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The Art of Restoring Furniture: Tools and Techniques for DIY Furniture Makeovers

15 min read


Tools & Techniques for Furniture Makeovers

Tool Technique
Sandpaper Sand furniture to remove old finishes
Painter’s Tape Tape off areas while painting
Spray Paint Apply different colors to furniture
Filler/Putty Fill wood holes and cracks to create smooth finishes
Protective Coating Apply sealant and top coats for protection
Stripper Strip off old paint quickly and easily
Stain Stain wood in different colors and shades
Primer Able to prime well for longer lasting paint jobs

man restoring furniture chair w brush

Why Restore Furniture

Restoring old furniture can be incredibly rewarding and is often more affordable than buying a new item.

Not only can you save money, but you can also gain a sense of satisfaction from knowing that you breathed life back into a worn-out item.

Plus, you can customize the furniture to your own tastes.

With a little creativity, you can make something truly unique and one-of-a-kind.

Old furniture may also have deeper personal or historic value, so restoring it preserves memories.

Finally, it can be a great learning experience and teach you valuable skills like carpentry and upholstery.

What You’ll Learn

This article will teach you everything you need to know about restoring furniture.

You’ll learn about the necessary tools and supplies to get the job done - sandpaper, paintbrushes, and more.

You’ll also learn which techniques to use, such as sanding and refinishing, to make your furniture look like new.

We’ll also teach you how to give new life to furniture pieces with upholstery and decoupage.

Finally, you’ll learn how to add some unique touches with stencils and decals.

With these tools and techniques at your disposal, you’ll be able to make your old furniture look brand new!

Before You Begin: Preparation


Before beginning a furniture makeover, it’s important to assess the condition of the piece.

Look closely at the surface and check for scratches, dents, scuffs, and fading from UV sunlight exposure.

Also check the frame to make sure all the joints are sturdy and secure, and the legs and corners remain strong.

Carefully evaluate how the hardware is attached, and look for any parts that may need to be replaced.

Lastly, take a look at the fabric or upholstery and determine if it needs to be replaced or reupholstered.

Spend a good amount of time assessing before beginning your furniture makeover project.


Before you begin restoring furniture, it’s important to clean it first.

That means dusting the surface and wiping down with a damp cloth.

Be sure to pay special attention to crevices and nooks, and don’t forget to use a vacuum brush or hose attachment to clean up dust and dirt that’s collected in hard-to-reach places.

Get rid of any dirt or debris before starting your furniture makeover.

Pay special attention to the legs, as they can be especially dirty after being on the floor for a long time.

Finally, make sure you use a furniture polish to keep your furniture looking its best!

Safety Measures

When tackling any furniture-restoring project, it’s important to take the necessary safety precautions.

Wear protective eye gear, like glasses or goggles, and clothes that will protect your skin from any flying bits or sawdust.

Set up your workspace away from distractions and put on gloves to avoid splinters.

Double check your tools for any damage and use a saw or sander for wood projects.

Make sure there is adequate ventilation, like an open window or fan, and keep an extinguisher nearby in case of fire.

Before starting any project, take a few moments to think it through and go through a checklist of safety measures so you can work safely and confidently.

Essential Tools for Furniture Restoration

Sanding Tools

When it comes to sanding away old finishes and tears, you’ll need the right tools.

Power sanders are great for larger and wider areas of sanding.

For smaller areas, hand sanders can provide more control.

With sandpaper, you can find different grades of grits for different levels of roughness.

For the smoothest surfaces, start with a higher grit level, and for areas that need more sanding, it’s better to go with a lower grit.

Make sure to use proper safety equipment and masks when sanding!

Screwdrivers and Wrenches

When it comes to furniture restoration, screwdrivers and wrenches are must-have tools.

Screwdrivers are needed for taking furniture apart and putting it back together.

Wrenches can help you loosen and tighten nuts and bolts.

The different sizes of screwdrivers and wrenches will help you access and secure any tight spaces on your furniture.

When choosing screwdrivers and wrenches, look for ones that are designed specifically for furniture repair.

This will make the restoration process easier and more efficient.

Paintbrushes and Rollers

Paintbrushes and rollers are essential when it comes to furniture restoration.

For a smooth finish, use a soft, natural brush with finely tapered bristles such as a state or Round Brush.

For more intricate details, use a brush with shorter and stiffer bristles, often referred to as a Spotting brush.

For larger areas and flat surfaces, use a roller.

Microfiber rollers work great for a smooth finish and a medium pile roller for flat or Eggshell finishes.

For thicker finishes like a gloss, use a foam roller.

Remember to use a different brush and roller for each type of finish and buy the correct sizes for the surface you are working with to get a professional looking finish.

