5 Must-Have Tools for Refurbishing Wood Furniture

Materials and tools to refurbish wood furniture

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Before you begin refurbishing wood furniture, whether it's to keep or sell, make sure you have the proper supplies to get the job done. There's nothing like getting started on a huge project and having to stop and run to the home improvement store.

After cleaning your furniture, take a good look at the condition of the wood:

  • Are there any dents, cracks, or scratches?
  • Does your furniture have a layer of varnish or lacquer?
  • Are there multiple layers of paint on the item?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, make sure to pick up the items on this list before starting the refurbishing process. Here are five items for refurbishing furniture.

Sandpaper (and Sander)

It is essential to sand your furniture to get down to the original wood and to also create a rough surface so that your primer and paint will stick to the wood. Sanding down your item also helps get rid of minor scratches and dings.

For hard-to-remove varnish, lacquer, or multiple layers of paint, you will need low-grit sandpaper. Sand the item until you get down to the natural wood.

You will also need high-grit sandpaper. The high-grit sandpaper is used to remove any thin layers of varnish and paint and to use after applying wood putty or filler. It is also helpful to sand with high-grit sandpaper after the first layer of primer and paints to remove any deep brush strokes or drips. After each round of sanding, be sure to wipe the entire surface with a slightly damp rag.

To get the sanding job done, you can either hand sand your item or use an electric sander. If you are refurbishing a large piece of furniture, such as a bookcase, table, or cabinets, I would recommend using an electric sander. Attempting to sand a large piece of furniture by hand can become tiresome quickly!

Small piece of sandpaper rubbing against wood chair

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Wood Putty and Putty Knife

Applying wood putty and/or filler helps cover up any dents, dings, and cracks. Wood filler is also helpful if your furniture has any small chunks missing from the legs or top corners.

Depending on the size of your item and whether it has a lot of dents, dings, or cracks, you may need a large amount of wood putty and/or filler. You will also need a putty knife to apply the putty to the surface of your furniture.

Tub with wood putty next to putty knife on sandpaper

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald


Before you paint your furniture, you must apply a primer (or use an all-in-one paint with primer) with a paintbrush. Primer helps the paint stick better to the item and ensures that your true paint color will shine through.

  • If you're using a dark-colored paint, purchase a gray primer.
  • If you're using a light paint color, purchase a white primer.

Depending on the condition and the original color of your furniture piece, you may need to apply two to three thin coats of primer. Make sure to purchase enough primer to paint your item two or three times and a small amount to make any touch-ups later on.

White primer sprayed on wooden chair with spray can

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Paint and Brushes

Depending on the type of wood your furniture is made of, select a type of paint in your desired color. Make sure you purchase enough paint for the size of your item. You will want to apply two or three thin coats. Check with store staff to be sure you're buying the proper brushes for the project you have ahead of you.

Paint bucket with yellow paint and paintbrush on white rag

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald


Applying varnish to your item can help seal your paint and protect your item from outside elements. Varnishing your furniture piece also gives it a glossier and more vibrant look. You will want to purchase and apply varnish if your item will be in a high traffic area, such as a living room or hallway, and if it will be heavily used, such as a coffee table, chair, or bed frame.