Furniture from the big box stores are becoming more expensive year after year, but what can we do about it? Instead of going out and buying a brand-new furniture set for thousands of dollars you can save big with one simple tip, refinishing old or cheap furniture.

DIY Guide to Refinishing Furniture

This guide is designed to help you find furniture that you can refinish, but it will also teach you the steps on how to go through the refinishing process. It might seem like a difficult task, and it can be, but by following along in this article you will know exactly what steps to follow.

DIY Refinishing Furniture Guide

Step 1 – Finding Furniture to Refinish

There are a few different ways you can find furniture to refinish, but the easiest ways are:

  • Using furniture you already own
  • Thrift store shopping
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Local online buy and sell
  • Garage sales
  • Estate sales

These are the best ways you can find furniture to refinish, if you want to find free furniture you can always drive around during clean up weeks. Sometimes, depending on location, these clean up weeks people will throw out old furniture that can be great for a makeover project. After finding your piece of furniture to refinish you need to move on to the prepping stage.

Step 2 – Prepping

This is when you decide what your plans are with this piece of furniture, maybe you already know, but if not make sure you have some sort of plan in mind. Determine what paint colour you are going to use, light or dark? Also, are you going to stain? If so, you need to pick out a stain colour too! The best way to get some amazing ideas is to head over to Pinterest and search up your type of furniture with “makeover” behind it. For example, if you have a nightstand to refinish search “nightstand makeovers” in Pinterest’s search bar. You will find some amazing ideas!



Anyways, it’s time to actually prep your piece for refinishing. Grab a drop cloth, plastic, or canvas, so you don’t get the area full of paint. Typically, you want to be in a well-ventilated area like the garage or outside. Some fumes can be toxic and you want to have ventilation to prevent serious damages. Place your piece of furniture on the drop cloth and clean it up with a rag using mineral spirits. Mineral spirits are a strong cleaner for wood furniture, it works well but an alternative can be an all-purpose cleaner. After wiping everything clean you can move on to the next stage of sanding.

Step 3 – Sand down Your Project

If you chose to stain, that means all of your old finish must be removed. You can either sand it down using a random orbital sander or use wood stripper to remove the layer of finish. Wood stripper can get messy so if you aren’t a pro maybe skip out on it this time. With sanding just make sure you don’t go through the surface; veneer is where you need to be careful. Veneer is a thin layer of wood that you must carefully sand. It usually looks amazing refinished just don’t go through it! When painting wood furniture people wonder “do you need to sand” and the answer is that you should do a light sand. This creates a scuffed-up area that the paint will adhere to much better. Before moving on to painting and staining clean up your project from dust and other debris.

Step 4 – Paint and Stain

Finally, it’s time to grab the paint and stain. The best type of paint for furniture is interior paint with a satin finish. Local hardware stores will carry this and you can usually find paint at a discounted price in their returned section. Home Depot does this and you can get paint for under 5 dollars! Stain is messy but brings out the wooden design in your furniture. Instead of covering your surface like paint, it penetrates the wood the colour of choice.

DIY Guide to Refinishing Furniture - refinished furniture

Step 5 – Apply Topcoat Protection

After everything has been painted on and stained, we wait until it dries. Then we can take out our topcoat finish to make the refinished furniture piece protected.

The most popular topcoats are:

  • Wax
  • Wipe on polyurethane
  • Spray poly
  • Spray lacquer

As a beginner, either one of these selections is easily applied. Wax is great for chalk paints; it creates a beautiful matte finish. Spray finishes are good for quick drying and turn-arounds.

Step 6 – Sell or Keep it!

After letting your furniture cure properly, you have to make a decision. Are you going to keep the refinished piece or sell? Refinishing furniture can be quite lucrative if done correctly, but maybe you wanted a nice and affordable piece of furniture for your own home? Either way, now you know the furniture refinishing process.

If you want to learn more about furniture flipping and how to make money doing so, check out Furniture Flippa. His blog and Youtube channel includes many step by step guides on how to refinish and sell furniture for a profit. Good luck refinishing!