Friday, January 17, 2014

What I Learned About Refinishing Furniture

I learned this is something I should have done sooner in my life.  I loved it.  It was more work that I thought it would be, but I loved the process.  

And reeeeeally love the reward. 


Since I posted about the how-I-did-it already: finding inspiration, stripping, sanding, staining & painting and the reveal...I've decided to share what I learned from beginning to end.  It's the next best thing I can do beside turning back time and telling my younger self to do this immediately. 

Oh the bad side tables and nightstands I've had...they could have been so much more!!!

1) Find your inspiration.

This Room

This Dresser

I'm a visual person, so I thrive on seeing things.  I found these pictures and kept coming back to them.  When the dresser started to go off course, I thought about changing direction.  But looking at them reinforced my focus and paid off in the end.

2.  Strip or sand?

Ha!  First figure out if it's solid wood or veneer. 

Dresser Side

This is a successfully stripped piece of wood veneer.

Dresser Top

This is not.  This is actually sanded veneer after being stripped poorly. 

Well, I don't know if it was done poorly.  It was my first time stripping anything, but I followed the directions to the T.  So I'm blaming the veneer. 


This, however, is a successfully sanded piece of wood veneer.  It turned out so much better than the best part of the dresser.  So if I was refinishing a veneer piece of furniture again, I'd sand.  Skip the strip. 

3.  Condition, condition, condition.

(Red Can On Top)

I didn't do a comparison stain between conditioned and non-conditioned veneer wood.  I wasn't taking any chances with the blotchy dresser top.  In the end, I think this really helped the stain absorb evenly.  It's not just for hair.

4.  The darker the stain, the more it really hides.

1st Coat: Light-er Stain
2nd Coat: Dark Stain
3rd Coat: Dark Stain

I almost didn't go here.  I was in give up mode after the first coat was a bust.  But the extra $9 for a little can of ebony saved the day dresser.  Don't give up.  Go dark.

5.  Millions of polyurethane bubbles are ok.

Now You See Them
Now You Don't

All I read anywhere about sealing was "get rid of the bubbles before it starts to dry."  I can't explain how heartbreaking it was to see a million bubbles that would not go away after I finally hid the blotches!  So I walked away.  And returned to find them gone.  Hallelujah.  The fine print should say: microbubbles are ok.

6.  Benjamin Moore Advance paint is worth it.


This stuff is expensive and it should always be used when painting furniture.  I got a tip from one of my favorite bloggers here and didn't look back. 

I resisted the temptation to "re-roll" because the paint looked almost clumpy and bumpy after a minute or so.  And good thing I did.  It self-levels and ends up looking flawless. 

7.  Splurge on the jewelry. 

The handles were not cheap.  But they make the dresser.  I truly believe that investing in them here makes this piece of furniture look and feel stunning. 

I've heard this rule of thumb over and over.  Never a regret.  Always a must. 

So that's all I'd say to a younger me.  I'd show her these before and after shots, too.

I'd say -I know- I can't believe I did that either.  But you totally can and you totally will.  And you totally should. 

Because this is what it cost:

$100 - Dresser (Kijiji)
$9     - Stripper
$9     - Pre-stain Conditioner
$16   - "Lighter" Stain
$9     - Ebony Stain
$30   - BM Advance Paint
$9     - Polyurethane
$68   - 6 Pulls
$250 TOTAL

(Ok, I bought a sander, too, which I was meaning to buy anyway for other projects...and used a store credit that I kept forgetting I that would add $67 for a grand total of $317)

Or...I could just buy this similar dresser.

$699 USD

Nah.  I'll keep the difference and find some more furniture to refinish.