Posted on: Aug

Hunt to Refinish: First Time DIY Chair Refinishing Project

Guest blog by Jenna Smith of Jennaration Creative

It’s been one big year of change at our first home where, like many starter homes, it doesn’t have my dream kitchen but rather an array of gold, avocado and orange accents from the 1970’s. I’m all about vintage – but it was all a bit overwhelming when we bought the house. So, while my boyfriend Bob catches a movie or takes a breather in between my harebrained DIY ideas, I cook up challenges for myself (and Bob) with the following four elements:

  1. Budget—how little can I spend?
  2. Blending both of our tastes—He likes white and I like color, easy right?
  3. Keeping with the character of our home–1950’s split level with quirky little surprises.
  4. Unique—As much as I’m flattered when my friends copy some of my ideas, sometimes after all my thinking and Bob’s hard work, I’d like it to be pretty unique.

A little backstory: I’m Italian, and anyone who is Italian (or knows an Italian) knows that family comes first, and the dining table is the MOST IMPORTANT PLACE IN THE HOME! You can imagine my disappointment when I had my parents over and they were scared to sit on my counter-height kitchen stools, in fear they would fall off and hurt themselves. I believe Bob cringed a little because he knew I would then be on the hunt for the right table and chairs from that point on.

In early June, I came across a set of matching chairs at what I call the “perpetual garage sale” that I pass on my way to work every week. I stopped and promptly negotiated the owner’s asking price down to $10 for both chairs. The owner’s friend made them, and they were pretty in good condition but I didn’t like the color or the seat cushions, so now my challenge was set. I wanted to refinish both chairs to match the color we are refinishing the hardwood floors in the living room, match the seats to our newly painted front door, and keep the project start-to-finish under $35 for both chairs. Before last week, I had never picked up a sander or stained anything in my life! Just like any new DIY-er I dove right in, thankfully with Bob encouraging me and providing little tips along the way. From hunt to finish, located below are the steps I took and the little tips I thought another DIY-er like me might like know before just diving in.

What you’ll need:

  • Degreaser spray
  • Sander (I used a small sander as well as a finishing sander)
  • An assortment of sandpaper
  • Mask
  • Wood stain (I used MinWax Poly Shades in Mission Oak)
  • Rubber gloves
  • An old rag
  • Steel wool
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Spray adhesive
  • Foam
  • Batting
  • Fabric
  • Staple gun

Quick note: I happened to have most of the supplies at home except the foam, batting, fabric and assortment of sandpaper. After a quick trip to the craft store and my local Valu, including the chairs, I’ve only spent $35 to do the whole project.

Want to see step-by-step photos of the whole process? Click here:

  • STEP 1: Remove the chair cushions and any hardware on the chair.
  • STEP 2: Wipe down the chairs well with a degreaser solution.
  • STEP 3: Put on a mask and start sanding in the direction of the wood grain with the small sander.
  • STEP 4: Once both chairs are finished, go over the chairs with a finishing sander with a fine grit sandpaper or get in hard to reach places with a piece of sandpaper.
  • STEP 5: Get half of your old rag rinse until damp with water and wipe down both chairs.
STEP 6: Put on rubber gloves, dip the other half of your rag into the wood stain and start rubbing the stain into the wood in the direction of the wood grain. I recommend starting with the front and working your way around the chair to avoid making marks on parts that are already drying.
STEP 7: Wait one day, for first coat to dry.
STEP 8: Apply your second coat of stain and wait another day for it to dry. (It should not feel gummy.)
STEP 9: Go over the finished chairs lightly with a little steel wool.
  • STEP 10: Remove old cushion and fabric by pulling staples out with a flathead screwdriver.
STEP 11: Spray your seat base with spray adhesive and attach your foam to the seat.
STEP 12: Trim your seat foam to edges of the seat base.
  • STEP 13: Wrap batting with fabric over seat with 2 inches over the edge and staple.
  • STEP 14: Attach the cushions to the chair with the original hardware.

Voila, you have chairs that hit the $35 budget, can accommodate our aging relatives, fit within our small kitchen, and are one of a kind! I’m happy with the result but if I had to do it all over again, I may have just painted the chairs instead of staining them because the stain took to some parts better than others. They may not be perfect, but I would have hated to see that wood grain get covered up.

More DIY projects by Jenna can be viewed at . A new blog, Jennaration Nest, is coming soon!

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