard or use the wrong grit. I mean if you want to do something you might as well do it right…right?

 Furniture StripperTake the furniture stripper and follow the instructions on the back as well as wearing all safety items. Pour the stripper on the surface and make sure there is enough to cover the area generously. I leave a sort of puddle like amount. After about 5 minutes the paint will start to bubble and you should be able to simply take your metal scraper gently and without gouging the wood and simply scrape off all the paint. If it does not come off very easy then wait a few more minutes. It should just come right off without you having to do any work at all.

Continue until the entire piece is stripped.

Do not point a fan at the furniture while working with paint stripper-it will dry it out VERY quickly and if the product dries you will have to start all over again. Also do not touch the stripper (hahaha ok I had to laugh at that one), it will burn like there is no tomorrow.

2. Post stripping- After the old finish has been removed take the stripping pads and lightly sand the entire piece to get rid of any left over paint and residue. Work in the same direction as the grain of  wood being gentle and careful so as not to damage the furniture.

Continue to do this until you can run your hands along the piece and all you can feel is a smooth surface.

3.  Paint/Stain preparation- Put turpentine on an old rag until the rag is pretty much saturated but not dripping and wipe down your furniture very thoroughly. This ensures that you are getting rid of all the stripping residue. If there is any residue left on the furniture you will have a hec of a time trying to get your paint or new stain to stick.

When you are done you will need to wait until it is completely dry before you can move on to the next step. At this point I usually stop to clean up and put the piece aside to dry until the next day, or start on my next piece.

4.  Final sanding- Once it is completely dry you will take your 150 grit sandpaper and very lightly sand in the direction of the grain. This ensures an extra smooth surface for refinishing (like buffing your nails before polish).

When you are done the final sanding wipe it down with a “hardly” damp cloth to ensure there is no dust.

5. Prime

Here you can see the table is partly primed. The door shows you how your piece should look when it is ready for priming.

I always like to prime my furniture with two coats separately before painting  but this is not necessary.You can easily use a paint and primer in one. It is simply a matter of preference. Either way, make sure you use a primer when repainting furniture. This ensures proper paint bonding to your piece and a high quality long lasting finish. See proper painting steps below for step 6.

6. Painting- Let the fun begin! This is the best part and where you can let your creativity and individuality really come out. You can paint your piece in all different colors, or in one color. You can give it an antique look, a vintage look, a modern look. There is no limit or rules which is why I absolutely adore refinishing furniture.

Use only a small amount of paint on your high density foam roller. Too much paint will look very globby, and streaky, and we do not want that. It is much easier to apply more coats if needed than it is to fix paint that was put on too thick.

Roll in the direction of the grain and make sure to catch any drips (which there shouldn’t be because remember-we are using a very small amount of paint on the roller).

For hard to reach places and corners that the roller can’t reach use your paint brush with as little paint as possible.

Do as many coats as you think is necessary and until you are happy, waiting for each coat to dry first before applying a new one.

7. Staining- Apply the wood stain in the direction of the grain with a brush or clean cloth. Let the stain penetrate 5 -15 minutes to ensure you achieve the desired colour. Remove excess stain with a clean cloth. Wipe in the direction of the grain, while blending to obtain uniform colour. To darken colour, apply a second coat after 4-6 hours.

8. Protect your piece- Once your furniture is completely dry apply some Minwax to your cheesecloth and buff in a circular motion until the wax is evenly distributed and gives off a nice cheerful shine. Minwax will protect your piece and adds that little something to compliment your beautiful paint job.

If you want stronger protection you can use Varathane. This will give you a harder coating with a high gloss finish. I usually use Varathane with more modern pieces of furniture. Using a paint brush apply the sealer evenly to the surface. Let the first coat dry until it is sticky to the touch, and then apply a second coat. Let the second coat dry until sticky and then apply a third coat.


  • It takes two weeks for finishes to cure. Until that time it will be easy for the paint and stain to come off or chip. I personally always put the finished piece aside for the full two weeks, taking out the drawers and leaving the doors open so that they do not stick.

Before and After

 Refinishing your own furniture is a fun and rewarding project. You will save loads of money, and have a piece of unique furniture that no one else has. Remember to always keep safety in mind and work in a well ventilated area. But most of all have fun and stay true to your own personal style 🙂

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Category: Crafts, Home and Garden, Living, Ottawa, Spring/Summer Crafts

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Comments (20)

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  1. Lola says:

    I love repurposing my originals. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of great pieces, both wood and upholstery by changing it up from time to time! Thanks for the renewed inspiration!

  2. Save-at-Home-Mom says:

    wow – i love the colours you’ve chosen! I’ll be on the lookout for some treasures this spring with added enthusiasm … thanks!

  3. Natalie Nichols says:

    What a huge improvement!

  4. Laura Boisvert says:

    Thank you all for your comments-I am really glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
    This piece is actually for sale and you can find this and other pieces on my website in the Furniture Store section 😀

  5. Amy Lovell says:

    super cool! Thanks fpr these great tips!

  6. Rene says:

    This looks AMAZING – and since a lot of our furniture came from the curb, it could use some updating. i have had handles and paint for our dresser for over a year…maybe now I’ll do it!

  7. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    I’ve done quite a bit of ‘upgrading’ of old furniture. I’m now thinking of using milk paint or chalk paint next time.

  8. Galyna Buz says:

    This is great! I am going to try this at my home.

  9. kathy downey says:

    Only January and I cant wait for spring to get a project on the go

  10. kathy downey says:

    I picked up an old wood dresser last weekend at a yard sale going to make it my summer project to redo it.

  11. kathy downey says:

    I cant wait to start a new project!

  12. kathy downey says:

    We are working on a dresser we picked up at a year yard,there was actually 7 coats of paint but we are wearing it down

  13. kathy downey says:

    Wow,what a huge improvement!

  14. kathy downey says:

    I got a nice piece over the winter and cant wait for the weather to warm so i can get out and at it

  15. Julie says:

    Great tips, thanks! Pinning this for future reference!

  16. Debbie White Beattie says:

    You did an amazing job, the dresser looks so much better

  17. Julie says:

    I have some spring painting projects planned, thanks for the help!

  18. Wanda Tracey says:

    The results of your project are so amazing.I love working with old furniture and I get excited to see what’s underneath all the old paint.

  19. Debbie White Beattie says:

    I recently found an old dresser at a garage sale and I thought of this post so I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s done. Thanks for the idea !

  20. Wanda Tracey says:

    I love refurnishing wood and really enjoyed this feature for the awesome tips and pictures.

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