How to Refurbish a Wooden Chair

Refurbished wooden chair next to white table white books and houseplants by light-filled window

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 4 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $20

Wooden sitting or table chairs are among the easiest (and sometimes most inexpensive) pieces of used furniture to pick up at thrift stores, garage sales, or even on the side of the road. They usually need a bit of work, though. In addition to adding a fresh coat of paint or lacquer, refurbishing a wooden chair often includes some basic repair and TLC.

When searching for a chair to refurbish, look for something that is sturdy and well-built. Unless you absolutely love a certain chair, don't go for something that will cost more to refurbish than buying new or that will require more time and effort than you're willing to put into the piece, even if you're planning to sell it. Try to look for chairs you can refurbish (and repair) with items you already have at home or with common refurbishing tools and supplies that will be useful for other projects.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Putty knife
  • Power sander (optional)
  • Cloth
  • Paintbrush


  • 120- and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Wood putty (as needed)
  • Primer
  • Paint


Materials and tools to refurbish wooden chairs

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  1. Sand and Repair the Chair

    Check for clumps of glue that may have been used to repair the chair in the past. If you find them, try removing as much as possible with a putty knife. You may not be able to remove all of it, but that's okay. Most of the glue will also come off during the sanding process.

    Begin sanding your chair with 100- or 120-grit sandpaper to remove any old paint or varnish. Use an electric sander (if you have one) to make the job go by quicker; however, you will most likely need to sand the legs and any backing of the chair by hand since the sander cannot get into any grooves and other details.

    If there are any small scratches or dents in the chair, sanding may eliminate them; if not, fill scratches, dents, and dings with a small amount of wood putty or ​filler, using the putty knife. Let the putty dry, then sand it smooth.

    Wipe down the entire surface of the chair with a slightly dampened cloth or a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust. You can also use an air compressor to remove dust from grooves or etched designs in the chair.

    Wooden chair sanded down with sandpaper

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Prime the Chair

    Apply a thin coat of primer over the entire chair, including the underside areas. You can use either standard primer applied with a brush or use primer in a spray can.

    Let the primer dry as directed on the label. Inspect the first coat and sand off high sports, runs, or rough areas with 220-grit sandpaper, as needed. Remove all sanding dust. Repeat the same process to apply a second thin coat of primer, sand, and clean the piece.

    Sanded wooden chair spray painted with shite primer

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Applying primer helps the paint stick better and also helps the paint display more vibrantly.

  3. Paint the Chair

    Apply multiple thin coats of paint. Like the primer, let the paint dry completely between coats. If you discover any runs or clumps of paint in between coats, gently sand the area with 220-grit sandpaper, and thoroughly wipe off all dust before adding the next coat.

    Let the final coat dry overnight, or at least 12 hours, before bringing into your home. Do not sand the final coat of paint.

    Wooden chair painted with yellow paint over white primer paint with paint brush

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Let the paint cure for as long as possible before using the chair. Paint slowly hardens and becomes more durable as it cures.