Vital Tips For Vintage Furniture Restoration

Keen to make all that is old new again? Here are expert tips to restoring vintage furniture!

I spoke to chippie, builder and TV personality, Dean Ipaviz, to get the lowdown on how to seamlessly restore old furniture. 

Depending on the material you're working with, follow these tips to avoid catastrophes and make vintage furniture look new again.

Timber

When working with timber, the first thing to do is ensure it's free from dry or wet rot. Flaking, dampness or discoloration on the surface can be evidence of such damage or mould. 

“[Rot] will void any structural integrity your item may have and make re-purposing difficult,” Dean explains.

Step two is to ensure all joints have their structural integrity and are free of second-hand fillers, liquid nails or silicones. “These are a sure sign an unqualified person has attempted to rectify a fault and more likely than not caused more problems!” Dean notes.

Avoid timber veneer, as the chances of re-purposing are very slim as the structure underneath is likely to be cheap chipboard. 

However, usually, a push test would work to check any structural tampering, Dean says.

“If you push it, and the item does not twist, warp, creak, or flex then the substructure should be fine.”

Steel

Check if the steel has been powder coated or anodised, suggests Dean. If so, Dean urges you to ask: "is it still serving its purpose as a protective barrier to the mild steel below?”

If rust is present or visible, check if it is surface rust or deeper damage - but use caution and take care not to cut yourself! If it is damaged, Dean warns against replacing and repairing as it can add significant time and money as it’s a specialist item.

Plastic

Be wary of discoloured, brittle plastic urges Dean. If you come across either of these, Dean says, “you can bet your bottom dollar it's been exposed to the elements its whole life."

Fabric

Your fabric selection should reflect the use of the item, where it will be placed – in or out of sunlight – how often it will be used. "For instance, leathers and denims are hard wearing and have a very different texture to silk or something synthetic," Dean points out. "Typically, but not in all cases, I’d suggest you opt for something natural over synthetic as it will be easier to clean and hardier if your selection and purpose are aligned correctly."

Trends

"I can't help but feel that 2016 is the year of 'Organic Glamour',” comments Dean. “There is a real trend of people turning back to natural fibres and organic materials. Leathers, wools and hand-woven textiles with earthy tones will start shining through."

He continues: "Fortunately - but not soon enough - we are seeing the end of the 'disposable era' and people are choosing to invest in quality fabrics and materials with real durability as opposed to the cheap and nasties of old.”

D.I.Y - Do or Don't

Assuming you have a solid knowledge of paints, primers, sealers, fabrics, and glues, as well as being a deft hand at sharp tools and access to a good cordless tool kit, Dean says DIY vintage furniture restoration is absolutely doable.

“Re-purposing is always a great activity to do with family,” he postures. “Once completed you can all share in the items new life and it's always satisfying reflecting on the time spent together while working on it."

However, Dean quickly points out that the above tools and products – even paints – can be very dangerous! “So, if you don't feel comfortable attempting something, you're probably out of your depth and it would be a good time to call in the pros."

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