Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Furniture Refinishing: To Toss or Not to Toss? {Latest Fieldstone Article}

Furniture Refinishing: To Toss or Not to Toss?


With the current housing boom, it is hard to believe that just a few years ago we were in an economic and housing crisis. The housing crisis affected many people negatively including design firms who were forced to close their doors. Many homeowners just didn't feel the need to update and spend their money on a designer – this was seen as a luxury. As a result, a full blown DIY mentality was born.
Do It Yourself is all the rage right now in design and home remodeling. Over the last few years, DIY blogs have exploded. These blogs as well as social media sites such as Pinterest have caused many people to reevaluate how they update their homes and the mantra has become, “I can do that!” Even with the market now being a seller’s market, homeowners have continued to do a lot of things themselves to add character to their new homes and save money.   
Two very popular DIY projects involve furniture refinishing and/or repurposing and reupholstery. Many new tools are available and there are a plethora of YouTube videos and blogs to help you along the way. But, what does it really take to complete a furniture project on your own? When should you tackle these projects and when should you hire someone to help?
DIY does take a lot of planning, a medium amount of skill and all of the right tools in order to be successful.
What you should know?

1      Repurposing/Refinishing Furniture (Case Goods):
Structural integrity is the main feature to look for when choosing a piece to refinish. Test the piece to see if it is level or if it sways when moved, check the drawers to ensure they all close and open properly, and check to see if the piece has deep scratches or gouges.  Elaborate detail such as carving and turns will also take more time to strip and refinish. These pieces will cost more money and take more time and skill than you probably want to invest.

Looking for pieces made after 1850, but before 1960 is a good idea since these pieces will be made very well and are not usually a mixture of laminate or veneer over wood. Dove tailed joints and solid wood (heavy) pieces are best to tackle. If you do have a piece that is a mixture of wood and veneer, know that you will not be able to strip the veneer and it will be need to be painted and not stained.

You also need the right tools and knowledge before you begin. Take before photos of your piece and scour the Internet looking for inspiration. Begin only after researching and coming up with a plan for what you want the after to look like.  If you like the look of painted furniture, you do not always need to strip the piece before painting if you use a good quality primer such as Kilz and a good quality latex paint. Chalk paint is also a great option for refinishing as it doesn’t take a lot of prep work.

Other tools you need to have in order for a successful refinish include quality paint brushes (I am partial to Purdy) and a good quality sander. Painting a piece will not take as much work as staining a piece. To stain a piece, stripping and/or sanding is a priority since you must have raw wood to take the stain. When staining, you will also need to prep the wood with a wood conditioner such as MinWax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner which will allow the wood to take the stain evenly. You then must stain the wood and top that with a good quality Polyurethane.

Other tools that can give your piece a unique look include fabric, tacs, and stencils.

2.      Reupholstery:
Many of us may have a piece of inherited furniture around our homes that has sentimental value, but has seen better days. Or, you may have gotten a really good deal on a piece from a garage sale that you would love to update. Both of these pieces can be reupholstered in new, modern fabric to fit in perfectly for today’s design trends. But, you need to know that reupholstering a piece is not always cheaper than buying a new piece. Fabric alone is costly, but foam and other materials that go under the fabric can also be costly.  

As with case goods, structural integrity is a must when selecting a piece to reupholster. A chair or sofa will be more costly to fix if the structural integrity is compromised. If you sink to the floor when you sit on it or if it has a strong musty or cigarette smell, you will probably want to pass. These things will be a lot more costly to fix. With pieces that no longer have support when you sit in them, this is usually a spring issue and the piece will need to be restructured from the base up. Oftentimes, the smell can be eliminated, but that will take replacing the fabric, the batting and the foam. If there is no smell, the foam can often be reused and only the fabric replaced.

Depending on the age of the piece, it will also be more costly. More modern furniture makes use of sinuous as opposed to tied springs and foam and batting as opposed to welting, horse hair and burlap. When reupholstering a piece, you want to use the original types of materials.

Fabric is also a huge consideration when reupholstering a piece. Where will the piece be placed and who will be using it? If this piece will be a regularly used piece of furniture and you have pets or kids in your home, you will not want to choose a dry clean only fabric. With homes that have pets and or children, a wash and go fabric such as canvas, denim (this now comes in shades other than blue), and microfiber are often used. Furniture can also be treated to help with staining. Some reupholsters have also used painter’s drop clothes to reupholster which are very economical, but this fabric is more suited to slipcovers than reupholstery.

Be cognizant of the pattern as well. Stripes and larger patterns will need to be matched up on the different areas of the piece and will take more fabric and often take a lot more work to keep straight. Solid fabrics or fabrics with all over smaller patterns will not need to be matched.

If you decide to reupholster on your own, know that it will be a lot of work. Never reupholster by simply covering the current fabric with your new fabric. Taking the old fabric completely off (hours of staple pulling), will not only give you a pattern for cutting the new fabric, but will also give you more insight into the structural integrity of a piece.

Having the right tools can also be a huge plus. Tools that are in my opinion a necessity include a rubber mallet, a good pair of fabric scissors, a staple remover along with a flat head screwdriver and needle nosed pliers, a heavy duty glue gun, T-Pins to hold fabric in place as you replace the new fabric, and a compressor with a pneumatic 22 gauge fine wire staple gun specifically designed for reupholstery (you can use a hand held staple gun, but this type makes it hard to get in tight places), and the appropriate staples.

If you are adding any other items to the piece such as piping or buttons, you will need additional tools. If your piece has a cushion or cushions, you will also need a sewing machine with a welting foot, a top stitch needle and a zipper with zipper foot.
Whatever your DIY project, know that you need to do your research in order to be successful with any project. Having the right tools and a little know how can go a long way. If you don’t have the tools, know how or time to tackle the project on your own do contact a professional for help.

Anna Cheung is owner of Anna Cheung Interiors where she offers Home Design, Furniture Refinishing and Organizational Services. She is also available to speak to groups on the topic of organization. Learn more tips and ideas by following Anna at: www.AnnaCheungInteriors.com
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