The Hidden Homes

Home Improvement Blog

The Difference Between Furniture Refinishing and Furniture Restoration


Maybe you’ve inherited a gorgeous vintage chair or snagged a fantastic deal for an old piece of furniture on craigslist. Either way, the furniture is not in good shape and needs some work. So, do you refinish it or restore it? Is there a difference? You can search for “furniture repair near me” and hire pros to fix and restore or refinish your old furniture. Let’s check out the differences between furniture restoration and refinishing.

The Differences

  1. Furniture Restoration – Furniture restoration usually involves surface cleaning and light cosmetic repairs. That means you may need to wash old and dirty furniture fabric, sand away surface scratches, and re-polish the wood with a stain of your choice. You’ve seen those videos where they clean old and very rusty tools and make them look brand new? 

Furniture restoration is very similar. During the restoration process, you don’t do any drastic changes or modifications to the piece of furniture. Instead, the intent behind restoration is to preserve the furniture’s appearance and original look. 

  1. Advantages of furniture restoration – DIYers love furniture restoration since it allows them to achieve a grand effect with a little bit of effort. It’s also great for those who may have sentimental values attached to the furniture and want it to just look new without losing its soul. One of the greatest advantages of furniture restoration is that it’s fast. Restoration projects don’t aim for too many changes. That means restoring even large pieces of furniture to their former glory doesn’t take a lot of time.

Apart from the quick pace, restoration projects are the perfect pet projects for hobby DIYers. You can easily buy cheap sandpaper and wood polish from the nearest store and restore your old dining table to look brand new. You can even make a homemade polish from regular household ingredients right at home. 

Finally, the greatest advantage of furniture restoration is its cheap cost. If you do the restoration yourself, you’ll hardly spend $10 or $20 on cleaning and polishing tools and supplies. Even if the restoration job requires the deep cleaning of couch fabric, that can be easily done with a rented steamer. So, the bar to entry is very low and makes restoration accessible and less intimidating to most people. 

  1. Disadvantages of restoration – However, all’s not good in the world of restoration. If the furniture piece has a lot of wear and tear and is in very poor shape, restoration won’t do it any good. For instance, if two of the legs of your chair have deep cracks and make the furniture extremely unstable, restoration isn’t enough to bring back the chair to its former glory.    

Moreover, certain furniture pieces may be missing specialty parts that are difficult to find. For instance, antique furniture often has handles, knobs, and hinges that are very difficult to find since they haven’t been manufactured in the past century. Restoration projects don’t involve so much effort and patience to hunt down a specific part. Instead, it is replaced with something that is easily available. However, that completely ruins the look of the antique furniture. 

  1. Furniture Refinishing – Compared to restoration, furniture refinishing is vastly different and a much more complex process that strives to achieve perfection. It requires a lot more patience, time, effort, and resources. In refinishing projects, the structure or bones of the furniture are used as a starting point to create something entirely new. You’ve seen those home and car renovation shows, right? It’s similar to that. 
  1. Advantages of furniture refinishing – As mentioned above-furniture refinishing is tough and complex work. However, the results are equally rewarding. With refinishing, you get more long-term results. Refinishing involves stripping old layers, sanding down the wood, and staining or painting it in a completely different manner. This kind of rigorous work yields a furniture piece that stays and looks incredible for several years. 

You also get to add your personality and make more changes when you refinish a furniture piece.  For instance, if you’ve owned an old cabinet since your childhood, you can rip out the old veneer and stain it in a darker color, change the knobs and handles with some modern and sleeker designs, or even change the feet of the furniture piece. The option and scope of personalization are unlimited and depend on your patience and the amount of time and resources you’re willing to spend on the project. 

  1. Disadvantages of refinishing – While refinishing has many advantages, there are some obvious flaws in this kind of project. First of all, it’s not cheap by any margin. The process is much more expensive than typical restoration projects. While the cost of hiring a pro to do the restoration or refinishing remains relatively the same, you get to cut down on costs drastically when you DIY it. 

For instance, when you hire a pro for restoration or refinishing projects the cost varies anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. If the refinishing project is too complex, the pro may even charge you up to 5 figures. However, when you go the DIY route, restoration would hardly cross the $100 mark while refinishing furniture will easily cost you over $1000.    

Moreover, due to its complexity, refinishing projects are very time-consuming and labor-intensive. Depending on the layers of changes you want to make and the personal modifications that you choose to have, the refinishing project may take you weeks or months to finish. That’s not all. Due to the complexity of refinishing projects and the cost involved with it, amateurs have a hard time with refinishing. They don’t want to commit resources, time and energy to a complicated project and do a shoddy job.          


Furniture restoration is vastly different from furniture refinishing. Refinishing is much more complex and allows you to breathe new life into the furniture instead of just doing cosmetic repairs. Either way, you can search for “furniture repair near me” and hire professionals to get your furniture refinished or restored.

Related Posts