How to Refinish Wood Furniture

Learn how to strip, sand and stain a piece of wooden furniture.

Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
August 14, 2020
By: Samantha Pattillo
Related To:

If you have a piece of wooden furniture you really like, or a tired thrift-store find with loads of potential, give it new life with a fresh coat of stain. Refinishing is an easy, low-cost way to bring out natural beauty in wood furniture and make fine details shine.

After clear coating, let your finished piece fully cure in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area for 24 hours before use. Your options for staining are limitless. No matter what color you choose, you’ll give new life to an old piece of furniture.

Materials + Tools

  • spray-on paint stripper
  • disposable shop cloths
  • tack cloth
  • mineral spirits
  • oil-based stain
  • staining pads
  • spray-on clear coat
  • scraper tool
  • palm sander and pads
  • sandpaper or sanding block
  • safety gear -- goggles, dust mask, etc.

Apply Stripper

For small projects, aerosol spray paint stripper is really convenient because it’s easy to control and won’t spill. Spray the stripper evenly over the surface and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll see the old finish start to lift up off the wood.

Remove Old Finish

Use a scraper tool to remove the old finish. Wipe the blade with a disposable shop cloth between scrapes. You may have to apply stripper and scrape more than once in order to remove the majority of the old finish.

Next use your scraper tool to remove the old finish. Wipe the blade with a disposable shop cloth between scrapes. You may have to apply stripper and scrape more than once in order to remove the majority of the old finish. Once you’re done stripping and the surface is dry, wipe with mineral spirits using a clean cloth to remove any residual stripper. Allow the table to fully dry before moving on to sanding.

Clean With Mineral Spirits

Once you’re done stripping and the surface is dry, wipe with mineral spirits using a clean cloth to remove any residual stripper. Allow the table to dry fully before moving on to sanding.

Next use your scraper tool to remove the old finish. Wipe the blade with a disposable shop cloth between scrapes. You may have to apply stripper and scrape more than once in order to remove the majority of the old finish. Once you’re done stripping and the surface is dry, wipe with mineral spirits using a clean cloth to remove any residual stripper. Allow the table to fully dry before moving on to sanding.

Sand Smooth

To remove the last bits of finish, use a palm sander with medium-grit sandpaper (about 150-grit) until you see the bare wood. Then switch to fine sandpaper (200+ grit) until the entire piece is uniform.

To remove those last bits of finish, palm sand with medium sandpaper (150 grit) until you see the bare wood. Then switch to fine sandpaper (200+ grit) until the entire piece is uniform. Wipe down the whole surface with a tack cloth to remove any dust from sanding.

Remove Sanding Residue

Wipe down the whole surface with a tack cloth to remove any dust from sanding.

To remove those last bits of finish, palm sand with medium sandpaper (150 grit) until you see the bare wood. Then switch to fine sandpaper (200+ grit) until the entire piece is uniform. Wipe down the whole surface with a tack cloth to remove any dust from sanding.

Apply Stain

Staining is easiest to do with a staining pad. Dip the pad in the stain and wipe it on using long, even strokes.

Remove Excess Stain

Then use a clean wiping cloth to remove excess stain. Wipe lightly with the grain to avoid streaking. You’ll need to apply multiple coats until you like the color. Keep following the same process but be sure to let the stain dry between coats so you can gauge what it looks like before deciding whether to add another coat.

Then use a clean wiping cloth to remove excess stain. Wipe lightly with the grain to avoid streaking. You’ll need to apply multiple coats until you like the color. Keep following the same process but be sure to let the stain dry between coats so you can gauge what it looks like before deciding whether to add another coat.

Apply Clear Coat

Once your last coat of stain is totally dry, apply an oil-based clear coat for a final layer of sheen and protection. Spray-on clear coat is easy to use and provides great coverage. Spray with a nice even motion following the natural lines of the piece. Apply two coats, sanding in between with 200-grit or higher sandpaper after the first coat is dry. This technique will smooth any imperfections from your first coat and give you a pro-grade finish. Then spray on a final layer.

Once your last coat of stain is totally dry, apply an oil-based clear coat for a final layer of sheen and protection. Spray-on clear coat is easy to use and provides great coverage. Spray with a nice even motion following the natural lines of the piece. Apply two coats, sanding in between with 200 grit or higher sandpaper after the first coat is dry. This technique will smooth any imperfections from your first coat and give you a pro grade finish. Then spray on a final layer.

Let Dry

After clear coating, let your finished piece cure fully in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area for 24 hours before use. Your options for staining are limitless. No matter what color you choose, you’ll give new life to an old piece of furniture.

It's easy to bring out the beauty of wood furniture with a new finish. Stain highlights the grain and lets the details of your wood furniture shine through.

How to Refinish Wood Furniture 02:37

Samantha Pattillo demonstrates the simple steps to refinish wood furniture.

More Advice on Refinishing

How to Refinish a Dining Room Table

Easily refinish a dated or worn dining room table to give it a fresh look.

How to Refinish an Antique Bookcase

Our instructions and tips make it easy to give new life to an old bookshelf.

Next Up

How to Sand Furniture Before Painting

Whether you want to spruce up an old wooden Adirondack chair or give a fresh coat of paint to a great thrift store dresser find, you need to prep your furniture before painting. Here’s how.

Shou Sugi Ban 101: What to Know About This Trending Wood-Burning Technique

This wood-burning technique may be trendy now, but it’s been around for hundreds of years. Here’s the 101 on this beautiful and unique craft.

How to Build a Little Free Library for Your Neighborhood

One of the best ways to encourage reading is to share a favorite book with someone. Spread the love in your entire neighborhood with this adorable library everyone can enjoy.

Just Announced! 'Fixer Upper' Craftsman Clint Harp Lands New Series

Brand-new show Wood Work is coming to DIY Network.

How to Refinish a Midcentury Modern Metal Bar Cart

Hanging on to a piece of rusty or chipped metal furniture? Give it a fresh, colorful update with these simple steps.

How to Treat Pallet Wood for Indoor Use

Follow these guidelines to choose the right pallets for your project and prepare them for use inside your home.

How to Refinish a Kitchen Table

Give an old kitchen table new life in a weekend with these simple steps for refinishing wood furniture.

How to Refinish an Antique Bathtub

Clean it up and smooth over the rough patches with these step-by-step instructions.

How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

It takes some elbow grease to refinish hardwood floors, but it's worth it. Hardwood floors add value to your home and provide a classic look that goes with any style.

How to Refinish a Dining Room Table

Easily refinish a dated or worn dining room table to give it a fresh look.

Go Shopping

Refresh your home with stylish products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Watch Live TV

Don't miss your favorite shows.

Live Stream HGTV Now

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.