On this page:
- Estimating the Cost of Furniture Refinishing
- Is It Worth It?
- What Affects the Cost of Refinishing Furniture?
- What’s Involved?
- Planning for a Furniture Refinishing Project
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
- Find a Pro
Refinishing wood furniture is an excellent way to restore or change its appearance; whether to bring it back to its original condition, freshen it up with a new finish, or transform it into a distinctly different treasure. Refinishing may require a variety of steps, materials, and techniques, but generally involves preparing or removing existing finish coats in order to apply a new paint, stain, or varnish.
Several details will affect the cost of refinishing, from the style and condition of the piece to the new finish you select, so be sure to weigh your options and the value of the item when planning your project.
Estimating the Cost of Furniture Refinishing
What to Expect from an Estimate
Many pros offer standardized fee schedules or estimates for refinishing common furniture pieces. Their experience helps them anticipate the time, material, and skill level required for handling various items, so they are able to provide firm estimates before work begins. In most cases though, a pro will need to see the item firsthand before offering a quote or contract price for the job. There are many factors that can influence the complexity of a refinishing project, so it’s usually necessary to have a look in order to anticipate the difficulty of the job. In some cases, pros will provide a volume discount for refinishing multiple pieces or a set of furniture with the same color and varnish. When this is an option, it is generally more cost-effective to have an entire set finished at once than piece-by-piece.
Complex projects and repair or restoration work can be difficult to estimate, so non-standard work is often priced at an hourly rate, rather than as a whole. Your pro should still be able to give you an estimate of total charges, but may need to allow for more leeway in case the job is very labor intensive.
Full furniture refinishing services generally include preparation of the piece, minor blemish repair, and the application of multiple coats of finish products, such as paint or stain and protective coatings, like lacquer, wax, and polyurethane. You may choose a higher or lower level of service, depending on the details of the project.
For example, one of the most challenging aspects of a refinishing project is the removal of an existing finish. If you would like to apply new stain yourself, but need a hand stripping the old finish from a piece first, a pro may offer stripping alone for one third to one half the price of full refinishing. On the other hand, if your piece needs structural or upholstery repair, expect to pay an additional 25 to 50 percent.
Is It Worth It?
Refinishing quality furniture is an economical alternative to replacement, but since the job requires a great deal of skill and time, it can be expensive. If you intend to keep your furniture a long time, or if refinishing will increase its value for resale or insurance purposes, the update can be a worthwhile investment. On the other hand, if your furniture is economy or mid-grade quality or requires substantial repair, the cost of refinishing may exceed the value of the piece. If that’s the case, sentimental value, rather than cash value, may influence your decision to refinish.
Undoubtedly, refinishing can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of furniture. Whether to undo years of age and neglect, class up a flea market treasure, let the beauty of natural wood shine, or transform a piece with a faux treatment, refinishing can accomplish nearly anything you can imagine. If you love the bones of a piece but it just looks tired or if it’s in good shape but doesn’t fit your design, refinishing may be just what you need to reinvent your furniture.
What Affects the Cost of Refinishing Furniture?
The characteristics of each piece of furniture will affect the cost of preparing and finishing it. The overall size of the item and the intricacy of the piece are significant, and since most items are at least partially disassembled for stripping and other preparation, complexity is also a factor. When more time and care is needed to properly remove and apply finish, the cost of the work goes up. So, while it may cost less than $200 to fully refinish a standard dining or side chair, it could cost $400 or more for a rocker or piano bench.
Refinishing can correct a number of superficial issues with furniture, but does not generally include substantial structural repairs or upholstering. Extra services that bring your piece up to snuff will add to the bottom line, and may require the services of specialists, such as carpenters or upholsterers. Additionally, the type and condition of the existing finish may affect the cost of stripping and prepping the item, since it takes considerable time, effort, material, and skill to remove multiple layers of paint, varnish, and stain without damaging the underlying wood.
Level of Service
Even for a standard furniture piece in excellent condition, refinishing costs can vary with the level of service provided by a pro. The amount of preparation and finish work required to complete the piece to your specifications can vary widely, so the cost of the job will depend directly on what options you choose. If you simply need a piece stripped and cleaned so you can stain and varnish on your own, the scope of the job is a lot smaller than if your pro needs to also sand, stain, paint, seal, or apply a special technique or faux finish to the item.
