Cost to Refinish Furniture
You’ve probably heard that the cost of refinishing furniture is excessive. Actually, the cost of refinishing furniture varies greatly depending on a number of factors. And while I wouldn’t say it’s inexpensive, the cost of having a piece refinished is often one quarter to one half of the cost of purchasing a similar new piece. -Not to mention you’re saving a piece of history.
To get true idea of what it will cost to refinish your furniture, it is best to take your piece (or very detailed photos) to a furniture refinisher and ask for an estimate. Better yet, get an estimate from more than one professional. Here’s how you can expect the cost of refinishing your furniture to be determined.
Six factors that determine how much it will cost to refinish your furniture:
- Location. Just like everything else, location plays a role in how much you’re going to pay for furniture refinishing. If you live in a big city, or an extremely rural location, you’re used to paying a bit more for specialized services- expect the cost to refinish your furniture may be more too.
- Work required. This is a no-brainer. The more labor the piece requires, the more it will cost you. Don’t assume that because your antique is rather small (a child’s chair for instance) that the cost to refinish the furniture will be less than a larger piece. Sometimes small pieces have very intricate detail work that requires special attention. Often the cost to refinish furniture is based on a flat rate.
- Special material. If your antique requires a rare, or pricey material (let’s say a hard to find stain) you can expect that the furniture refinishing company will pass along the cost to you.
- Difficulty to strip surface. The type, quality and condition of the surface that is to be removed (“stripped”) can have a substantial impact on how much it will cost to refinish your furniture. The more difficult the job, the more labor required, and the more you’ll pay.
- Color matching. If you’re asking the furniture refinisher to match an “exact” stain color, but can’t provide any information on the color name or manufacturer, the cost of refinishing your piece will likely increase due to the research time required.
- Rush requests. On average, it takes between 3-8 weeks (or more) to completely refinish a piece. This includes stripping away the old finish, making any necessary repairs, and refinishing. Keep this timeline in mind if you’re thinking of having a special antique ready for an anniversary surprise! Rushed requests may not even be possible, and if they are, expect to pay more for the cost of refinishing the piece.
You probably want to know how much it will cost to refinish a certain piece of furniture. Of course, only the furniture refinisher you hire can answer your questions, but here is a rough idea of a few common pieces:
- Basic dining room side chair: $125-$175
- Basic dining room arm chair: $150-$195
- Five drawer dresser: $425-$475
- Basic coffee table: $150-$175
- Large buffet: $675-$950
You may be wondering if the cost to refinish furniture is worthwhile. Only you can answer this question. I own a family heirloom that isn’t really worth that much, but because of its sentimental value, the cost of refinishing the piece was well worth it. If you’ve bought an antique that you’re thinking of re-selling, then surely you’ll need to seriously consider how much it will cost to refinish it and how that will impact your potential profit.
In an effort to save money (or just out of sheer satisfaction) you may consider refinishing the piece yourself. Let’s talk about the cost of refinishing the piece yourself.
Considering the cost of refinishing furniture yourself.
Whether to use a professional furniture refinishing service, or attempt the furniture refinishing yourself is an important decision. There are some pretty comprehensive refinishing kits on the market today that include nearly everything you need: wood cleaner, wax, oil, stain, color charts, instructional video, plastic gloves, wool pads, and more! Kits run in the range of $40-$60 depending on what’s included in the kit. But, you don’t need to buy a “kit” to refinish your furniture. Here are the basic supplies you’ll need: Stripper (water or solvent based), 3” flexible drywall blade with a dull edge, very fine steel wool, rubber gloves, clean cotton rags, eye protection, quart of paint thinner, disposable foil pans, stain, and lots of newspaper or other material to protect the floor of your work area. Again, these are just basic supplies.
Advantages of a furniture refinishing service.
I’m all for DIY projects, but unless you have a considerable amount of experience with furniture refinishing, consider the advantages of a furniture refinishing service when refinishing very valuable, or very sentimental pieces. Here are a few reasons why a professional furniture refinisher might be the way to go:
- Experience. Professional furniture refinishers often have decades of experience. As a result, they have a solid understanding of how to refinish the piece and best keep its value. You may actually find that the refinisher recommends a detailed cleaning rather than a refinishing.
- Tools and materials. Over the years, a professional refinishing service collects dozens of specialized tools. Often, they’ve even modified tools to meet specific furniture refinishing needs. Additionally, they have a huge collection of stains and polishes at their disposal. In short, they have the tools and materials to get the job done right.
- Work space and time. Refinishing an antique can be a messy, smelly job. If you choose to do it yourself, you’ll need to set aside a well ventilated area for your workspace, and plan on keeping the piece there for a few weekends. Refinishing furniture isn’t a fast task. Simply put, it’s all around easier and less frustrating to let the professional furniture refinishing service handle the job.
If you decide it’s best to call on the skills and resource of a furniture refinishing company, it’s important to do a little investigation before you turn over your beloved piece. I advise you do the following before choosing a furniture refinishing service:
- Check the Better Business Bureau. Has the BBB had any complaints against the furniture refinishing company you’re considering?
- Ask antique dealers. Ask a few local antique dealers for the name of a quality furniture refinishing company. If you have a company in mind, ask if they’ve seen any of their refinished pieces, or know of anyone who has used their services.
- Shop around. I touched on this earlier. If possible, take your piece (or a number of detailed photos) to at least two refinishing companies to get an idea of cost of refinishing your furniture. It won’t take long for you to get a feel for the level of personal service they are willing to provide. When obtaining multiple estimates, compare apples to apples, and remember, the lowest bid is not always the best bid (although it could be, and that’s great!) In the end, you’ll be making an investment in a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.
- Discuss cost and timeline. Once you’ve settled on a furniture refinishing service, be sure to discuss the estimated cost to refinish your furniture, and talk about a timeline upfront. Often, the refinisher will uncover additional needs of the piece as they begin the refinishing process. This may increase the cost of refinishing your furniture, and lengthen the time it will take to refinish the piece. Be sure the furniture refinishing company is clear on what action to take if they run into surprises (should they call you first to get the go-ahead?)
The cost of refinishing furniture can range from less than $50 if you do the job yourself, to a thousand dollars or more for large, difficult pieces refinished by a professional. In the end, only you can determine if the cost of refinishing the piece is worth it. My most important piece of advice: talk to a reputable furniture refinisher before making any decisions.