Unfinished furniture is the term used for pieces of wood furniture that can be purchased without a finish already applied to them. There are several reasons to choose unfinished furniture for your home, ranging from cost on down to design possibilities. Whatever your reason, there's a few things to keep in mind as you shop around.
Why Unfinished Furniture?
Why choose unfinished furniture for your home? For starters, since unfinished furniture cuts out an expensive step in the building and finishing process, it is generally sold cheaper than finished pieces. Furthermore, whether you paint, shellac, distress, stain, varnish, oil, wax, or lacquer, you get to determine what your furniture is going to look like, not some stranger down at the workshop. Finally, some homeowners prefer to bring new furniture into their home one piece at a time. Buying unfinished wood furniture allows them the luxury of matching the finish of each new piece of furniture to the pieces they already have.
Solid Wood vs. All Wood Furniture
First and foremost, decide what quality of furniture you're looking for and make sure that's what you're getting. "All wood" furniture doesn't mean solid wood, and many homeowners end up buying substandard unfinished wood furniture because they don't understand the difference. The truth is, almost all furniture is made entirely out of wood. It's just that in many instances that real wood has been shaved into particles and compressed together with a binding resin at high pressure. Plywood and particleboard furniture covered with wood veneers won't hit your pocket book as hard, but they won't last as long, either. Generally with unfinished wood furniture, solid wood is the way to go.
Prepping Your Furniture for Finishing
This should be easy. In most cases, your furniture is ready to go. Maybe run a rag over it when it you get home to remove any dust or dirt from the surface, but the only requirements are that the surface is clean, dry, and bare. The one exception is if you plan to paint. With unfinished furniture you need to apply a coat of primer before the final coat in order to ensure the finish coat of paint takes.
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Maybe the toughest part of purchasing unfinished wood furniture is deciding how to finish it. There are six common finishing materials to choose from: varnish, penetrating resins, lacquer, oil, wax, and shellac. Each has their pluses and minuses, though varnishes and penetrating resins are generally regarded more highly than the other options. Even worse than choosing the type of finish is choosing the right color. Try to match your new piece of unpainted wood furniture to other pieces in your home or to your home design itself. Remember, you've got the luxury of custom finishing this thing to fit your home perfectly. Take advantage of that and do your best.
Talk to a Professional
While one of the benefits of unfinished furniture is doing it yourself, sometimes you just don't have the time, or inclination, to do it yourself. In these cases, talk to a professional experienced in finishing furniture about making sure you get the most beautiful end result with your new purchase.