Your bedroom is the most personal room in your house, and your décor should reflect that. If you’ve ever found yourself at a loss trying to find just the right nightstand to complement your unique style, why not try your hand at refinishing one?
Even if you’ve had some less-than-desirable results with prior refinishing projects, here are a few tips for each stage of the process to help you create a nightstand you can be proud of.
Properly preparing your project may not be much fun, but it’s the key to achieving the finished look you want. Once you’ve removed all hardware and taken out the drawers you are ready to begin.
- It’s important to thoroughly clean your piece before you begin the sanding and stripping process. Did you know that you can clean most pieces with a dishwashing liquid? Dishwashing liquid is made to cut through grease and grime and is a great alternative to the more expensive store-bought cleaners.
- When sanding the top, sides or other large, flat areas, use a power sander. It’s important to remove all traces of the previous finish, especially if you plan to stain your nightstand. Although hand sanding isn’t the most expedient choice for large areas, keep some sandpaper on hand for those smaller places your sander can’t reach. Begin with 100-grit sandpaper and always sand in the direction of the grain.
- If your nightstand has any carvings, grooves or crevices, you’ll need to use a chemical stripper. A gel works best for vertical surfaces because it will adhere better than a thinner liquid. Use steel wool to remove stubborn areas of the old finish, and wipe your piece down with mineral spirits if the stripper leaves a gooey residue. Always be sure to wear proper protection and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these chemicals.
- In order to get the new finish you want, it’s imperative to remove all of the previous finish. Stains and some paints won’t take over old varnishes and veneers, detracting from your completed project. Once your nightstand is stripped to raw wood, go over it with 220-grit sandpaper for a uniformly smooth surface, then wipe down with a tack cloth to remove the dust.
Depending on the look you want, you’re now ready to either stain or paint your nightstand. While painting is probably the easier option, stain can give it a more refined appearance. We’ve included tips for both processes so you can achieve the perfect finish, whichever way you decide to go.
- There are many different types of paint and finishes to choose from. An oil-based paint gives a hard, durable finish, better leveling and a beautiful gloss, but it’s harder to clean up and messy to use. Latex paint, on the other hand, dries faster, resists cracking and yellowing, is available in different gloss options and is a breeze to clean up.
- Paint also supplies its own finish – no need to add lacquers or polyurethanes. For a better appearance apply two coats, and if you want to save steps look for paint that contains a primer.
- Stains also offer a variety of options. You can choose from oil-based, water-based, gel and even a one-step stain/finish option. Your choice will depend on how much grain you want to show and how easy you want the cleanup to be.
- Apply your stain, then wipe off the excess with a rag. If you leave too much stain on the piece, it may remain tacky or take longer to dry. If you want a darker color you can always apply more than one coat. When wiping the excess, always be sure to follow the grain.
- Whether you choose to paint or stain, you’ll need to let the coats dry. To avoid having to wash your brush every time you step away, wrap it in aluminum foil or place it in a zip-lock bag to keep it from drying out.
Top Coating Tips
If you paint your furniture you won’t need a top coat because paint works as its own sealer. If you stained the nightstand, you’ll need to apply a protective coating over the wood. As with paint, these sealers come in a variety of gloss options to give you exactly the look you want. One of the easiest and most forgiving sealers is polyurethane, which provides tough protection and a beautiful finish.
- If you like the durability and beauty of an oil-based polyurethane but the convenience of water cleanup, try Minwax Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane. It has a less odor than the oil based versions, dries quickly and best of all, you don’t need harsh chemicals to clean up.
- Apply three to four very thin finish coats using even brush strokes that follow the direction of the grain. Let each coat dry for about two hours. Sand lightly with 220-grit paper between each coat, then wipe with a tack cloth to remove the dust before you apply the next one.
Successfully refinishing furniture takes a little extra care, and doing it right can be time-consuming. However, that bit of extra time and attention will give you the quality finish you want and a unique, timeless piece you will always be proud to show off.
Megan Wild is a home improvement writer that focuses on sharing simple and “green” ways to improve your home. When she’s not reading or hiking, you can find her writing about her latest tips and tricks on her blog, Your Wild Home.