Refinish or Restore? That is the question.


A Victorian secretary from the East Lake period circa 1870 made of walnut wood with burl walnut veneer inserts restoration.

If you've ever watched an episode of Antiques Roadshow, you've witnessed that moment when the antique expert announces the value of a piece of furniture. How much is it worth?

Was it the victim of refinishing? Should it

have been repaired?

Whether we inherit a piece or find one at a flea market, we are often faced with

that big decision: to refinish or restore.

First, we need to know the difference.

Refinishing involves removing the existing finish--which may involve use of a chemical stripper, sanding, then staining, painting, and finishing.

Restoration, on the other hand, refers to light cleaning to remove grime and some cosmetic repairs. The structural integrity of the piece is retained.

Then, you need to consider:

1. Is it a unique example of craftsmanship?

2. Was it made by a famous craftsman or designer? Furniture doesn't have to be hundreds of years old to be valuable. Remember that mid-Century furniture made by certain companies is highly collectible and refinishing could destroy value. Look for names or trademarks to help you identify the maker. And remember that the age of a piece doesn't necessarily add value.

3. Does the piece need extensive repairs in order for it to be usable or would light repairs and cleaning be enough?

4. Is it the original finish or has this piece been painted over at some point? Is the painted finish unique?

5. Is the piece made of a rare or valuable wood? Is it MDF or veneer?

6. If refinishing is in order, what type of finish?

Overwhelmed? That's where our team at C & S Refinishing and Upholstery can help. We will assist you in identifying which approach you should take based on the piece and how you want to use it. Once you've determined refinishing or restoration, we will give your treasured piece new life.


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