Give new life to an antique find with professional furniture refinishing. Whether you have an heirloom wooden headboard that's been passed down in your family, or you found an amazing piece at a local estate sale that needs some love, having furniture refinished breathes new life into still-valuable pieces. Furniture refinishing is typically done by master woodworkers and skilled carpenters who are trained in the art of revitalizing worn or damaged wood. Furniture refinishing can entail stripping off old stain or paint; sanding down the wood; restoring the original wood; repairing any scratches, cracks and dents; and applying new stain or paint.
Refinishing furniture requires multiple steps and stages that can take weeks or even months, so it is important to be patient with the refinishing process. Professionals commonly refinish furniture such as dining tables, sofas, dining chairs, rocking chairs, armchairs, desks, dressers, armoires, bed frames, cabinets, nightstands, coffee tables, china cabinets, drop-leaf tables and end tables. Professional refinishers work with all kinds of wood, including oak, mahogany, maple, veneer, cherry, pine, rattan and more. Furniture refinishing professionals often have a woodworking studio where clients can bring their furniture. Some woodworkers provide pickup and drop-off services if you are unable to transport the furniture to them. Others offer mobile services for items that can't be transported, such as front doors or four-poster beds, as well as for smaller projects like old finish touch-ups and spot repairs.
If you're not sure whether to have a piece refinished, consider how you will use it. A quality piece of wood furniture will last decades, or even centuries, when properly cared for over time. It's usually worth it if the furniture is solid wood. If you find a piece that has solid construction and you like the design, there's a good chance it's worth giving it some new life.
A reputable furniture refinisher or woodworker will be able to tell you whether your piece of furniture is worth refinishing and help guide you toward a fiscally wise decision. Furniture refinishing projects may be quoted for a flat rate per piece, or the pros may charge per hour. The age and value of the piece of furniture will affect cost, as greater care must be taken with antiques or rare pieces. The size of the furniture and the extent of the damage or repairs needed will also affect cost; the longer something takes to refinish, the more you will have to pay. If you're tempted by DIY furniture projects, consider that it may cost more to fix botched DIY projects than to hire a professional, so consider this carefully before you try your own hand at refinishing.
If you're ready to bring your grandfather's dinner table back to its former luster, here are the average cost factors and price ranges for refinishing furniture.
Many woodworkers charge by the hour for their wood refinishing services. Hourly rates may range from $25 to over $100, depending on where you live, the complexity of the job, and the experience of your woodworker. When you are hiring your woodworker, be sure to ask for a written contract that includes their hourly rate, the estimated number of hours to refinish your furniture and an agreement that the pro will contact you if additional time or work is needed. Factors such as intricate carvings, paint or the need for wood filler can all extend the timeline. Furniture refinishing really can be a like an archaeological dig; there is no predicting what will be revealed once the surface layers are peeled off. For that reason, it's helpful to hire a woodworker you trust.
Because wood is unique and each piece may have a varied history, it is hard for woodworkers to give an exact price before seeing the furniture in question. For standard jobs that don't involve rare antiques or special requirements, many furniture restoration pros can provide average costs for common refinishing jobs. You can often get a free estimate by sending photos of the furniture you want refinished, which help give the pro a clear understanding of how much work will be required. Here are some average pricing examples of common refinishing jobs from two different companies.
Sterling Customs in Denver, Colorado:
- One dining room chair: $200-$250. Note that dining room chairs usually come in batches of six and require more labor than you might think.
- Dining room table measuring approximately 3 feet by 5 feet: $500-$600. Work includes completely sanding and refinishing the tabletop with up to four coats of finish and touching up the legs as needed.
Sevega Adriano Antiques Restoration and Wood Finishes in Los Angeles:
- Tables: $600
- Cabinets: $600
- Dressers: $600
Your woodworker's expert labor is the main factor in furniture refinishing costs, but the cost of materials could also have an impact. Sanders, sanding pads and wood finishes are just some of the materials and equipment that professionals use to refinish wood furniture. A marginal portion of the cost for these items is included in the overall cost of services and may be affected by local cost and demand. For example, a spokesperson at Sevega Adriano Antiques Restoration and Wood Finishes in Los Angeles, California, says that 5 percent or less of a customer's total bill reflects the cost of materials.
If you're tempted to try the work yourself with DIY projects, consider carefully whether you have the time, space and tools to refinish a piece properly. Many types of furniture refinishing require specialized tools and chemicals to revitalize a piece, and are time-consuming. Doing the wrong thing could damage the piece and cost more in the long run.
Furniture repair work
Broken table legs, missing chair backs and gouges in armoires all take time to rework and repair. The more damaged a piece of furniture is, the more time and skill are required and the higher the price will be. Woodworkers can also do furniture refinishing for insurance purposes if you have had pieces that have been damaged by fire, water or other accidents that your insurance covers. Always be sure to ask the furniture refinisher if they work with insurance companies and to clear any costs beforehand with your insurance carrier to make sure you don't get stuck with the bill.
Size and detail
Larger pieces of furniture such as a five-drawer dresser may cost more to refinish, but size doesn't always dictate cost. Items with extremely intricate detail, scrollwork or delicate parts require extra time and attention to detail, and generally cost more to repair than simply constructed pieces.
Refinishing built-in cabinets or furniture
Built-in cabinets which require the woodworker or refinisher to travel to you to do the work may also cost extra. Project costs will depend on location, time and local demand.
Changing the finish — from varnish to gold paint or cherry stain to oak stain, for example — may affect the total cost, as will requesting an exact color match. For example, matching new finish for a chair to an existing set can affect the total cost, especially if the professional has to do research to find the existing product.
Rare pieces and antiques may have a higher cost to refinish because additional care and precaution must be used to protect them. When you have an antique or an item that may be very valuable, it's important to consult with a professional first who can provide an appraisal. In some cases you may actually diminish the value of your furniture if you have it refinished, so make sure you are fully informed before starting the refinishing process.
Requesting a rush order for a furniture refinishing job will usually increase the total cost of work. Plan ahead to avoid additional costs associated with last-minute work orders. Furniture refinishing may take anywhere from two weeks to two months. Besides the actual time it takes to do the work, factors such as the weather can impact the drying process. Both cold weather and humid climates can impede standard drying times, so if your aunt's vintage armoire needs four coats of finish to be properly restored, the weather will impact finish time.
Some professionals work in a shop or studio, and some may do refinishing work on-site at the client's home or office. Some pros charge a pickup or delivery fee, which can vary depending on the size and fragility of the item. The extra charge may be worth it for those with mobility issues or people who can't possibly fit a full-size dresser into their small car. Some furniture refinishing professionals charge a travel fee if they do the work at the client's location, while others work only as mobile operators and do not charge travel fees. Ask your pro about travel fee policies before you begin doing business together. Here are examples of average travel fees:
- $40 travel fee to work at the client's location
- $50 pickup and delivery fee for short distances and $100 for longer distances, to be agreed upon with customer
Sometimes furniture doesn't need to go through the extensive process of being refinished, but can be revitalized with restoration. Furniture restoration is appropriate if you need minor cosmetic fixes, polishing or cleaning. Furniture restoration requires less time and will also cost less than refinishing. Your woodworker should be able to advise you on the appropriate course of action.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right pro for your project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.