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How to Refinish Chairs Without Stripping

These chairs have been hanging out for the last 35 years either in a barn or garage or most recently, in my Grandmothers basement.  All that temperature change and humidity swing can wreak havoc on a wood finish. I want to show you how to refinish chairs without the use of harmful chemicals to restore that beautiful wood to its original finish.

I am a huge fan of furniture that has been passed down in the family.  It’s not the most expensive piece of furniture but to know that these two chairs were in my Great-Grandma Rucker’s home is really special to me.  She passed when I was in the 8th grade, I remember her really well.

A side by side before and after of my antique chairs.

What You Need:

I really like the Special Walnut stain color from Minwax but I have also used Dark Walnut and I love it too. I recommend using something that is similar to the original finish of your chairs.

How to Refinish Chairs

I gave these chairs a really good sanding starting with 80 grit sandpaper, then moved to 120, and finally finished with 220 grit to create a really smooth finish. 

I did use my orbital sander but the majority of these chairs were sanded with good old elbow grease! 

The back of a wooden chair showing the wear and tear.
The back of the chair showing the wear and tear and how I have started sanding the chair.
The chair once it's been sanded.
Both chairs after they have been sanded down to bare wood.

This chair on the left was missing a piece.  It’s missing a hip rest…did you know that’s what it was called because I didn’t! 

I took the existing piece to my local Woodcraft store and they told me a website that has antique furniture parts.  I ordered a new pair for about $20!

Sand it down to bare wood as far as you can, then apply a new stain.  Make sure you go with the wood grain and let it sit for a couple of minutes for a darker color.  Then wipe off the excess. 

I used Special Walnut from Minwax.  We wipe it off because any stain that doesn’t soak in just gets sticky…I know from experience!  Then I applied three coats of polyurethane.

A close up of the hip rest, the piece I was missing.
The chair missing both hip rests and being stained.
Both chairs after stain sitting on my driveway next to the landscaping.
The finished chair in my dining room next to the windows and a plant on the floor.
The finished Chairs in my dining room.
The finished chairs in my dining room next to a plant near the windows.

I just love that I have this piece of family history! I think of that every time I look at these chairs and I love getting the opportunity to use them. It all comes back to family!

Related Wood Furniture Projects:

How to refinish chairs without stripper pin for Pinterest.
How to Refinish Chairs Without Stripping

How to Refinish Chairs Without Stripping

Yield: Beautiful Wood Chairs
Active Time: 5 hours
Additional Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 5 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $50

Learn how to refinish wood chairs without the use of harsh chemicals.



  1. Sand the chairs
  2. Clean all the sawdust off the chairs
  3. Apply stain of your choice
  4. Allow 24 hours to dry
  5. Apply polyurethane
  6. Allow 24 hours to dry
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 two more times

As a licensed Real Estate Agent and an avid home decorator, I strive to give my clients the very best I can when it comes to staging, selling, and decorating their homes. I have lots of experience with paint color choices and love to DIY my home so I can have everything just the way I want it. I share my ideas and projects with the world in the hopes that I can help others have their homes just the way they want as well.

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