Among many cherished items in our homes, vintage wood furniture is a favorite of many. Whether we cherish them for monetary or sentimental value, we want to preserve and protect these pieces for however long we can. However, these antiques and family heirlooms can become worn and damaged with age and neglect. Our best option is to restore our old furniture items by learning how to clean, repair, and refinish them. With the following guidelines and steps, you can bring out the natural beauty of your vintage furniture lost over time and add character to your home.
Research and Examine—Assess the extent of wear and tear. If the item is a valuable antique, you should consult a restoration specialist before restoring it yourself. You also want to consider its age and quality. Intricacies, such as detailing through paint and gilding, may require an artful hand.
Know your goals and project length— Decide how you want your piece to coordinate with other décor and furnishings in your home. Get an idea of the true grain color before you restore it to ensure it will match different pieces. Find a spot on the furniture that’s been protected from everyday wear so that you will have a frame of reference. If you determine that the restoration process will be lengthy, decide whether you will have enough time to accomplish it.
Establish a budget—If the wood needs repair, determine if it can be fixed inexpensively. If so, how much are you willing to spend? Will the repair cost you less than buying a new item?
Choose the appropriate products—It will depend on whether you want to restore the luster or repair an imperfection such as a split, hole, scratch, or dent. If you’re going to clean and shine up the wood, start with a simple cleaning solution to remove dirt and grime build-up. For matte surfaces, you can mix one part vinegar with one part olive or mineral oil and apply a thin layer before buffing. Another method is diluted Ivory dish soap with a light sponge or sugar soap and warm water. Thoroughly rinse and towel dry completely. To restore color and sheen, use a top-quality wax that will yield a glossy and resilient finish. Use beeswax, linseed oil, or other products with natural ingredients specially formulated to conceal blemishes and preserve old wood. Test all products in a small area. Consider stripping the old finish if the surface has not improved or is marred. If you want to remove old wax without sanding, you can use a special polish remover before applying the new wax.
Stripping and repairing—For stripping, you can use an abrasive, sanding implement, or a chemical stripper. Both can be messy so take precautions to protect your floor and nearby furniture. You can wet the sandpaper to minimize dust and ensure the room you work in is well-ventilated. Use hard wax for scratches, dents, and holes, and fix cracks with colored wax fill sticks. Use wood glue for splits. After applying glue, use a clamp to tighten the wood together, wipe off excess adhesive with a damp sponge, and let dry overnight. For missing wood, use a wood epoxy that you can sand and shape after it is hardened. Stain it to blend with the other wood.
Safety and preventative measures– When using chemical restoratives, protect yourself against fumes and contact with skin by wearing goggles or a mask, gloves, and long sleeves. Ventilate the room before you begin restoring. Prevent your wood from drying and warping by keeping it away from radiators and fires. Do not place wood furniture beneath a window that can be bleached by the sun.
Your vintage furniture and other family heirlooms are precious keepsakes. You’ve enjoyed them for so long and should be able to continue enjoying them for years to come with the right care. Avoid replacing them when worn and damaged by following these guidelines and do-it-yourself remedies. Always follow product directions and keep a how-to guide handy. Consider consultation with a professional if you are uncertain how to restore a valuable antique.