How to restore antique furniture
Restoring antique wood furniture can be a fun, cost-effective way to bring your inherited and collectable antique furniture back to life. Some pieces of furniture may be too intricate for DIY and need a professional, but for those pieces that need a little work, read on for our top tips on how to restore antique wood furniture.
Restoring antique wood furniture can be a fun, cost-effective way to bring your inherited and collectable antique furniture back to life. The type of furniture you have and the condition it is in will determine what type of restoration is needed to bring it back to its full glory. It is really important to properly research before taking on any restoration to ensure that you are giving your beloved furniture exactly what it needs.
Some pieces of furniture may be too intricate for DIY and need a professional, but for those pieces that need a little work, read on for our top tips on how to restore antique wood furniture.
Different levels of restoration
There are many different kinds of restoration your antique furniture could need. Your piece may need a general repair, which could be an imperfection caused by general wear and tear, warped metal, or even splintering. A general repair could also include the need for resurfacing, stripping the wood, and/ or using wood filler.
If you have antique furniture with padding or coverings, it will probably need replacing, as padding deteriorates over time. Reupholstering a piece also means you can give it more of a modern look. If the piece needs structural work though, this should be done before the reupholstery to ensure the piece is structurally sound. After this, you can then decide on the new coverings you would like for your furniture.
An upholsterer will have a variety of options for you to choose from, including colours and types of fabrics as well as any new fastenings/bolts on the furniture. To find out more about upholstering, take a look at our reupholstering cost guide.
How to restore antique furniture
Follow these steps according to the furniture you’re looking to restore:
- Prepare your furniture for stripping back.
- Clean your work area, get it as free of dust as possible and lay down dust sheets. If possible, work outside.
- Carefully apply chemical wood stripper with an old brush. Use the mildest stripper that does the job. Only use strong chemical strippers such as Nitromors for really stubborn paint. Use a brass brush to avoid damaging the wood when stripping the paint.
- Apply white spirit to the wood to neutralise the surface. Leave it to dry for 24 hours.
- Sand the wood to get it smooth.
- Carefully re-touch the furniture with a high-quality paint or varnish that matches the original.
If you’re at all unsure about any of the above steps, then we would highly recommend contacting a professional to take a look at your project.
How to restore antique oak furniture
Antique oak furniture will require a different approach to restoration than its woody counterparts such as pine and mahogany. This is because different types of wood are more porous than others and will react differently to certain chemicals. Using the wrong chemicals could destroy the finish of your antique furniture.
To restore oak, you will need to:
- Start by cleaning the furniture
- Fill the oak with filler for any dents
- Sand the wood
- Add wax and polish (wax and polishes will indicate on the tin the wood types it’s suitable for).
How to restore antique pine furniture
Pine is a softwood and easily picks up blemishes and stains, which is important to bear in mind when restoring. You will need to follow similar steps as above but with emphasis on the below steps:
- Pre-condition the pine before staining as this will prevent the stain from being picked up more in certain areas and looking patchy.
- You will need to remember if your base is oil or water-based, as mixing the two will ruin the layer underneath and leave you with a messy finish.
How to restore antique mahogany furniture
We would recommend hiring a professional to restore all wood, particularly mahogany as it is the most complex wood to restore. This is because it has a very open grain (more so than pine), which makes it even harder to re-stain evenly. If you are confident in achieving a good finish, then follow the steps in the sections above. Just remember that mahogany is a darker wood so you will need to ensure the stain is dark enough.
If your mahogany needs a lot of work, then we would recommend hiring a professional as they can conduct tests using alcohol to determine the quality of the current finish, avoiding any accidental destruction and extra costs!
Benefits of hiring a professional
In almost all cases, antique restoration should be done by a professional. With antique furniture being expensive and rare to find, entrusting its restoration to a professional will lessen the likelihood of it being damaged.
Should you restore antique furniture?
If your furniture is of sentimental and monetary value, or, you just like it, then definitely! Restoration will bring the piece of furniture back to life, as long as it is done properly.
How do you clean and restore antique furniture?
You will need to assess what sort of restoration the furniture needs.If you’re at all unsure, a professional can determine if your piece just needs to be cleaned, or fully stripped and restained.
How do you restore old furniture without stripping it?
You can use a gel stain to remove the old colour and stain, in order to apply a new colour. Whilst this method won’t mask any stains or blemishes it can give antique furniture a nice shine. Applying a lacquer will only be an option if your furniture is in pristine condition.
Can you DIY restore antique furniture?
Very minor repairs can be done by an amateur, however stripping, sanding and restaining antique furniture is best left to a professional restorer. An antique specialist will know how to treat your specific piece in order to restore it to its former glory, as every type of wood requires different care. Older pieces will need a lot more specialist care, alongside a professional understanding of different types of materials and how they age. Attempting to DIY restore antique furniture could ruin the piece entirely, rendering it unfit for use.