9 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Refinishing Wood Furniture

A carpenter spraying finish on wood

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The most common mistakes when refinishing wood furniture are surprisingly easy to prevent, so why do people make so many? Many mistakes happen as a result of jumping into the refinishing project too hastily without getting a good idea of what is needed regarding material, time, and the proper steps to be taken.

Spend some time visualizing the finished project, researching, and paying attention to the process you are going to need to get there. Impatience to get going and racing to the finish can set you back.


Following safety precautions is essential. Always remember to protect your skin and eyes even when you substances that have low-volatile organic compounds. Wear proper gloves when handling paint strippers and refinishing products. Make sure there are no open flames and work in a room with plenty of ventilation. The failure to read and follow manufacturers' instructions for paints, waxes, varnishes, or strippers is one of the most common mistakes. As these substances can vary tremendously in their chemical makeup, it can be hazardous to your health if they are used improperly.

How to Revarnish Wood

Here are some common errors and advice on how to get the job done right:

Not Cleaning the Surface

  1. Before refinishing you need to clean the surface thoroughly. That in itself could save you hours of work, as sometimes after cleaning you might find that all a piece needs is retouching. Thoroughly clean the surface with a wood cleaner or wax remover to see if you can salvage the present finish.

Failing to Strip Completely

  1. When you have determined that you do need to strip a piece, always remove all the old finish or paint thoroughly. Leaving spots will yield an uneven surface when you finally start finishing it. Apply enough stripper to keep the surface wet, and never work in direct sunlight as you can dry the wood. Remove the finish completely before sanding to get the surface ready for the new finish.

Not Waiting Long Enough

  1. When you don’t wait long enough for the stripper to work, you will have to scrape the wood to get the old finish off. Check to see if it comes off easily before removing it. Leave the stripper on longer if the old finish doesn't come off easily.

Waiting Too Long

  1. If you spread the stripper and let it sit for longer than required, the paint can become hard again. Plan to complete the stripping in the time required, so you can remove the paint while it is still soft.

Failing to Make Necessary Repairs

  1. Before you begin refinishing and right after stripping, check for any repairs that need to be made to the surface. Do this before sanding and staining. This will assure a better finish.

Not Sanding Properly

  1. Before you apply your stain, the surface should be smooth. Otherwise, it may not accept the finish properly. Proper sanding assures a smooth finish. Use the right grit of sandpaper for the right job.

Applying Too Thick a Coat

  1. When you are applying a stain or paint, resist the tendency to put a lot of it all at once. Too thick a coat will only create an uneven and unattractive finish, and not get the work done sooner. Apply the product, and wait for the first coat to dry before continuing with the next one. You will be able to find the instructions for the proper waiting time on your container.