Have you ever wondered what you can do with your old pieces of furniture? Do you get attracted to furniture pieces thrown away at the dumpster that just need some TLC? I have tips and tricks to refurbish old furniture and make it look new!
I’m a big DIYer and I’m all about saving old furniture and helping them glow again.
Before we begin the tips and tricks
There are a few things that you should know about before refurbishing those lovely antiques. Furniture pieces can be much older than we think. Some may have chemicals that may harm us while we fix them up.
Be knowledgeable about the tips below. Giving antique pieces life again is not a quick process. It will take time and you won’t regret it.
But first, safety.
Safety first, “furniture saver”
Always use the proper tools. That also means having the knowledge in using those tools. It makes your tasks easier and definitely safer.
Wear protective gear that includes rubber gloves, eyewear, and long sleeves. Chemicals can splatter unexpectedly and cause minor to severe damages.
An area with good ventilation will make a difference. We can’t see odor or chemical molecules, but it doesn’t mean they are not detrimental. Good ventilation, such as outdoors, helps prevent inhaling poisonous vapors.
Don’t assume that you’ll always be safe
Oily rags may seem like they are not dangerous. If stored away from an ignition source, it is assumed the rags won’t catch on fire. Don’t assume this.
Spontaneous combustion can happen to oily rags through self-heating. If left in a pile of oily rags, heat retains and oxygen can contribute to combustion over time. Keep these rags in a metal container with covers in place.
Beware of older paint finishes that contain harmful chemicals like lead. If you think that your furniture piece has lead-based paint, go outdoors. Or work in a place with proper ventilation. Professionals can also help you if you need.
Let’s get started on the tips & tricks to refurbish old furniture
Some tips or tricks shared with you will leave you happy and excited. Some may not be your favorite. However, the important thing would be that you’re having fun as a DIYer and learning some tricks that you can share on.
Identify characteristics of your old furniture
Sometimes knowing what you’re dealing with helps ease the refurbishing process for you.
Does it have dovetail joints?
This characteristic speaks solid craftsmanship. Traditional and good craftsmanship. It’s elegant and it is definitely something that will add a great touch to your home decor.
Dovetail joints hold much meaning to its age and is generally a sign of a well-made piece. They are slightly irregular with pins that are thin and tapered. The joints are interlocked, making the wood piece strong.
If you get a hold of a wooden antique with dovetail joints, it is well worth salvaging. It will last quite a while and continue to age beautifully with your added care and touch!
Is it painted wood or just varnish?
Wood is one of my favorite pieces to work with. I’m sure many of you DIYers enjoy refurbishing anything made out of wood. It’s tempting to buy wooden antique pieces or salvage them the minute you see them.
One tip that will help you is being careful of pieces that are painted. Sometimes, paint isn’t just to make things look pretty. Paint can be used, by the previous owner, to cover a multitude of bad things.
Things like water stains, the veneer that’s missing, or burnt spots.
Dirty, old varnish on wooden antiques seem easier to deal with. Varnish can literally be stripped off. The bonus part – varnish is clear.
Are metal pieces completely a no-go?
Not necessarily. You’d be surprised at how beautiful old and rusty, metal furniture can turn out after some careful TLC. Bear in mind that lots of rust and other signs of wear will again, require patience.
Some metal pieces may be used only to the extent of showing them off to your guests. Ask yourself whether you want to use these rusty pieces or just display them before you salvage them. If you want to use them, you’ll have to remove all the rust and then paint them.
I’d say that it’s a DIY good experiment and I’ve included some tips below. Go for it!
Using sweat, sometimes tears, for your furniture
How to remove paint or varnish from wooden pieces
Removing paint or varnish can be tedious. It may need lots of patience as well. However, it is a fun project that even your husband or a friend can help you do!
The results will usually deserve a pat on your back and thumbs-up from your guests.
Or you could be traditional and leave the natural wood of your wooden pieces bare and exposed. Just make sure you sandpaper it.
Applying stain to deepen the character of wood
As mentioned above, once you’re removed the paint or varnish from your wooden antique or piece, staining can be the next step. It is easy and simple. Depending on the color of the stain that you choose, it will give your wooden piece an earthy, natural look.
Use a brush that is clean and not rough. When you apply the stain, maintain the same direction of brush strokes, not overlapping. Each brush of stain will add a darker hue.
Test the stain on the underside of your wooden piece. You can also practice the strokes, applied pressure, and feel free to test out the color hues.
Once you’ve let the stain soak in your wood for some time, use a soft cloth to wipe off the stains. Use the same direction as when you painted on the stain. The longer the stain soaks in the wood, the darker the color. Don’t forget to finish with a sealant.
Saltwash- one of my favorites!
