Restain Furniture For A New Look

RESTAINRestain Furniture For A New LooK

My Story

I am so having nightmares about wanting to restain my bookshelves. The color isn’t right. I originally liked it. Would have wanted something darker, but the family outvoted me 2 to 1. Light oak bookshelves (with a touch of brown trim), light hardwood floors, and banana split colored walls. If it wasn’t for the books, you wouldn’t know the bookshelves existed.

But the real reason I hate the shelves? As you know (or can read here), I designed these bookshelves specifically to deal with my chair rail. Built them myself, taking an entire summer. I picked out the wood, cut it, stained it, drilled holes, nailed, added feet and trim. It was a lot of work.

Okay, calm down my diy home goddesses! I’m gonna tell you. The REAL reason I hate my bookshelves? My sister’s mouth. I showed her a picture of all the work I did. The sweat. The tears. The cussing. The constant washing of the skin to get splatter stains off. And what were her words when she saw the picture?


This is a before shot of one of the 8 bookshelves I’m restaining.

“What am I looking at?” she asked (Seriously?)

“The bookshelves I made,” I responded.

“Well,” she continued, “they match the floor.”

Come on! Really? That was all she had to say about it. Not they looked good. Didn’t say you did a good job. Or even wow, that must have been a lot of work. Nope, “they match the floor!”

What Did I Do?

I put my foot down. I lived with them for two years and still want them darker. So I am in the process of restaining them, as I write this.

I have books all over my floor. Stacks and stacks of books. I will be reorganizing as well, but that’s a story for another time.

I am going with a dark walnut stain. This is what I want, and this is what I WILL get.

No, I am not taking them apart to restain them. I took the feet off so I can cover the entire bottom. I put painter’s tape on the back to try to keep the mess to a minimum. But that’s it.

How Do You Restain Furniture?

If the wood is painted, you definitely have to sand the paint off. Stripper is actually better. Causes less damage to the wood if it’s soft wood. Then sand for a smooth finish.

If you are going lighter, you need to sand the color off. Else the color will not be quite right. I did that with the dresser, and the color was darker than expected. I did sand it down. But the wood was darker to begin with, so the whitewash color is darker than it should be. So really think about the wood if you are going light on the stain.

But, if you want to stain darker, you don’t need to remove the old stain! You just need a light sanding to rough up the job. Yay! A diy home goddess’ dream.

You might need to put one more coat on than normal to make sure you get the right depth of color. But it’s so much quicker when you don’t have to spew dust all over the place from sanding the boards to death.

What Kind Of Stains Are There?

Check out The Home Depot here for different kinds.

You have:

  • MinWax and Varathene as the two main brands
  • With or without Polyurethane (The shiny hard coat)
  • Regular or Gel
  • Water or oil based
  • Ones to apply with cloth, ones to apply with a brush
  • And don’t get me started on the color choices!

Here’s The Steps To Restain

  1. Remove everything on the piece of furniture that can be easily removed. Especially like knobs and things, because you don’t want stain on your hardware.
  2. Sand the piece a little, just to roughen it up a bit. This will make the stain cling better.
  3. Wipe off the sanding dust you just created.
  4. Cover with blue painter’s tape anything you don’t want stain on.
  5. Apply first coat of stain.
  6. Wait the drying time. Depending on the brand you use, it could be anywhere from 2-6 hours.


    This is the bookshelf after (painter’s tape not removed yet). Isn’t it a dramatic difference?

  7. Rub quickly with steel wool to get rid of the roughness left from potential drips.
  8. Wipe off the steel fibers.
  9. Apply second coat of stain.
  10. Wait again. I know, my goddesses, that’s the hard part. But anything worth having is worth the wait.
  11. Rub quickly with steel wool to get rid of the roughness left from potential drips.
  12. Wipe off the steel fibers.
  13. Apply third coat if needed.
  14. Reattach anything you removed.
  15. You are finished!


  • I have used stain you rub on in the past. This time I’m using stain this time you use a brush to apply. I would recommend reading the can of stain, and get the one that allows using a cloth to rub it on. It looks much more natural than this stuff. But I’m not starting over again. Nope. No way. Ain’t gonna happen. I learned my lesson.
  • Make sure the stain is try before applying another coat. If it feels tacky, it’s not ready. Putting more on will mess up the look already in place.
  • Make sure it dries completely before being used. This is the curing time. Give it a day or two, to completely and utterly dry.
  • Please use gloves! I hate gloves, so I usually don’t. But getting the stain off is a pain in the you-know-what.
  • If you don’t use gloves, the easy way to get the stain off? Well, not really easy, but it works. Use hot water, good soap, and one of those cheap, really rough (feels like sandpaper) washcloths. It takes the stain/paint off a lot easier. It takes a few minutes, but it’s better than washing for days using just soap and water.


I have brand new bookshelves, that give the library a much needed pop of color. Restain, a project any diy home goddess can do.

What do you think about restaining wood? Have you done it? Let me know.

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