How To Refinish That Garage Sale Furniture Find

old furniture

Furnishing a new home can be a costly undertaking if you only shop at furniture stores, whether they’re the quaint specialty shop or the the big-box furniture outlet. If you choose to go this route, and you don’t have your own trust fund, it may take you several months, maybe even a year before you can afford to purchase everything you need.


Another, more practical alternative is to shop garage sales to find pieces that you can incorporate into your decor. It will take some scouting, but you can find some incredible pieces that just need a little TLC to make them work. You can also find art and decorative accessories that are gently used at great prices.

Before you head out to a sale, you should clarify two points in your own mind, otherwise you’ll end up buying items that will be part of your next garage sale. The first point to consider is what are you looking to find? You should have already put together a design plan to create the look you want for your home. What is the predominant style of furniture you intend to use? If you know what you want, when you see it, you can snatch it up before someone else does.

The other consideration is how much work are you willing to do to restore a piece? Don’t buy broken pieces that will require a huge investment of time if you don’t have the time to spend on it. Also, if you’re a beginner furniture restorer, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.

India Halcrombe is the Administrator at 360 Public Relations, but her true love is interior design. She agreed to be interviewed to talk about how she’s used second-hand furniture as part of the deign scheme for her apartment.

“I’m a lover of mid-century design, so when I found a set of gorgeous 1950’s dressers on Craigslist, I couldn’t pass them up. Then I got home and realized that between work, commuting, heating up something frozen for dinner, cleaning, and laundry, I didn’t have a lot of time left in my schedule for restoring the dressers.

“Unless you’re Super Woman, I’m guessing this describes your life as well.  So, instead of trying to refinish a whole piece of furniture in one weekend, try these four easy steps for turning your second-hand finds into modern-day masterpieces:

  • Scrub-a-dub — As soon as you bring your thrifty goods home, give them a good wipe down. When I first looked at my dressers, all I could see were the scratches that seemed to be everywhere. It turned out, all the marks I thought were scratches were really dirt.
  • Hide with Cover — Your new thrifty find is likely to have dings here and there. Leave them! Completely refinishing a piece of furniture is not easy and is very messy. I highly recommend ditching the palm sander and using a scratch cover to hide any marks you just can’t live with. Scratch covers come in shades made for light or dark wood and are easily applied with a clean cloth. While the cover won’t eliminate the scratch, it makes it less noticeable so it blends in with the wood around it. I use Old English Scratch Cover. It’s affordable, easy to use, and gets the job done.
  • Don’t Forget the Mayo — After cleaning my dressers I noticed crayon marks on two of the bottom drawers from the previous owners’ children. My friend told me the best way to get rid of crayon on wood is to cover the mark in mayonnaise. I had my doubts, but since she’d found the advice on the Internet, we knew it must be true! And guess what, it works! Just grab a jar of mayo, spread it on the crayon mark, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then use a clean cloth to wipe it away. This is one instance where it’s okay to add a little extra mayo!
  • Buff it Up — The last part is the easiest. Once you’ve covered the scratches to your satisfaction, it’s time to buff the piece to a shine. You could go old fashioned and get out the beeswax or you could embrace our modern conveniences and grab your favorite wood polishing wipe. While Pledge wipes are more commonly known, I’m a big fan of Method’s Wood for Good wipes. Not only are they great at cleaning and protecting your wood, but they’re also environmentally friendly and have a yummy almond scent.”

After you’ve resurrected the beauty of the piece, you may want to add your own personal touch. The easiest way to do this is to change the drawer pulls. You can find drawer pulls at your local hardware store, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Restoring garage sale treasures doesn’t have to be a chore. If you use India’s “Busy Girl’s Guide”, you can have the piece ready in no time. That will leave you lots of time to browse through hardware collections to find the right accent to add a little bit of luxury to your thrifty investment.

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