How to Choose Between Painting and Restoring Thrifted Pieces

By Jennifer Riner of Zillow

I'm thrilled to have Jennifer Riner of Zillow share the ins and outs of painting and restoring thrifted pieces today. You never know what you might find out there! What will you do with your next find?

Revamping dated and damaged furniture requires a bit of an imagination. A scratched or broken art deco dresser has the potential to become a beautiful and functional media center with a little elbow grease. However, every do-it-yourself (DIY) aficionado contemplates what to do with more high-quality pieces: paint over or refinish the damaged surfaces?
To make the decision process simpler, here are the pros and cons of restoring versus painting longstanding furniture.

Restoring is the go-to choice for furniture experts because it brings fixtures back to magnificence without compromising novelty and function. Wood is a common refinished material but glass, metal and plastic can also be repaired to mimic their original condition. For those looking for true antique experiences with their home furnishings, restoring is the preferred method. The process is more complicated than painting over damage and distress, but allows the craftsmanship and material quality to shine through sheer varnish. Historical pieces should almost always be refinished in order to properly preserve the integrity of traditional furnishings.

DIY restoring costs about the same price as painting over damaged wood. There are risks with refinishing woodwork as an amateur. Lack of experience and knowledge on proper technique can lead to additional damage or inconsistent coloring. The first step is to remove the existing finish by either sanding or using chemical stripping agents. Then, fill the oak or mahogany grain to create a smooth, even finish. Complete the process by staining and finishing the wood with water-based polyurethane, standard polyurethane, lacquer or penetrating oil. Those without proper experience should first practice refinishing on scrap wood before beginning refurbishing large, sentimental pieces.

Painting allows for complete transformations of older pieces of furniture. This is the best route to take for non-valuable antiques with structural damages or low-quality materials. Fresh paint can give even the most dingy dressers new life. Plus, most furniture can be recoated numerous times to match different room styles and schemes. Home sellers should consider painting furnishings as a quick and easy way to stage homes on the market. Although existing furniture may not be included in the purchase costs, well-designed interiors generally attract homebuyers.

For standard paint jobs, clean thoroughly prior to applying primer. Then, fill in any significant holes or divots with wood glues or fillers. Make sure to sand all cracks to produce smooth surfaces. Use a stain-locking primer prior to applying the first coat of paint. Depending on the desired finish, owners can choose between an oil-based paint and latex paint. The former allows for a glossier, hard finish while the latter leads to better color and durability. Don’t forget to apply wax coatings to lessen the likelihood of chipping and peeling down the road. Using a chalk paint like Annie Sloan can make repainting furniture a breeze as it circumvents the often time-consuming sanding and priming steps.
Remember, paint colors and finishes can always be changed in the future. Feel free to show inventiveness and expression while restoring or repainting pieces for interior design. Those who are refurbishing dressers and cabinets should always research for manufacturing eras and historical significance of designers before making any attempts to renovate.

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