Furniture Refinishing Tutorial: Bringing a Thrifted Patio Set Back to Life

Kristen Whitby

Article Posted By: Kristen Whitby

of Ella Claire Inspired

Kristen Whitby definitely has a knack for seeing the possibilities in thrift store finds. Take a look at her blog Ella Claire, and you’ll see she definitely knows how to bring old, damaged or overlooked pieces back to life.

She refinished a thrifted patio set as the centerpiece of the patio makeover she did for our Patio Style Challenge series. Here is her furniture refinishing tutorial, showing how she restored the old wooden patio set. For the full Challenge reveal, visit Kristen’s Backyard Makeover.

Furniture Refinishing Tutorial

This Craigslist patio set was in desperate need of a little TLC when we got it. My husband actually wanted to haul it to the dump after I brought it home, but I knew it could look pretty again with a little elbow grease… ok, a lot of elbow grease.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 1

The finish was flaking off pretty badly and the chairs were pretty rough, but they were very nice and sturdy. That is always a requirement I have when I buy thrifted chairs; they have to be sturdy. This poor patio set looked even more sad after a whole winter of abuse out in the Idaho snow. Oops.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 2

I was up for the challenge though. I don’t give up very easily. So, once the weather warmed a bit, I set to work.

Refinishing the Chairs

First, I worked on the chairs because I had a different plan for the table. I started by sanding down the old finish using these sanding sponges in both 80 and 120 grit for the majority of the surface of the chairs.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 3

Most of the finish flaked off pretty easily from the sun damage, but there were a few tough spots where I had to break out my palm sander.

For the most part, however, I preferred the control of doing it by hand with these. The poor wood was so dry and sun damaged that I had to really work some areas thoroughly to make them smooth.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 4

I made sure to sand off all of the old clear varnish, however I didn’t remove 100 percent of the stain. I knew I was going to match the new stain pretty closely to the original, so it wasn’t necessary to remove every bit of the old one. If I was going to stain them a different color, I would have needed to remove all of the old stain.

Once I finished sanding all of the chairs, I went through and wiped them down with tack cloth.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 5

The tacky surface removed all of the dust very quickly and efficiently.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 6

I decided to go with the Jacobean colored stain from Minwax because it was a really pretty brown, and very close to the original color of my chairs.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 7

Once I stirred my stain really well, I used some of my scrap rags to apply the stain.

I just dipped and rubbed it on.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 8

Then I went back and rubbed the stain off with the other end of my cloth, leaving a really pretty, evenly stained surface.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 9

Below, you can see the difference between before (top) and after (bottom).

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 10

And when I was done, it looked so nice and evenly finished… almost like new!

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 11

Restoring the Table

Next, I refinished my table.

The base wasn’t too bad, so I lightly sanded and stained the legs just like I did with the chairs. The top of the table, however, was so rough and warping, and my dog had chewed on the corners.

I wanted to add a new, more substantial top, so I headed to The Home Depot and picked up 8 2×6 boards. I had them cut the boards down while I was there to save me some time. I made sure to have the boards cut a little longer than the old top so it would have a little bit of an overhang.

To install my boards, I lined them up as evenly as possible and just screwed them in to the existing top from the underside.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 12

The next step was to sand down the whole top to make it nice and smooth. I didn’t want anyone to get splinters from my new tabletop!

I sanded the edges to be rounded as well. It isn’t perfect by any means, but I definitely got the rustic charm I was looking for!

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 13

Before staining my tabletop, I used a pre-stain to prepare the wood.

I love how it makes the stain go on so evenly. I have a comparison of using a pre-stain and staining without it on my blog.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 14

After applying the pre-stain I mixed up a concoction of stains to create the perfect warm gray for my table. The recipe for the warm gray stain is on my blog.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 15

Here is a close up of the color. I am in love. I think it plays off of the dark base and chair color beautifully.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 16

Next, I sealed the entire set with a Spar Urethane. This is a very important step to protect all of my hard work from the elements, and prolong the life of my patio furniture.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 17

Here is a little peek at the finished set.

Can you believe the difference!?

I couldn’t find cushions to fit my chairs so I actually made these using the utility foam from The Home Depot that I cut down to size. I sewed the covers from some canvas that I had on hand, but drop cloths would also work well. I will be sharing a tutorial on my blog soon on how to make fabric (and these cushions) weather resistant, instead of having to purchase expensive outdoor fabric.

Kristen Whitby Refinished Patio Set 18

To see more pictures of this refinished patio furniture in my post about my backyard makeover here on the Home Depot Blog.

Take a look at more DIY projects here on The Home Depot blog. And follow our All About Paint board on Pinterest for more projects and refinishing ideas. Shop patio furniture at The Home Depot.

Kristen did this project for The Home Depot’s Patio Style Challenge. The ideas and opinions she expressed are her own.