As I had mentioned earlier, I am a fan of wooden antiques. I am also a huge fan of weathered, distressed furniture that look like they’ve spent 10 years in the blazing sun.
If you’ve never heard of Saltwash, I highly recommend that you not only look it up, but use it! It has the consistency of baking powder and all you do is mix it with your choice of paint. Voila! Your chippy, weathered, paint formula.
Stripping off rust from metal furniture
When it comes to rust, many DIYers may cringe. But the effort and hard work results in a happy DIYer with a newly loved metal furniture.
You will first need to get a wire brush. This will help remove any loose pieces of rust. Remove the big flakes of rust, but don’t worry about getting all of it. Sanding comes next for that.
If you only have a hand sandpaper, then sweat and possibly tears will be dripping (but don’t give up! It’s worth it!) from your face. A palm-sander will help remove the rest of the rust. Be sure to sand the crevices and curves.
A helpful hint: the lower the number of your sandpaper, the coarser. Therefore, the more flakes of rust will be removed.
Spray painting your metal furniture
Once your metal piece of furniture has been clean from rust, the fun of painting a new look begins!
Wipe your metal furniture with acetone or a solvent. Apply a high-quality, rust preventive primer. White primer for lighter colors and darker primer for darker colors.
Spray slowly, in a back and forth motion. Once dry, lightly sandpaper for a smoother touch and then wipe off with a tack cloth.
I recommend using a high-quality, oil based spray paint. After all, your sweat and tears was for the long haul of this metal furniture. Apply two to three light coats in a back and forth motion.
Let each coat dry in between the next. If you get a drip or several drips, use a chip brush (inexpensive, disposable, and handy to keep. I usually buy them by the box and they last.) to stop the drip run and smooth it out.
Sometimes, the most basic is all you need
Simply cleaning a piece of old furniture can make it look brand new. These methods can be used for furniture made with wood, rattan, or wicker surfaces.
Use an oil-based commercial wood cleaner to cut through layers of dirt and wax. However, if wood cleaner doesn’t get the job done, switch to a solution of warm water and liquid detergent. Apply the solution with a soft cloth without letting the wood get too wet.
Rinse the area thoroughly. Dry with with a soft and clean cloth to avoid water damage to your wooden furniture.
Solvents like mineral spirits, turpentine, or denatured alcohol are the next solution if the above two don’t work. An old towel, burlap or any cloth with a rough texture should be used to apply the solvent.
Wipe immediately with another cloth. Buff the wood lightly with another clean cloth once you’ve applied a commercial cleaner.
Going green for Mother Nature
Did you know that you can go green even with refurbishing old furniture? Eco-paint, or “green paint”, is becoming more popular today.
Using green paint is not only good for the environment but it’s good for you and your loved ones. VOC (volatile organic compounds) are found in lots of conventional paints and decorative coatings. They’ve been known to harm our health through the toxins they give out, which we breathe in.
Natural paints that you can use
Any paint that you use contains a binder, pigment, solvent, and sometimes a filler. Binders basically create the main film-forming body of the paint. Pigments give the color of the paint. Solvents create the paint’s liquidity. If there’s a filler, it thickens and adds volume to the paint.
You can identify each of these components in natural paint. Additionally, these components are naturally occurring without any added synthetic parts.
How do you tell these components apart from each other? Through making your own paint!
Making your own natural paint
Yes- you can definitely make your own natural paint. There are tons of “recipes” that you can find online.
If you do make your own natural paint, be sure to keep in mind the quantity that you’re producing. Additionally, since natural paints are not mainstream, you may have to think in advance and reach out to specialist local suppliers. Again, something that you can look up online!
Check out some of these recipes from diynetwork.com.
Lime Wash Paint
Recommended: 3 to 4 coats for indoor use; 4 to 5 coats for outdoor use. Apply to a porous surface (not on top of other finishes). For greater adhesion, use casein lime wash (casein that is derived from milk curd).
Binder: lime putty, non-hydraulic bagged lime or hydraulic lime
Solvent: usually water, but some have a small oil content (typically linseed oil), particularly with external applications
Filler: not required in pure lime wash
Distemper (Milk Paint and Cheese Paint Derivatives)
For interior use only. This mix is water-based although a small amount of linseed oil is added. Many milk paints only use the curd, but more traditional milk paints would mix skim milk directly with hydrated lime and pigment.
Binder: soft animal glue, casein (derived from milk curd) or natural oils
Solvent: water, linseed oil
Filler: powdered chalk
Fascinating and worth a try or two … or more
I hope that these tips and tricks have been more than helpful for each of you DIYers looking to refurbish old furniture. I absolutely enjoy creating something new out of something old. It builds character that not only attracts people, but fascinates them.