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Share to PinterestSo Many Methods for Finishing Wood Surfaces

So Many Methods for Finishing Wood Surfaces

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestSo Many Methods for Finishing Wood Surfaces

Nothing shakes up your home's decor like new furnishings, but let's be reasonable: furniture is expensive. Thankfully, you can revamp your existing pieces and customize thrift store bargain finds for way less ready money, regardless of what type of wood you're restoring.

Whether you're refinishing your parents' hand-me-downs or scouring Facebook Marketplace for your next dining room set, you can have the wood furniture of your dreams.


Don't skip the prep work

Share to PinterestA man outside in a sunny environment holds the wooden frame of a dining chair and uses abrasive sand paper to strip the chair of varnish to prime the furniture for a coat of paint.
Catherine Falls Commercial/ Getty Images

Before starting the restoration process, prepare the wood by cleaning the surface and inspecting it for flaws. If you're working with a flea-market-find or an inherited antique, pick up a lead testing kit to make sure it's a safe project to undertake. Once you get the all-clear, remove loose sections of paint or varnish with a scraper tool, and remove nails and hardware with pliers or a crowbar.

Sand the surface until it is smooth and all traces of paint and sealant are gone. Fill scratches or dents with wood filler or wood putty—unless you're going for a weathered wood vibe.


Polish instead of paint

Share to PinterestFinshing a timber table top by hand with oil or wax. French polishing wooden furniture with a rag to achieve a shiny, flawless surface.
RebeccaNathan/ Getty Images

Refinishing wood furniture or hardwood floors is a big job, especially if the varnish still has a few years of life left. Before removing the original sealant, try polishing the wood with quality polish or mineral spirits. Some cleanser on a microfiber cloth can help erase dirt, grease, and years of wear and tear from your wood finishes. Choose a formula designed specifically for the material you're working with, and protect the finished sealant with area rugs and felt pads under heavy furnishings.


A new shade with a wood stain

Share to PinterestApplying protective varnish on a wooden furniture
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Wood stains accentuate natural wood grain while adding color and personality to your furniture. Once your piece is clean and sanded, the first step is to test the product on an inconspicuous section of wood. Various stains react differently to different types of wood, so don't skip this step. Experiment with the color by applying one or multiple coats in the grain's direction, and use a rag to wipe away any excess stain. Allow the product to dry completely in-between coats, and protect the color with butcher's wax, tung oil, or a polyurethane sealer.


Fresh paint for a big change

Share to PinterestFemale artist painting vintage chair in yellow color with a paintbrush in the back yard
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Some room makeovers call for bold design choices, and painting wood furniture is a great place to start. Whether you choose a velvety jewel tone or a chalk paint ombre technique, you must start with a primer. This step ensures the paint goes on smoothly and evenly coats the surface.

Once the primer is dry, apply your paint color with a brush or sprayer in thin layers, allowing each coating to dry between applications. Complete the transformation with new, modern hardware and drawer pulls.


Why not whitewash?

Share to Pinteresta woman restores and improves an old wooden chair in her workshop
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If you can't decide between staining or painting your wood furniture, why not split the difference? A whitewash uses diluted white paint to brighten the look of wood surfaces while showcasing the wood grain. To whitewash your wood furnishings, dilute white paint with water if it's water-based or turpentine if it's oil-based until you achieve your desired coverage. Apply the color with a paintbrush or roller, using a cloth to wipe away the excess, and seal with a polyurethane sealer.

For a custom look, mix a color wash with your favorite tones.


Shellac or varnish?

Share to Pinterestwoman painting shelf in the yard
Kilito Chan/ Getty Images

Keeping the natural wood look is ideal for minimalist or neutral decor. Shellac is a great, non-toxic sealant that can smooth wood surfaces and enhance the natural grain without creating a plastic-like surface. This sealant dulls with time and needs the occasional retouching, but it's a forgiving finish, and you can make it at home with a few materials.

Varnish lasts much longer than shellac and holds up to the elements more effectively, but the application process is a bit more complicated. Research these two finishes to decide which is best for your project.


Outdoor finishes for protection

Share to PinterestClose-up of carpenter applying varnish on plank
zoranm/ Getty Images

Keep your outdoor living space fresh with a refurbished deck. Deck stains seal the wood surface and allow the grain to shine, but they still require a protective finish. Deck paints cover the wood grain to create a thin protective shell.

Paint is more suitable for older decks with uneven colors or textures. Try a deck resurfacer to revive an older deck that is past its prime. These paints provide a thick layer of protection and fill depressions and gaps.


Wax sealer for reclaimed wood

Share to PinterestApplying protective varnish on a wooden boards.
archigram/ Getty Images

Wood refurbishing isn't limited to finished pieces. You can use old, reclaimed wood to build new furniture or create custom paneling for your bare walls. Scout online marketplaces for used pallets or materials removed from old barns and buildings. Carefully remove old nails and staples with a hammer or pliers, and sand away any splinters or rough spots.

Some DIYers leave traces of old paint or stenciled labels to preserve the history of the wood. Finish with a coat of wax or poly sealer for a clean look.


Make your own stain with science

Share to Pinterestwoman craftworker applying color on her new piece work
Emilija Manevska/ Getty Images

Chemistry isn't just for clever science students; it's also a fun and creative process to create a safe, neutral-toned wood stain for your wood projects. Place a pad of steel wool in a mason jar and add distilled white vinegar almost to the top, but don't cover it with the lid. Let the mixture stew for 2 to 3 days, ensuring it can release its fumes in a safe place.

Stir the mixture and filter out the steel wool before letting it stew for another 6 to 24 hours to achieve a beautiful amber color.


Scrape and paint your way to weathered wood

Share to PinterestGirl carpenter using an orbit sander to sand down a wooden panel on a work bench in a workshop.

You don't need reclaimed lumber to incorporate a weathered wood aesthetic in your home. Achieve a similar look by distressing your own furniture with a hammer and sandpaper. Bang the corners and edges to add wear and tear, and scratch the finish with gritty sandpaper.

For a pocking texture on the surface, sling a bag of nails on the surface of a table, or scrape it with a wire brush to add striations. Layer different colors of paint and then sand away patches to create a patchy, weathered look.



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