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How Can I Restore Old Furniture?

Updated on February 26, 2015

If you're like me and you've inherited or purchased many pieces of old or antique furniture over the years, you're probably wondering about the best ways to bring it back to its glory. Antiques are very cool, but if they're in rough shape they won't do anything good for your interior decorating. Learning how to restore old furniture is essential if you want an antique style to your home, and it's not too difficult to learn how to do.

This article is all about how to restore old furniture, and it will give you the basics on how to bring an older piece back to life through a few simple techniques. We'll talk about how to restore old furniture based on the type and materials used, and what is worth spending your time on.

Let's begin and learn some techniques for how to restore old furniture!

Determining If It's Worth It: How To Restore Old Furniture

The first step to learning how to restore old furniture is determining if a piece has any value whatsoever. There is no point in restoring a piece of furniture that won't 'take' to restoration in the first place. I'm not just talking about antiques with monetary value, I'm talking about pieces that simply cannot be restored.

Items that would fall into this category could be anything with extreme odor or rot. It's really difficult to get bad smells out of furniture, especially animal messes or smoke. Rot or mildew isn't worth it, and these pieces can make you sick.

Another category that isn't really worth restoration is anything made of particle wood. This includes manyIkeapuchases or similar. If the wood isn't real, it's hardly worth your time. They are flimsy and won't take to sanding or refinishing most of the time. Learning how to restore old furniture requires being a bit ruthless and turfing your junk furniture sometimes!

Sand, Paint, Scrape: How To Restore Old Furniture

Ok, so if your piece is made out of wood, whether partly or entirely, it's a very restorable thing. If the wood is warped you might not have much luck, but most solid wood can be restored beautifully if it's still in decent structural shape. Learning how to restore old furniture requires some hands on activity, and you'll need to get out your sandpaper and get to work.

Strip off the old peeling paint or nasty old varnish. Be sure to wear breathing protection, you don't want ancient paint dust in your lungs. Once you've nicely eliminated all traces of the old finish, you can either paint the wood or use a nice varnish or wood finish. Go to a local hardware shop and tell them your plan and the type of wood you intend to work with, they'll be able to set you up with a good product for your needs.

You also may want to investigate the structural integrity of your piece while you're at it. Restoring old furniture can often involved adding additional bracing or glue to keep a piece in working shape. Does it wobble or squeak? Now is a good time to fix that!


Upholstery and Fabric: How To Restore Old Furniture

You might want to consider cleaning, repairing or replacing the upholstery in your older pieces of furniture. Especially in antiques, it can be difficult to entirely eliminate wear and smell in older pieces of fabric. Learning how to restore old furniture often just involves learning how to clean it. The best place to start is a good steam clean of the fabric and padding. Steam can often bring out a lot of the stain and smell of antique furniture pieces, so it's a good starting point.

(You might want to go over the furniture with a toothbrush at this point and just clean everything while you're at it. Decades worth of grime and dust can build up in the corners and really reduce the look and value of a piece.)

If you can't get the stains out or you're simply tired of the look of the old fabric, consider replacing the upholstery and padding. You can hire this work out to a furniture restoration shop, but it's not too difficult to do this on your own. Often replacing the fabric is as simple as removing a piece and stapling it into place with a furniture stapler. Learning how to restore old furniture is often a case by case practice, so investigate your piece thoroughly and learn how the fabric is attached.

(Bring the old piece of foam or padding to a foam store, they'll be able to cut a similar shaped cushion out of new material for use in your piece).

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