How to Strip and Finish Antique Woodwork

If you have an older home with a lot of woodwork, there’s a good chance some of that woodwork is in better condition than others. If this is the case, you’ll probably want to look into stripping and refinishing a lot of that woodwork to make it look as good as new. This will not only increase its aesthetic appeal, but also boost the value of your home.

Here is an overview from a wood store in Franklin County, MA of the steps you should follow if you decide you will take on this task.


The first step is, of course, to strip the old finish from the woodwork. You can use a heat gun to remove old paint or finish—the thicker the paint, the easier this process will actually be. However, some people get nervous about using heat guns due to the potential for fire. Instead, you can use paint or finish stripper products, following all the instructions on the label.

Whichever method you choose, make sure you use a respirator, goggles and rubber gloves, and that you have plenty of ventilation in the room where you’re doing the stripping.

Chemical strippers are messier than using a heat gun, but quite effective and usually safer and easier to use. You should opt for a thick stripper that will not run down vertical surfaces. Zip Strip is a great choice. Use a brass bristle brush for your stripping and a dental pick to reach otherwise hard-to-reach places. You should be as careful as possible to avoid gouging the wood.

Once you’ve finished with the stripper, treat the wood with Trisodium Phosphate (TSP), then rinse the area with cool water and then a vinegar and water solution to neutralize any chemicals that might potentially remain on the surface.


Sand the wood lightly, as if you are dusting the furniture or wood. This will help you sand down grains that were raised by the water, and also help you remove any sharp areas. You don’t want to remove the patina, which is the natural aged look that provides the extra-special character to the older wood.


Once sanding is complete, you can move on to finishing. Choose the color stain you think will give your woodwork the best appearance, and apply the stain carefully. Follow all the instructions for the stain on the label, including wiping off any extra stain on your wood after you’ve allowed the liquid to sink into the grain for 10 or 15 minutes. You might need to apply a couple coats of stain, depending on the appearance you’re going for.

Once the stain is completely dry, you can apply the sealer, which may be a polyurethane or other product. Here again, several layers might be necessary, and you should be sure to lightly sand in between layers as the first coat especially could raise the wood grain.

For more information about refinishing antique wood, contact the experts at a wood store in Franklin County, MA.