Refinishing Furniture: A Guide

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Home Improvement

Repairing Furniture Hardware: Tips and Tricks

Old furniture hardware such as drawer pulls, handles, hinges, locks, and decorative bands often show signs of wear and tear. If the hardware is loose, broken, or missing, it needs to be repaired or replaced. In this section, we will discuss some techniques for repairing or replacing furniture hardware quickly and easily.

Common types of hardware can be matched quite easily, but if the hardware is distinctive or unusual, it may be easier to replace all the hardware. If the piece of furniture is valuable or antique, or if the hardware is attractive, the old hardware should not be removed. In such cases, missing parts should be replaced with matching or similar hardware.

You can find furniture hardware at hardware stores, home centers, specialty hardware outlets, craft suppliers, and online vendors. Let’s start by reviewing how to fix a common hardware problem: loose drawer pulls and handles.

Tightening Drawer Pulls and Handles

If a drawer pull or handle is loose, remove it and replace the screw with a longer one. If the screw is part of the pull, you’ll have to make the hole in the wood smaller. When the hole is only slightly enlarged, use a hollow fiber plug or a piece of solid-core solder to tighten the pull. For larger holes, insert wood toothpicks or thin shavings of wood into the hole with glue applied on the outside. Once the glue dries, trim them flush with the wood surface and dip the pull’s screw into glue. Then replace the pull and tighten the screw firmly. For a more substantial repair, enlarge the hole, glue a piece of dowel into it, and drill a new screw hole.

Fixing Hinges

If hinges don’t work properly, they usually have bent hinge pins, which need to be replaced. If the hinges are loose, try using slightly longer screws to attach them. When the screw holes are very much enlarged, use the methods described above. If the hinge leaves are damaged and the hinges cannot be replaced, glue them into position with epoxy or a rubber- or silicone-base adhesive.

Replacing Locks

If locks on old furniture are damaged or keys are missing, it’s best to have them repaired by a professional if the piece of furniture is an antique or the lock is very unusual. Otherwise, remove the damaged lock and take it to a locksmith to order a matching or similar lock to replace it.

Fixing Loose Metal Bands and Escutcheons

Don’t replace old metal bands and escutcheons unless they are severely damaged. They often have a beautiful design and patina. Apply adhesive caulking compound under the metal to secure a loose band or escutcheon and bond it to the wood. If this doesn’t work, use tiny metal screws of the same metal as the hardware to fasten them. It is important to match the metals, such as brass to brass, copper to copper, or steel to steel, to prevent corrosion. Place several screws in a pattern and drill pilot holes before inserting them.

Covering Up Hardware

If the old hardware holes are beyond repair or you want to give a piece a new look, cover the surface with new wood or metal escutcheon plates. Use adhesive or screws to attach the escutcheons, matching the metal to metal. If you are using escutcheon-type handles, no other treatment is necessary. Otherwise, drill new mounting holes as needed. Keep the design simple and try to match the style of the piece.

With these tips, you are ready to take on any refinishing project and transform your piece into something you never thought possible!


1. What is furniture refinishing?

Furniture refinishing is the process of restoring old or worn-out furniture to its original or desired condition. It involves stripping off the old finish, repairing any damage, sanding, and applying a new finish to the piece. Refinishing can give new life to old furniture and can be a cost-effective way to update the look of a room.

2. What tools and materials do I need to refinish furniture?

The tools and materials needed for furniture refinishing depend on the condition of the piece and the type of finish you want to apply. Generally, you will need sandpaper, stripping agent, putty knife, paint scraper, wood filler, stain, and a finish of your choice. You may also need gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator for protection. It’s important to read the instructions on all products and tools before use.

3. Can I refinish any type of furniture?

Most types of furniture can be refinished, but it’s important to consider the type of wood and the condition of the piece before starting the process. Some woods, like oak and pine, are easier to refinish than others, such as mahogany and cherry. Additionally, if the piece has significant damage or is made of composite materials, it may not be worth refinishing.

4. How do I remove the old finish?

The method for removing the old finish depends on the type of finish and the condition of the piece. Chemical stripping agents can be used for most finishes, but sanding may be necessary for thick or stubborn finishes. It’s important to follow the instructions on the stripping agent and to work in a well-ventilated area. Use a putty knife or paint scraper to remove the old finish once it has softened.

5. How do I repair damaged areas?

Before applying a new finish, it’s important to repair any damage to the piece. Use wood filler to fill in holes or gaps, and sand the surface smooth once the filler has dried. For scratches or gouges, use a colored wax filler stick to match the color of the wood. Sand the surface once the wax has hardened.

6. What type of finish should I use?

The type of finish you choose depends on the look you want to achieve and the intended use of the piece. Oil-based stains and finishes are durable and give a traditional look, while water-based finishes are easier to clean and have less of an odor. Polyurethane is a popular finish for its durability and protection against scratches and water damage. It’s important to read the instructions on the finish and to test it on a small, inconspicuous area before applying to the entire piece.

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