Refinishing vs. Restoration

You’ve just found the perfect piece of furniture in a local antiques shop or auction and you’ve fallen in love with it! Or maybe you have inherited a large piece of furniture from a beloved relative and want to bring it home to enjoy all of the memories that come along with it.

There’s only one problem, however: It’s in pretty rough shape.

Do you refinish it or restore it?

These two terms are often used interchangeably by most people, so it’s easy to confuse them. Furniture restoration or refinishing professionals, however, point out that the differences are important.

Furniture Restoration

Restoration usually involves keeping the original finish on a piece of wood intact and bringing it back to as close as possible to its original state. This can involve removing years of dirt, grime, scratches, scuffs and other marks if possible. Restoration is the choice if you want to retain much of the original features of the piece as possible, which is good for antique owners who want to retain value.

Furniture Refinishing

Refinishing, on the other hand, is more labor intensive and involves stripping off the old finish with chemical strippers. The piece is then sanded, re-stained and sealed as a part of the process. For instance, a piece may be too dark or too light in order to fit in with your own home’s décor. The natural inclination is to either lighten or darken it up a bit or to matching it to pieces you may already have.

However, many antique dealers and furniture experts advise against this kind of approach if at all possible. The main reason is because some of the value of a piece may be lost if it were to be sold in a shop or at auction. On the other hand, refinishing may be able to help you use a piece of older furniture without fear of additional damage.

Making the Right Choice

While there is plenty of information on how to either finish or restore a piece of furniture or other vintage item available in books and online, the best course of action is to consult with an experienced furniture restoration and furniture refinishing professional before undertaking either the process of restoration or refinishing.

A furniture restorer is likely to have equipment, supplies and a workspace that allows them to work more effectively than those who may even have a dedicated workshop for such projects. Sometimes a valued antique may need nothing more than a bit of cleaning to remove decades of dirt and grime to look like new.

At other times, however, an original finished simply cannot be saved and so in order to be able to enjoy and use it, refinishing is a must. Note that if you ever do decide to sell the piece, some buyers will only be looking at how it looks and not care if it was restored or refinished. When you truly love and live with a piece of furniture in your home, you ultimately must decide which approach is best.

How To Take Care of Leather Furniture

There is nothing in the world like the look and feel of leather furniture in your home or office. Even one piece of furniture made of leather can add warmth, beauty and sophistication to any room in your home. But is leather hard to maintain?

As tough as it may seem, you need to protect such a beautiful asset for as long as possible. As with any piece of furniture that you own, you will want to clean up spills as quickly as possible, vacuum and dust and do a couple of extra steps from time to time. In addition to vacuuming and dusting, wipe off your leather furniture weekly with a clean and dry lint-free cloth.

Cleaning cloths made of microfiber are ideal for this task. If necessary, lightly dampen the cloth with some distilled water. You only need a very small amount of water to do this. Avoid using a scrub brush or abrasive pad that can mark or damage the leather.

Things to Avoid with Leather Furniture

  • Never use common household cleaners and chemicals on your precious leather furniture. Many of these can dry out the leather or ruin it on contact by staining or removing the finish completely. Use only cleaners and conditioners on your furniture that are specifically formulated for leather.

Also, keep these tips in mind

  • Sunlight, even shining through a glass window can fade and even damage leather furniture over the long term. 
  • Don’t place leather furniture near heaters, fireplaces or air conditioners. Each of these pulls moisture out of the air and can dry out the leather much in the same way that they can dry out your own skin. Getting into the practice of regularly conditioning your leather furniture is a good idea. Most furniture dealers will carry products that are specifically designed for furniture.
  • Never cover your leather furniture with plastic. If you need to place it in storage for a period of time, place your leather furniture on a wooden pallet to protect it then cover it with a sheet over it to keep the dust and debris off. Also, do not place any heavy objects on top of your leather furniture while in storage in order to avoid permanently marking the leather.

Repairing Damage to Your Leather Furniture

Even with the best of care, accidents can happen. It is possible to repair leather that has become torn, scratched or faded.

There are leather repair kits and recoloring kits that are readily available on the market that can be used, There are also many articles and websites online that also offer advice on how to repair leather furniture. These can serve as a temporary fix and you may not get the kind of results you are looking for.

A better option when you do need to make such repairs is to consult with a furniture restoring and refinishing expert who can help you make your leather furniture look like new once again.

Is Reupholstering Worth It?

Day-to-day living can take its toll on your furniture. If your favorite sofa or chair is looking a bit worse for wear because the cushions are crushed or the upholstery is dirty, ripped or outdated, you may be thinking of spending money on new furniture.

Fear not! There is another option available. Before you haul your comfy furniture out to the curb, you may be surprised to know that it really is possible to save the furniture you love. It is possible to give new life to your furniture, whether by cleaning it, repairing it, or by reupholstering. These options can help you salvage what you already love, update the look of your home, and give new life to pieces that you love.

The Cost of Reupholstering

For some pieces of furniture, may only end up spending a fraction of the cost of what you would on a new piece of furniture. If the upholstery on a cushion gets ripped, it may cost around $100 to fix it and can be done fairly quickly.

However, it’s not always cheaper to fix. If your favorite wing chair needs a complete makeover, it may cost between $500 and $700. Refurbishing an entire sofa can drive the price up to $1,000 or more, depending on the cost of the fabric involved. Good upholstery fabric can cost $30 a yard and up. You may also need to factor in additional repairs. Does the piece of furniture need to be re-stuffed? Do repairs to springs or other internal parts of the furniture like backboards need to be made? Is there tufting or do fabric patterns need to be matched, or would a solid color or pattern not requiring matching suffice? All of these questions need to be considered when estimating the cost of reupholstering.

Decisions, Decisions

Getting new piece furniture can be nice. However, it may end up being less comfortable or not as sturdy as something you already have. Reupholstering a beloved piece can preserve not only its sentimental value, but you may find it ends up lasting longer, too.

Before making a final decision speak to a furniture restoration professional to explore all possible options. Armed with this information, you can better determine which choice is the best option for you.