5 tips on how to make your old furniture look good again

If varnish flakes off the wood, the whole piece of furniture should be bleached or sanded down and re-varnished. Photo: Christin Klose/dpa

Sometimes you just have to accept that your favourite piece of furniture has seen better days. But that doesn’t mean you need to replace it. A few simple tricks may be all it takes to give it a second life.

We asked some experts to help us with some of the most common problems with old furniture.

Scratches and cracks in wood

“Superficial scratches in the varnish can be covered by furniture polish or with retouching pens,” explains Joachim Henschel, a master carpenter from Berlin, Germany. “Deeper damage can be covered with wax.”

There are two types of wax to choose from which are suitable for different sorts of repairs. Soft wax is for narrow scratches and drill-holes, while hard wax is more resilient and therefore also useful for larger areas of damage.

Flaking paint

“If old varnish flakes off on the wood, the whole piece of furniture should be professionally bleached, burnt or sanded down,” says Henschel.

“When you get to the raw wood, the wood should first be sanded and then moistened with a sponge and lukewarm water.” After this the wood’s pores will reappear and will be able to re-absorb the colour.

Ugly surfaces

Sometimes it is simply the colour that makes the furniture look out of date. “Be brave – just try out what you like, ” suggests DIY trainer Mareike Hermann. “An old cabinet in ‘rustic oak’ suddenly looks completely different with a pink or turquoise coat of paint.”

Other materials can also be used to embellish the surfaces.

“Glass mosaic tiles can be glued to an old-fashioned wooden tabletop, ” says Herman. “Or try sticking wallpaper to smooth, plastic-coated shelves and cupboards with a spray adhesive.”

Henschel also has a few tips about decoration.

“Veneer-coated chipboard furniture can be finely sanded and given a new colour with a professional top coat.”

But he warns that this might be harder than it sounds, because surfaces can blister or swell. Henschel advises trying it out first on a place that is not directly visible.

An alternative is self-adhesive coatings, “but this also requires great skill and can be quite expensive for larger fronts”.

Wobbly furniture

Wooden chairs often become crooked and unstable over time. The glue on the connecting pieces dissolves and the backrest and chair legs begin to wobble in the frame.

“It’s best to completely disassemble the piece of furniture so that the individual parts can be joined together again, ” advises Hermann. Chair parts that are subject to heavy loads should be glued together.

Loose hinges

“If a door hinge breaks out of the wood, the damaged drill hole can be repaired with two-component adhesive, ” Henschel says. This paste is either pressed into the opening with the hinge or the compound is filled in first and allowed to harden before new screw holes are drilled. – dpa

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