Other Miscellaneous Tools

Clamps are essential for many furniture restoration projects.

They hold pieces of furniture together while also allowing you to work on them.

Chisels are also very useful when needing to remove material such as glue or paint, as they are able to give you precise control over what you are cutting.

Other miscellaneous tools important to have are scrapers for removing old paint, files for sharpening edges, and sandpaper for smoothing out surfaces.

These tools are not essential but can help you get a better product in the end.

Paint and Finish: What to Use

Types of Paint

When it comes to applying a new coat of paint to an old chair or dresser, there are lots of options.

Oil-based paints are ideal for projects like trim or for heavy duty projects.

Water-based paints are easy to clean up and come in dozens of different colors.

chalk paint can give furniture a bright, matte finish that looks great, and milk paint can give furniture a reactive, vintage look.

These four paints have different looks and durability, so consider what will work best for your project.

Stains and Finishes

Stained wood and protection from the elements go hand-in-hand.

To help keep furniture looking beautiful, there are three main products to consider: varnish, lacquer and wax.

Varnish is a hard, clear coating that seals and protects wood.

It’s ideal for outdoor furniture.

Lacquer is a quick-drying finish that creates a beautiful shine.

Wax adds a soft sheen and provides protection against dirt and spills.

Apply it with a soft cloth and repeat for the desired effect.

All three are easy to use and can help keep furniture looking its best for years to come.

Choosing Colors and Shades

When it comes to choosing colors and shades for your furniture makeover, there are a few important considerations.

Start by considering the size and shape of your room.

Lighter colors tend to make spaces look larger while darker shades create an intimate atmosphere.

Consider whether your furniture will be placed near the walls, or in an open space.

Colors near walls will be seen differently than colors in the open.

That said, don’t be afraid to get creative and choose the shades that evoke the mood you’re aiming for.

If you’re going for a cozy, rustic look, warm browns or reds will do the job.

If a breezy, airy atmosphere is your goal then cool blues, greens, and grays are the way to go.

Together with the correct type of paint and finish, selecting the right shades can make any project a beautiful success.

Sanding Techniques

Manual vs Power Sanding

When it comes to sanding furniture pieces, two popular options exist: manual sanding or power sanding.

Manual sanding is typically the preferred choice for detailed work, since it allows for more control.

This control means you can get closer to crevices or hard-to-reach spots, which can make detail work easier and result in a higher-quality finish.

But manual sanding can take longer, and getting the job done right may take more skill and attention.

Power sanding, on the other hand, is generally faster and makes it easier to work on larger areas.

It often requires less skill and knowledge, but you have to be careful that you don’t get too much of the surface off, since it’s harder to control.

Power sanding can give a great finish if done correctly, but it can be easy to overdo it if you don’t pay attention.

A combination of manual and power sanding can be a great way to get the desired results.

Sanding Steps

Sanding is easy, but you should take your time to get your best results.

Here are the steps:

  • Put on your safety glasses and dust mask.
  • Choose the right sandpaper grit for your job.

  • Draw a test pattern on a piece of scrap wood or a hidden area of your furniture to ensure sandpaper is appropriate.

  • Move your sandpaper in the same direction as the wood grain.

  • Sand carefully around tight areas, curves, and in between grooves.

  • Change out your sandpaper as needed.

  • Keep your work area clean.

  • Wipe down the furniture with a damp cloth before you move onto the next steps.
  • Vacuum and remove all sanding dust using a damp cloth to get a smooth shine before you apply your finish.

Safety Tips

When sanding furniture, safety should always come first.

Start by wearing safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask.

You never know when wood chips or dust could fly into your eyes or lungs.

To avoid becoming overly fatigued, take breaks for a few minutes each hour.

Be sure your workspace is free of any pets or small children who may experience danger from the sanding process.

Lastly, always double check electrical cords and machines to make sure they are in working order.

Following these tips will keep you safe while you makeover your old furniture.

Painting and Finishing Techniques


Priming furniture before applying paint is an important step in the furniture makeover process.

Primer helps paint adhere to the surface, resulting in a beautiful, long-lasting finish.

It also blocks stains and absorbs unevenly colored patches, creating a smooth and even painting surface.

Additionally, it seals in any odors from the furniture and prevents knots and pine sap from ‘bleeding’ through the paint.

Primer also gives paint a better grip and keeps the finished surface looking fresh for longer.

If you’re restoring a piece of furniture, make sure you take the time to properly prime the piece for the best results.


Painting is one of the most important steps in restoring furniture.

To get a smooth, long-lasting coat, use thin coats and multiple layers.

