For the most effective furniture makeover, choose pieces made from solid wood, and check that joints are well made and sturdy. Do any small repairs before painting/varnishing. Don’t waste time on rickety chairs or flimsy drawers. Change any handles for that final finishing touch.
You will need:
An old cloth and/or sponge, bucket, washing-up liquid and white spirit, medium-grade sanding paper and mask, small brush, your choice of finish (whether primer and paint, or varnish), and brush cleaner.
Painting your furniture
A painted finish is easiest as you can usually paint over old varnish or paint. For this project, we updated four plain, wooden kitchen chairs. Allow around three days. It is not particularly labour-intensive but drying times are essential.
1. Make sure your furniture is free from dirt. Wash it over with warm water and allow to dry completely. If your furniture is very dirty, add a few drops of washing up liquid to the water, use a soft scrubbing brush, and give a final clean rinse.
2. Sand the surface to smooth out rough areas, scratches and dents. Wear a mask to avoid inhaling dust. Use medium-grade sanding paper, working with the grain, and then wipe over with a cloth dampened in white spirit.
3. Using a small flat brush, apply a primer (eg Dulux Multi-Surface Primer, 750ml, £12.89) and allow to dry for at least six hours. Clean brush (eg Polycell Brush Cleaner, £2.09 for 300ml).
4. Choose a good quality gloss paint colour for the final surface. Apply two coats, allowing at least 16 hours between coats. Clean brushes.
Stripping old furniture
If the finish on your old furniture is very poor (for example, uneven, cracked or flaking), you should strip it off. And of course you will need to do this if you want to simply varnish the bare wood.
Modern paint strippers can remove layers of paint with ease (eg Polycell Advanced Paint Stripper with “active gel”, £9.39 for 500ml, which can take off up to 15 layers of paint/varnish without harming the wood).
1. Decant the active gel into the lid of its tin.
2. Using a brush, apply a generous even coat over the furniture surface.
3. Leave until the paint begins to blister (from two to four hours) and gently test scrape, using a paint scraper or shave hook. You can leave it on for up to six hours if necessary. When ready, softened paint should scrape off easily. Don’t try and hurry the process: you may score the surface of your furniture.
4. Remove all of the peeling layers of paint.
5. Repeat the process if any paint remains.
6. Wipe over with white spirit to remove any remains of stripper/paint/varnish – this will avoid raising the grain of the wood.
7. Clean brush with soapy water.
Varnishing wooden furniture
A simple way to varnish stripped wood is with a varnish pack, which comes complete with a pad for easy/quality application. We used the Ronseal Perfect Finish Varnish pack (£15.49 for 750ml).
1. Prepare furniture as described above, stripping back to bare wood, wiping over with white spirit, and sanding to a smooth surface.
2. Gently lower pad onto surface of varnish, making sure that the flock underside is evenly covered, but keeping foam pad dry. Scrape off any excess onto sides of tub.
3. Use pad flat to cover all flat areas in long smooth strokes – it’s quick and easy.
4. Use the angled front edge to reach any intricate bits, such as chair backs. You can take the pad off the handle to get between uprights.
If short of time, use a quick dry varnish (eg Ronseal Quick Dry Varnish, £11.99 for 750ml). Or there is Ronseal Eco Varnish (£15.99 for 750ml) based on oil-based resins, with a third less petrochemicals than traditional varnishes.
* Dulux Customer Advice Centre: 0870 444 1111; www.dulux.co.uk