The Top 5 Mistakes Made When Refinishing Wood

Do you have a wooden cabinet or table whose glory days have passed? Perhaps there’s just one scratch or stain too many, or it’s simply lost its shine. Fortunately, a solidly-constructed wooden piece is the perfect opportunity to simultaneously do some refinishing and save the planet. Given that the average American consumes over a ton of wood each year, refinishing old wooden furniture can bring that number down just a bit. That’s why many handy people try their own hand at refinishing wooden furniture. Be warned, however, that there are traps galore for mistakes to be made. Here are the most common mistakes we’ve seen and how to avoid them.

Follow Manufacturer Instructions for Properly Refinishing Wood

The most common and most avoidable pitfall of wood refinishing is simply not following the instructions on the label. Perhaps you have refinished wood before and feel comfortable with the process. However, the chemical makeup of each product can vary greatly from one can or bottle to the next. Sometimes, it’s even possible for novice refinishers to purchase the wrong product for their furniture. Be sure to carefully read all labels and heed all instructions. This alone can save you from potentially damaging your wooden piece.

Not Fully Removing the Finish

Removing the old finish of a piece is arguably the most cumbersome and exhausting step in refinishing wooden furniture. Most DIY refinishers will use a chemical stripper, or paint stripper, due to their efficiency. However, remember to apply a generous, even layer to the wood. An uneven layer will result in patches where the finish has not been completely removed.

Waiting Too Long or Too Short for the Chemical Stripper To Work

Here’s an example of how following the instructions on the product label can make it or break it. Not waiting long enough for the chemical stripper to set in will force you to scrape the finish off. Wait too long and the paint and old finish will dry and become hard again. Your goal is to remove the finish at the point when it is relatively soft.

Sanding In The Wrong Direction

After the old finish has been removed, it’s important to sand the surface to remove any rough spots or problem areas. In this step, you must sand in the direction of the grain and not against the grain. Sanding properly will make a huge difference to your final result. Any stains or varnishes applied on top of a poor sanding job will only emphasize rough places or swirl marks.

Not Letting Layers Dry Properly

Whether you’re applying stain, sanding sealer, or even your finishes, it’s important to let each layer dry before applying the next. Depending on what you chose for your piece, some products will require you to sand in between each layer. You will be able to find the appropriate waiting time and instructions on the container.

Refinishing a wooden piece of furniture can be a time-consuming process, but enjoyable and rewarding for many. We recommend that you invest the time to do the proper research on what options and products are out there. Above all, put the safety of yourself and your family first. If you would rather have the job done by a professional, be sure to contact an experienced and dedicated team, like the one at Howard’s Upholstery, to bring new life to a beautiful wooden piece.  

Written by hrosenthal-admin