Furniture refinishing is best done in a shop environment, where dust, fumes, and climate can be controlled for best results. If you are not able to deliver your furniture to your pro’s shop, you may be charged an extra fee for pickup and delivery of your items. The cost for the extra service will depend on your location and the size and number of pieces involved, so be sure to ask up front about transportation and related charges.
Often underappreciated, good preparation is essential to creating a lasting and beautiful finish on any painted or stained item. If the surface of your furniture piece needs to be brought down to bare wood, your pro will likely use chemical strippers to remove old varnish, paint, or stain without damaging the wood. After that, the piece will be washed to neutralize the solvents, and fully dried to allow good absorption and adhesion for new finish products. This process can be lengthy, but is necessary, and the more care, time, and skill is required, the more the job will cost.
When it’s time to apply a new finish to your furniture piece, a pro may use a combination of sprayers, brushes, and rags to apply base coats of paint or stain, followed by multiple coats of a protective finish. The pro must allow the previous application to dry fully before applying the next, and may lightly sand the surface between coats. The type of materials needed to achieve the finish you prefer, along with the number of coats and the application method, will influence the cost of the project. Adding a custom look with special techniques, such as distressing, antiquing, or faux finishes can take the job up a notch and add to the bottom line.
Planning for a Furniture Refinishing Project
Overall, refinishing is an economical way to get more life from existing furnishings, but be sure to consider your goals for the project before assuming it’s the best option. If the piece you hope to update is a significant antique, check with an appraiser or restoration pro to find out if refinishing will affect its value. If your ambitions are more practical and your piece more utilitarian, compare the cost of refinishing with the cost of replacement to make the best choice for your application and budget.
In any case, remember that it may be hard to predict the outcome of the project, depending on the condition of the piece. If you’re not sure what to expect from refinishing, get multiple estimates and recommendations from local pros—they can probably show you examples and photos of similar pieces and finish options to help you know what the potential is for your diamond in the rough.
To DIY or Not to DIY?
Hiring a pro is the best way to get a flawless finish on your furniture project, but if your budget is tight, you may be able to handle the entire job and still get great results. If you just need a hand getting started, hiring a pro just to handle the stripping is an economical way to speed up the job.
Thanks to the many steps involved, furniture refinishing is a lengthy process. It’s common for a few weeks to elapse on a small job and up to a few months on a big one, depending on the complexity and scale of the project, and the workload of your pro. Be sure to plan ahead for the time you’ll be without your furniture, or allow enough time for the job if the piece you’re refinishing is planned for a gift or event.
|$160 - $400||$850 - $2,400||$3,750 - $4,500|
The scale and difficulty of a refinishing project will influence its price, along with the level of service you select. Our examples illustrate a few common scenarios.
A Helping Hand: $160 - $400
- • Subject: When years of use as a footstool take their toll on a favorite coffee table, refinishing is the best way to bring it back to its former glory.
- • Scope of the Job: Hiring out the stripping portion of this job helps keep the budget low. Sanding, staining, and varnishing are good projects for a skilled DIYer with access to a clean garage or workshop for the duration of the job.
Bringing Back a Classic: $850 - $2,400
- • Subject: Refinishing can help preserve Grandpa’s desk for another generation. The size and level of detail on a piece like this make it a bit challenging to handle.
- • Scope of the Job: In order to make sure the desk can stand up to its calling, a full strip and refinish is called for, along with a few extras to snug up worn drawers and replace missing hardware.
Something for Everyone: $3,750 - $4,500
- • Subject: A new stain color makes an existing dining set a good fit for a planned room renovation, sparing the cost of replacing it.
- • Scope of the Job: Refinishing a dining table and six chairs is no small feat. Stripping, staining, and varnishing a set like this will take several weeks in a pro’s shop.
Level of Difficulty
Some furniture refinishing projects are great for an intermediate to advanced level do-it-yourselfer, but space limitations and time constraints can make it difficult to handle the logistics of the job. It takes considerable skill and experience and some specialized equipment to achieve a showroom finish, so hiring a pro is usually the best way to give your piece the royal treatment.
Furniture Refinishing Services
If you’re ready to hire a furniture refinishing pro to breathe new life into your wood furniture, be sure to learn about your options and get several estimates for the job. A talented restoration pro can make the old new again, and turn a tired hand-me-down into a classic. Check references, review portfolios, and compare pricing to find the pro who is the best fit for the job.