The second thing that comes to mind is all the Auctions and yard sales where you can pick up some pretty good deals. One thing I’m very careful of is painted furniture because of the cost of refinishing. Refinishing can be expensive if you want to bring the piece back to bare wood. Paint hides many imperfections and can be disappointing to many.
There are things you should check before making the purchase such as; how thick is the paint, are there several coats? Check for cracks especially on the seats. Do all the legs match? Are you dealing with oil base or latex paint? This may not seem like a big deal, but it will be if you decide to take the new purchase to a professional refinisher like myself. When I see someone come in with a piece to inquire about the cost of refinishing, I immediately think of my costs to do the job. The cost of the stripper and the sand paper glue, stain, the dismantling of the chair and of course, all the hidden repairs; most of the time it just isn’t feasible to do the work unless the chair itself has some significant value. When I give the price, the customer will usually tell me they only paid five dollars for it at the local yard sale or auction. My next approach is to suggest the customer do it themselves and have no problem educating them on exactly how to do that.
I will take a moment to give some idea of a rough cost to do it yourself. The best over the counter stripper is Circa 1850 at about a cost of fifteen dollars a small can, but trust me one can will not do it so plan to spend thirty dollars or more. You will need a bottle of paint thinner for cleaning purposes. I’m not sure of that cost but would guess around ten dollars. You will also need two roles of sand paper, 150 and 100 grit at a cost of about fifteen dollars and don’t forget the wood glue, so let’s add another ten dollars. That great deal at the yard sale isn’t so much of a good deal anymore and you have yet to put the hours it’s going to take to do the work. However, if you enjoy doing the work and you love the piece of furniture and you have the ability, the cost may not be such a big deal.
There is another cheaper way though that will cut out most of the work and some of the cost if you like painted furniture. If you’re buying an older piece then I can almost guarantee it will be coated in an oil base paint. Oil base paint in the very near future will be a thing of the past, so use a latex one hundred percent acrylic paint. Rule number one is never put latex over oil, it will not last! The paint store will tell you it will but trust me, your wasting your time! You can buy a primer that is referred to as conversion paint. ICI sells a product called Gripper; Para sells a primer called Super stick. Most paint companies sell conversion primers. My suggestion would be to use B.I.N because you can buy it from any hardware store and it works. Sand the furniture just to scratch it up so the primer will adhere. It’s always best to put on two coats. Let the primer dry completely by following the instructions on the can and then apply your latex paint. Your paint store usually will sell a paint that is formulated for furniture use. Before you pay full pop for the paint ask if they have any miss tints available. Miss tints are paints that were mixed the wrong colour and go in a pile with the rest of the miss tints. You may luck in and find a colour you like at about 25% of the cost.
The good thing about buying painted furniture is sometimes you can find a real gem just because what’s hidden under the paint. It could be that under the paint is a very expensive wood that would look great once it is stripped. If you’re looking at a chair for example, look under the seat, which most likely is bare wood and you may be able to determine the type of wood. It could be Oak, Ash, Walnut etc. On cabinets open the doors and look inside because there is bare wood somewhere. I’m never afraid to buy painted furniture depending on the wood.
So next time you’re out on the hunt consider what you have just learned in this article and shop wisely. Thinking that you just got a cheap chair or cabinet may be very disappointing if you take it to a professional refinisher. Don’t be surprised if the refinisher is not too excited to do the work for the simple reason of the cost to the refinisher and of course, most importantly the cost to the customer. If you’re willing to take on the task yourself then it may not be such an issue and the work can be very rewarding. There’s nothing like making something old look new again.