The practicality of refinishing eventually comes down to one question: is it really worth saving? Most old furniture is fairly sturdy, or it wouldn’t have survived; but it has probably taken a beating over the years. Some factors include: legs being even, sturdiness, wobbles, doors/drawers working properly, and integrity of the joints.
Try to assess the amount of work required to restore the piece. Completeness of hardware, quality of hinges, missing panels, and number of coats of paint are all important factors. If the piece of furniture is in pretty good condition, or if it has been expertly identified as an antique, it will be worth your time and effort to refinish. If the wood is broken or badly damaged with missing parts, or the joinery is inferior, don’t waste your time unless the piece is an antique.
Guidelines for decision-making
So how bad does the damage have to be before it makes refinishing impractical? This depends on how much work needs to be done, but there are a few guidelines for decision-making.
Look for dry rot or insect damage. Dry rot cannot be repaired so the rotted component must be replaced. Insect damage – if the entire piece of wood is not affected, it can sometimes be repaired. If this is the problem, it may be worth restoring. To check for dry rot and insect damage, push knife blade into the wood. If there’s little or no resistance, the wood is damaged.
Broken parts are sometimes repairable, but not always. If a part is split or wobbly, it can probably be repaired without too much work. But if it’s completely broken off, a replacement part must usually be custom-made to match the rest of the piece. This can involve expensive equipment or a professional, and the piece of furniture may not be worth this increase in cost and effort.
If the piece is structurally solid, don’t be discouraged by repairable problems. Wobbly joints can be re-attached and missing parts can be replaced. Coats old paint, lacquer, or shellac may be concealing beautiful wood. If you like the piece, refinishing is worth all the time and patience that is put into it. Heath Refinishing can help restore a wide variety of pieces. We’d be glad to take a look at your pieces and give a professional assessment.