Old ornate armoire needing refinishing.

Finding a Furniture Refinishing Service


If you’ve acquired an antique in less than stellar condition, you may be considering the help of a furniture refinishing service. If you’re like me, you may see splendor in all pieces, whether they’re finely tuned to their former glory, or just a beauty in the rough. But even I make the decision to refinish a piece now and again. Chances are you’ll come by a piece that needs to be refinished too. So let’s talk about exactly what furniture refinishing entails.

Furniture refinishing and the term furniture restoration are often confused, or used interchangeably. –Yet the two do not have the same meaning. Furniture refinishing is the process by which the current finish on the piece is removed (usually by sanding) and a new finish (usually a stain) is applied. The new surface may or may not try to match the original surface of the piece. Furniture restoration often includes cleaning the antique, replacing critical parts (perhaps a dresser leg is missing, or a drawer pull is lost)- basically restoring the piece back to its glory. The goal of restoration is to make the piece look as it did when it was first created. Again, this may or may not be the goal when refinishing a piece. Now that we’re clear on definition of furniture refinishing, let’s consider whether you need professional refinishing services.

Maybe you’ve just inherited a family heirloom, or discovered a unique piece at auction. Now you want to refinish it. Should you attempt the furniture refinishing yourself, or do you need professional furniture refinishing services?

Whether to use a professional furniture refinishing service, or attempt the furniture refinishing yourself is an important decision. I’m all for DIY projects, but unless you have a considerable amount of experience with furniture refinishing, consider the advantages of a furniture refinishing service.

Here are a few reasons why a professional furniture refinisher might be the way to go:

  • Experience. Professional furniture refinishers often have decades of experience. As a result, they have a solid understanding of how to refinish the piece and best keep its value. You may actually find that the refinisher recommends a detailed cleaning rather than a refinishing.
  • Tools and materials. Over the years, a professional refinishing service collects dozens of specialized tools. Often, they’ve even modified tools to meet specific furniture refinishing needs. Additionally, they have a huge collection of stains and polishes at their disposal. In short, they have the tools and materials to get the job done right.
  • Work space and time. Refinishing an antique can be a messy, smelly job. If you choose to do it yourself, you’ll need to set aside a well ventilated area for your workspace, and plan on keeping the piece there for a few weekends. Refinishing furniture isn’t a fast task. Simply put, it’s all around easier and less frustrating to let the professional furniture refinishing service handle the job.


If you decide it’s best to call on the skills and resource of a furniture refinishing company, it’s important to do a little investigation before you turn over your beloved piece. I advise you do the following before choosing a furniture refinishing service:

  • Check the Better Business Bureau. Has the BBB had any complaints against the furniture refinishing company you’re considering?
  • Ask antique dealers. Ask a few local antique dealers for the name of a quality furniture refinishing company. If you have a company in mind, ask if they’ve seen any of their refinished pieces, or know of anyone who has used their services.
  • Shop around. If possible, take your piece (or a number of detailed photos) to at least two refinishing companies. It won’t take long for you to get a feel for the level of personal service they are willing to provide. When obtaining multiple estimates, compare apples to apples, and remember, the lowest bid is not always the best bid (although it could be, and that’s great!) In the end, you’ll be making an investment in a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.
  • Discuss cost and timeline. Once you’ve settled on a furniture refinishing service, be sure to discuss estimated cost and timeline upfront. Often, the refinisher will uncover additional needs of the piece as they begin the refinishing process. This may increase cost, and lengthen the time it will take to refinish the piece. Be sure the furniture refinishing company is clear on what action to take if they run into surprises (should they call you first to get the go-ahead?)


My advice is this: if you’re considering refinishing an antique (either yourself or by a professional) first consult a furniture refinishing expert. Furniture refinishing is tricky business. It is important to remember that the value of the piece can be significantly diminished by an unnecessary, or botched refinishing job. –While properly refinishing the piece may increase its value.

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