Refresh Your Favorite Pieces with These Refinishing Tips

Photography by @atelier_111deco on Instagram

Text by Bethany Adams

Whether it’s the front door, dresser, headboard, or kitchen cabinets, a fresh finish can breathe new life into a dull or timeworn piece—but tackling a refinishing project doesn’t always go smoothly. With the right tools in your belt and a few tips, however, taking on this challenge can lend years to a well-worn piece and add a splash of fresh style to any corner of your cottage.


Photography by Cindy Blackenburg

Making sure you have everything you need before getting started not only limits additional trips to the hardware store, but it can help cut down on costs in the long run. Before you jump in, do research on the type of piece you’re refinishing and the kind of finish you want to achieve. Stripping paint? Know how old the piece is and whether or not you need to check for lead in the paint. Staining? Identify the type of wood to know how best to treat it. Remember that not all paints are created equal when repainting things like kitchen cabinets, and be sure to have wood putty on hand for furniture that bears deep marks or nicks. While it will vary depending on your project, it’s always good to have supplies on hand like drop cloths, gloves, masks, rags, and sanding blocks of varying grits.

Removing hardware

Photography by @turnstyledesigns on Instagram

To make the process easier and the final finish cleaner, remove all hardware before you start—but take care to keep all of those pieces together! Plastic sandwich bags are perfect for separating small parts and can be labeled easily. Wrap very small pieces like screws in masking tape to further ensure they’ll be easy to find.

Sandpaper Grit/Sanding Blocks

Photography by @vintagebylhof on Instagram

Whether you’re stripping an existing finish so you can stain the wood or planning to paint over what’s already there, sanding your piece is a necessary step for helping the new finish to last. If you’ve stripped your piece down to the natural wood, start with a rough grit around 150 and work your way to something like a 220 grit. While orbital power sanders can save time on larger projects, if you choose to sand by hand, opt for sanding blocks that will make the process easier.


Photography by @atelier_111deco on Instagram

If you’re staining your piece, taking the time to properly prep and finish can make all the difference. A wood conditioner will help your wood stain evenly and a topcoat will help your finish last longer, making the work you put into the project well worth it. When choosing a wood conditioner, carefully select an oil- or water-based version depending on the type of stain you plan to use.

Personalize It

Photography by The Weathered Door

Make the finished product truly pop with a personal twist! Changing out the hardware, using that leftover wallpaper to line the drawers, adding a splash of color—however you choose to personalize your piece, it’s this final step that will really make the refinishing process successful and turn your piece into a permanent fixture in your home.

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