Use a good quality brush - synthetic brushes work best for acrylic paints - and keep a damp sponge handy for mistakes.

Make sure you have plenty of ventilation and don’t forget to wear a face mask and rubber gloves.

Prep furniture properly by cleaning and lightly sanding before painting.

Make sure all edges are smooth and tape off areas you don’t want to paint.

When applying the paint, overlap each coating by 1/3 and wait till each layer is dry before applying the next.

Finish with a suitable sealant or protective finish for a glossy, greasy-free look.

Applying Finishes

When it comes to furniture restoration, applying the final finishes is an important step.

To make sure you get the best result, it’s important to use a good brush.

Choose one made of natural fibers for the best coverage.

To make sure the finish is even, apply it in a long, even strokes with the grain of the wood.

If you’re using a spray finish, be sure to hold the can 8 inches away from the wood and use quick, light strokes.

Don’t forget to let each coat dry completely before adding the next coat.

When you’re done, protect your hard work with a good furniture wax.

Follow these steps and your furniture finish will be perfect.

Upholstery: Taking It to the Next Level

Removing Old Upholstery

Removing old upholstery can be a tricky process.

Keep in mind that some fabrics are more delicate and easily damaged than others.

Never pull up on fabric or use a sharp object to pry it off.

Instead, use gentle, steady pressure to loosen it, and slide your fingers between the material and the frame.

You can also use a pair of scissors to cut the material, if necessary.

When in doubt, move slowly and carefully.

It’s important to be patient so you don’t cause any damage.

With the right technique, you can easily remove old upholstery.

Choosing New Fabric

When it comes to upholstery fabric, there are plenty of choices.

Colors, textures, and materials range from breezy whites to wild paisleys or vibrant florals.

Look for a fabric with a tight weave to help with general wear and tear.

Look for something that spills and stains won’t soak into quickly, or consider a dark fabric to help hide any dirt or spills.

Most importantly, find a fabric that matches the rest of the design in the room.

Consider how versatile it can be if you want to change the room’s look in the future.

Lastly, never underestimate the power of a good deal.

When you’re shopping on a budget, discount stores might have just the fabric you need.

The Upholstery Process

Reupholstering your furniture is an easy and affordable way to give it a fresh new look.

Start by taking off the old upholstery, either by carefully removing staples or cutting along the seams.

Then measure the furniture and choose the new fabric - make sure you get enough to cover the entire piece of furniture.

Next, use your fabric of choice to cut out shapes for each panel of your furniture and use a staple gun to attach them.

Finally, fill any gaps with cushions, stuffing or other fillers and use a hot glue gun for any intricate details.

All that’s left is to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done!

Final Touches

Adding Hardware

Be sure to add the perfect hardware to your furniture makeover! Knobs, handles, pulls, drawer slides, hinges, and other decorative elements are the finishing touches that take your project to the next level.

Choose knobs with character - bright colors, unique textures, intricate designs - to add a personal touch to your piece.

Consider stronger handles or pulls for heavier items, such as dressers or armoires.

Drawer slides provide smooth movement, and you can find hinges that match the style of your piece.

Carefully placing your hardware will create a polished look and a truly beautiful restoration.

Fine Tuning

Small adjustments can really set furniture makeovers apart.

Change knobs and handles for a new look.

Or, add a few pulls and a pair of hinges for extra convenience.

Give drawers a smooth glide with wax or another lubricant.

Keep furniture stable with glides or furniture levelers.

Consider ways to fill empty spaces, like adding built-in storage or small decorative accents.

For an even more unique look, distress or finish pieces with special paints or stains.

With these small details, any furniture makeover can become extra special.

Sealing and Protection

You’re almost finished with your furniture makeover! Last but not least, you need to seal and protect your masterpiece.

Use several coats of varnish or polyurethane to keep your project looking spiffy and shiny.

Wax pastes and lacquer can also help create a barrier to keep moisture out.

Be sure to use protective gloves and wear a protective mask while spray painting for extra safety.

Allow plenty of drying time for each coat, and your finished piece will be safer and better protected.



Restoring furniture can help breathe fresh life into old, outdated pieces.

With the right tools and techniques, you’ll soon find your furniture looks and feels brand new.

You may need to sand off old layers of paint, use wood putty to fill in cracks, and protect wood surfaces with a topcoat sealant.

The result? A piece which looks like you’ve spent a fortune on a designer piece, without the hefty price tag.

Restore furniture can add a sense of style and value to the home, creating a one-of-a-kind piece perfect for your space.

Plus, the satisfaction of creating something yourself and saving money in the process is impossible to beat.

All in all, restoring furniture is an easy and cost-effective way to personalize your home.

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