How to Refurbish a Wooden Chair

  • 01 of 04

    How to Refurbish a Wooden Chair

    Pick a well-ventilated location, such as a patio or outdoor work space, when sanding, priming and painting used furniture. Photo © Jami Delia

    Wooden sitting or table chairs are one of 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. However, they usually need a bit of work. Not only do they usually need a fresh coat of paint or lacquer, but also 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...MORE cost more to refurbish than buying new or that will require more time and effort than you're willing to put into the piece. Try to look for chairs you can refurbish (and repair) with items you already have at home or, at least, the most commonly used refurbishing tools and supplies that will be useful in other projects.

    This project details how to refurbish a basic wooden chair with a few scratches and dents and an excessive amount of dried wood glue from a repair job gone wrong. So what's needed? Only the basics:

    • sandpaper and electric sander (recommended, but not necessary)
    • wood filler or putty
    • primer
    • paint
    • a well-ventilated work area

    Before getting started, make sure you clean your chair thoroughly to remove any dust, cobwebs or sticky residue. Also, make sure you have a well-ventilated place to work, such as an outdoor patio or work area, and an old sheet, drop cloth, cardboard or newspapers to cover the ground area.

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  • 02 of 04

    Sand and Repair the Chair

    Sand the chair with low grit and high grit sandpaper to remove any old paint, lacquer or wood glue. Photo © Jami Delia

    Before sanding your chair, check for clumps of glue that may have been used to repair the chair in the past.

    If there are any clumps of wood glue, like mine had, try removing as much as possible with the sharp end of a clean putty knife (you may be able to use a spare butter or ​another kitchen knife if you don't have a putty knife on hand). 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.

    After removing any excess...MORE glue, begin sanding your chair with low 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 mostly likely need to sand the legs and any backing of the chair by hand since the sander cannot get into any grooves or designs chiseled into the wood.

    If there are any small scratches or dents in the chair, the sanding process may eliminate them without having to use any wood filler or putty. However, if there are still any deep scratches, dents or dings in the chair after sanding it down, apply a small amount of wood putty or filler to the area with a putty knife. Make sure to scrape off any excess filler or putty before letting it dry.

    Let the repaired areas dry for at least 24 hours to ensure the putty or filler is completely dry. Once dry, gently sand down the area with high grit sandpaper. Make sure the area is as smooth and as even as possible.

    Wipe down the entire surface of the chair with a damp cloth to remove any sanding dust. You can also use an air compressor/air blower to remove any residue that managed to gather in the grooves or etched designs in the chair.

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  • 03 of 04

    Prime the Chair

    Apply multiple thin coats of primer before painting your chair. Photo © Jami Delia

    After sanding and cleaning off the chair, apply multiple thin coats of primer. (Applying primer helps the paint stick better and also helps the paint display more vibrantly.) You can use either a bottled version and apply with a brush, or an all-purpose spray. Just make sure the paint is safe to use on wood and indoor furniture.

    Let the primer dry at least an hour or two in between each coat. If you apply too many coats on top of one another before each coat dries, you may either have to wait...MORE longer for all of the primer to dry or be stuck with a sticky mess. If you notice any runs or clumps after the primer has dried, gently sand the area with high grit sandpaper and wipe off.

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  • 04 of 04

    Paint the Chair

    Apply multiple thin coats of paint and let dry overnight before displaying in your home. Photo © Jami Delia

    When you feel your primer is thoroughly dry, apply multiple thin coats of paint. Like the primer, wait an hour or two in between each coat of paint. If you discover any runs or clumps of paint in between coats, gently sand the area with high grit sandpaper, wipe off any dust and apply another thin coat to the area.

    Let completely dry overnight, or at least 12 hours, before bringing into your home.