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The Difference Between Furniture Restoration And Furniture Refinishing

We truly believe in the benefits of furniture restoration. It’s in the name really! But sometimes, the lines between furniture restoration, furniture refinishing and furniture repair are blurred. Some might ask, aren’t they all the same thing? Each of these techniques is actually different in how it can improve your furniture.

Furniture repairing is obviously more structural work to make your furniture usable again. However, both restoration and refinishing are art forms in their own right. Thankfully, we’re experts in all of the above at Kilmister Furniture Restoration

In this blog, we’ll explore the key differences between each technique so that you can understand what is needed to bring your favourite antique piece of furniture back to life.

Table of Contents

What is furniture restoration?

To preface, furniture often needs a combination of restoration, repairing or refinishing. However, the furniture restoration process specifically usually focuses on more surface-level and cosmetic improvements. 

In a general sense, the goal of restoration is to make furniture look the best it possibly can. Whether a boardroom table or other wooden furniture restoration, each piece will require something different. However, furniture restoration could include any of the following: 

  • Cosmetic repairs
  • Removing and filling in scratches
  • Applying a new oil finish


Generally speaking, furniture restoration doesn’t involve changing the structure of furniture. It’s usually a faster process. And, restoring antique furniture can add so much value by making it look back to its former glory, without losing any of the character you’ve come to love. There are some incredible stories of antique furniture fetching large prices if they look as originally intended.

Wooden cabinet showing a large scratch on the surface.
Wooden cabinet that has had a large scratch repaired.

What is furniture refinishing?

So, what is furniture refinishing? Unlike furniture restoration, furniture refinishing is a much more involved process. However, the results will sometimes take your breath away. We often hear from our customers saying they are just blown away by how different the end product is after they’d dropped the furniture at our workshop. In fact, you can see some fantastic before and after pictures on our Facebook page.

Refinishing often involves recreating the finish of wooden furniture from scratch. This process may involve using a commercial sander and chemical stripper to trip back furniture to its bones. Then, the new finish is built up from scratch using any number of techniques, whether that be French polishing, lacquer, paint or another type of stain.

Wooden coffee table that has smoke damage from a fire.
Wooden coffee table that has been restored by Kilmister Furniture Restoration after being damaged in a fire.

How to know whether your furniture needs to be restored or refinished

As mentioned, we’ll often recommend that furniture needs a combination of furniture repair, restoration and refinishing. This of course depends on the amount of damage, desired end result and the type of furniture or wood. At Kilmister Furniture Restoration, we’re always happy to offer our advice as to what is required. Your furniture could have a wide range of damage, including:

  • Small scratches: Restoration
  • Water damage: Refinishing
  • Structural damage: Repairing
  • Fading: Refinishing
  • Sun damage: Refinishing
  • Regular maintenance: Restoration

Why it’s important your furniture looks great

No matter what is required to bring your beloved modern furniture or antique furniture back to life, there are so many benefits to get the work done. Considering the cost of booking the work vs the many benefits, we think it’s a no-brainer to book in with us instead of buying new.

Increased value

If you’ve ever seen programs like Antique Road Show, you’ll know how much money some people can get for a well looked after and stunning piece of antique furniture. Especially if you have a special antique piece or larger furniture like a cabinet, desk or boardroom table, the cost of restoration and refinishing is often a lot cheaper than buying new. As well as that, much of the furniture you can buy new nowadays is nowhere near the quality of what was made back in the day.

Top tip: It’s well worth stopping into second-hand stores while on your travels. You just never know what you’ll find. If you find a hidden gem that just needs a bit of work, we can help to fix it up.

Fits your decor

Interior design trends may come and go, but one thing that remains the same is Kiwi’s love for nice furniture. Whether it’s a nice credenza, coffee table or even dining table, your furniture plays a big part in the overall look of a room. If your furniture has chips or scratches, it can be well worth getting it repaired.

If you’re planning to repaint your living room or you’re building a new house and want to keep your favourite furniture, never fear. At Kilmister Furniture Restoration, we can look into different shades of stain or polish to fit the overall new style of the room.

Stunning example of a small wooden coffee table and chairs.


Generally, if your furniture looks great, has no structural damage and is polished, it will last a lot longer. If you prioritise wood furniture restoration and refinishing, you can kind of have your cake and eat it too. Not only does it look fantastic and impresses your guests, but it will be far more durable. This is especially important if you have young kids or pets.

At Kilmister Furniture Restoration, we can use a strong 2-pot finish that will stand up to scratches and other marks. This is what we usually use when restoring and refinishing a boardroom table and chairs. That way, it will withstand watches, laptops and people writing on top of the wood.

Top tip: For more ways to look after your boardroom table, read our guide on how to care for your boardroom table and chairs.   

Restoring and refinishing process at Kilmister Furniture Restoration

We make it easy for you when taking care of your French polishing, antique furniture restoration and refinishing. We’re always upfront from the moment you contact us. As well as that, all of our work is backed by our workmanship guarantee. If you’re not happy with the end result, we’ll make amends free of charge.

1. Quote

Lady using a laptop on her lap.

First up, you’re more than welcome to contact us to ask any questions and get a quote. All of our quotes are free of charge and no obligation. If we don’t think that your piece of furniture is worth repairing or restoring as it’s too damaged, we’ll let you know. There are three ways that you can get in contact for a quote:

  1. Free phone us by calling 0508 FURNITURE
  2. Fill out the form on our website
  3. Visit our Facebook page and send us a message


It can be a good idea to attach and send photos so that we can give you a quote virtually. 

2. Pick up or drop off

Tony Kilmister standing in front of the Kilmister Furniture Restoration van.

Our workshop is based in Masterton in the Wairarapa region. However, we also cover the Manawatu, Kapiti and greater Wellington areas with weekly pick-up and delivery. Our delivery van is well equipped and the perfect size for picking up any type of furniture. We also use blankets, pillows, tie downs and other techniques to prevent any damage.

We can come to your address to pick up and deliver furniture, whether a cabinet repair from your home or boardroom table and chairs from the office. The cost of pickup and delivery may vary depending on the location.

3. Work is completed

Tony Kilmister from Kilmister Furniture Restoration using a large belt sander to sand back wooden furniture.

How long it will take for your furniture to be restored, repaired or refinished will depend on the size of the job and how complex it is. However, at the time of picking up, we’ll give you a rough idea of how long it’ll take, and you’ll be without your favourite furniture. If we have any notable updates during this time, we’ll send you a text or call you.

4. Pick up or drop off

Once the work is completed, we can then drop your furniture to where we picked it up from. Depending on the size and weight of the furniture, we may require a second pair of hands to help us move it. However, if you plan to be out when we arrive for the drop-off, we can organise a helper to move heavier pieces. After that, your furniture is yours to enjoy. If you’d like to see what some of our customers have to say about our service, you can read our Google reviews online.

Top tip: If you’re unsure whether your furniture is worth any investment, read our guide on how to know whether to replace or repair furniture

Want to get a quote with Kilmister Furniture Restoration?

Yes, it’s helpful to know the difference between furniture restoration, refinishing and repairing. In saying that, it’s often the case that furniture requires a combination of the above to make it look as good as the day it was made.

As mentioned, the first step is to reach out to us for a free quote. Whether an antique piece that needs to be restored or a modern piece that you want to be repainted, we’re happy to give you an idea of price. For more furniture advice, read our other handy guides, including one that answers, what is French polishing?