Restoring furniture: our top tips
Updated: Jun 1
Many of us have been in the situation. We’re ready to freecycle. We’ve seen a piece of furniture in a vintage shop or free to take on Gively and thought: “if only it wasn’t so chipped”, or “I wish that door was still attached’. All too often, some minor tweaks can breath life back into something that was destined for landfill.
Have a vision
A key part of furniture restoration is having a vision of what the piece is going to look like. What colour do you want it to be? Where in the house will it live? What kind of finish do you want the restored furniture to have?
Plan, Plan and Plan again
The first step must be to fully scope out the project in front of you. Go over the piece inch by inch, documenting everything that needs work - from a paint chip to a missing leg. Documenting everything at the beginning will you plan the following weeks, ensuring that you’ve set aside enough time to dedicate to the piece you want to freecycle. This will also allow you to pla to get hold of all of the tools that you’ll need. The final part of the planning is budgeting. You may find that the tools you need, and the professional help required will be too much. The beauty of planning in advance is you can decide how much you want to spend restoring the piece. There may be a slightly cheaper alternative that will give you almost the same result as the most expensive approach.
Preparing the restored piece
The first part of the preparation process should be a thorough clean. Restoring a dirty piece of furniture could mean that you miss kinks or it could affect the paint/varnish finish that you apply at the end. Make sure that you use non-oppressive cleaning materials, like a natural soap. A heavy-duty cleaner may damage your furniture, leaving marks that can’t be removed. The cleaning instrument should be relatively kind, so a microfibre cloth or a very fine wire wool, if necessary.
The Restoration work
Through the planning phase, you should have identified all the tools and accessories needed to restore the piece. As you begin to work on the piece, be wary of any bits that appear too challenging for the skillset that you have. If this is the case, take a moment to either research further, or get some professional help. This may delay things, but a lot less so than if you damage your gem beyond repair! Screws, sandpaper and wood glue are your best friends for furniture restoration. Stainable putty will help with cracks.
One of the most exhausting processes of restoration is removing the old finish. This will require lots of sandpaper and a skinful of effort. This part is crucial. If you take your time on this, you should leave yourself with a piece that looks almost new. The final part here is applying the paint, or stain finish.
The final piece of advice I will pass across is to be safe. Be conscious that you will be working around sharp objects, lots of dust and potentially some chemicals too. Make sure you wear the appropriate eyewear (safety glasses) and clothing (tough, long-sleeved top and trousers).
There are loads of great sites out there to help with furniture restoration. Check out the likes of DIY Doctor for more information.
Gively is an online marketplace where users can give and request items for free. Our aim is to make giving mainstream and save millions of items from landfill.