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Learning to Restore Old Furniture


Before you decide to take that old, scruffy piece of furniture that once graced your grandparent's living room and restore it to the beautiful item you nostalgically remember, learning the difference between restoring and refinishing may help you better understand the mechanics of reviving old or antique furniture. A major discrepancy between the two methods is that refinishing requires much less time than restoring. When furniture has been refinished, this indicates that someone has stripped the paint, varnish or other type of finish off the furniture by sanding or using some other technique to eliminate the original overlay. After this is completed, a new finish is applied and the item is ready for display.

Restoration, however, involves additional work in order to return the furniture to its original state. In addition to refinishing, restoring a chair, table or desk means repairing broken or loose legs; filling in cracks and splits in wood; replacing worn-out fabric with new material and any other adjustments necessary to enhance its condition. Before taking the time to restore something, you should do some preliminary research concerning the piece you want to basically want to reconstruct to find out if you should perform this restoration yourself. Valuable antiques should only be restored by a professional because improper furniture restoration could cause it to depreciate in value.

How Much is it Worth?
Determine this by examining the item for labels, manufacturer's logos, dates or signatures and researching the information on the internet. If you are still not sure or cannot find anything to help you find out its worth, take the item to a professional antique dealer for an appraisal. Be aware that by removing a finish or even fixing something on certain antiques could actually lessen the value of the item. So before you do anything, find out what kind of piece it is and what you can do to it without reducing its value on the market.

Beginning the Restoration
Once you have established the furniture's identity and value, you can start the restoration process by taking a sponge, some warm water, a bottle of vegetable-based oil soap and thoroughly washing the piece to eliminate any dirt and grime that may interfere with the application of the new finish. Don't neglect all the nooks and crannies, either; use an old toothbrush or a toothpick to access those fine lines where dust easily accumulates.

After cleaning the item, prepare to fix or totally replace any parts that are damaged or beyond repair. This is where a little detective work comes in handy, especially since you want to restore the piece as close to its original condition as possible. Check websites that sell antiques and antique replacement pieces for any item you may need to fully restore the furniture. If you have any doubts about being able to correctly perform the repair, take the item to a professional and have someone who is experienced with antique restoration do the job for you. Remember that the value of an antique depends on many things and one of the most important is how it has been modified. Incorrectly replacing a leg or even a screw could possible reduce the value by hundreds of dollars.

The Refinishing Process
Refinishing a piece of furniture, whether it is a small end table or large dining room table requires patience and a little stamina, since you usually need to employ some type of stripping substance on the antique. Rubbing, sanding and scraping entails the initial refinishing process before you can apply the new finish. Choosing the right kind of stain or paint is vital to successfully restoring the piece as well. Using stain may not be applicable to some woods, in which case selecting a compatible kind of paint would be necessary. However, be aware that if you paint a valuable antique, it might not be so valuable once you have covered it in paint. This is why it is imperative to find out all you can about the piece you plan on restoring before you restore it.

Completing the arduous process of restoring an old piece of furniture is a gratifying and exciting, something you can be proud of for years to come. By knowing what you can and cannot do to an antique will make the end result that much more pleasurable.

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