The Best Way to Refinish Chair Legs


Sometimes the smallest change can make the biggest difference. Just as shiny, new shoes can dress up an entire outfit, sometimes all a favorite chair needs is a pair of snazzy new legs. It's not hard to refinish chair legs, once you decide whether you want to redo chair legs or replace them. Either way, refinishing chair legs should be done while they are still attached to the chair; otherwise you risk damaging the new finish when you reattach them.

Things You'll Need

  • Flat surface, preferably table-height
  • Drop cloth
  • Painter's tape
  • Work gloves
  • Goggles
  • Painter's mask
  • Paste stripper
  • Clean, empty coffee can
  • Natural-bristle brush
  • Putty knife
  • Nylon bristle brush or fine-grade steel wool
  • Clean, lint-free shop cloths
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Stain or paint
  • Optional:
  • Old toothbrush
  • Spray-on sealer
  • Put a drop cloth over your work surface. If you have one that is table height---30 inches or so---you will save a lot of wear and tear on your back. Place the chair on the table, where you can easily reach the legs.

  • Use painter's tape to protect any areas of the chair that you do not want damaged by the wood stripper or stained by the paint or stain you will be using.

  • Put on your protective gear. Most wood strippers are caustic as well as giving off fumes.

  • Pour a little paste stripper into a clean coffee can. Dip the brush into the paste stripper and apply a thin coat to the chair legs. Do not brush it in too much---just apply it and move on to the next section.

  • Let the wood stripper do its work according to the manufacturer's instructions. Wait the full amount of time; don't rush it.

  • Use a putty knife to scrape away the wood stripper and old finish once it is ready. The surface of the chair legs should look wrinkled and loose when the past stripper has done its work. If this hasn't happened within 30 minutes, apply another thin layer of wood stripper, and wait until you see the wrinkles form.

  • Clean away any wood stripper in the small crevices or ornamental carvings on your chair legs with a nylon bristle brush or fine-grade steel wool.

  • Wipe away any remaining wood stripper with clean, lint-free shop cloths.

  • Go over the chair legs with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any last traces of wood stripper and smooth out any splinters or dings in the wood.

  • Apply a coat of stain or paint to the stripped chair legs, and let it dry according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the first coat of paint, and then apply a second one, if needed.

  • Use a spray sealer to protect your chair legs' new finish. Read the label to make sure that it is compatible with whatever stain or paint you used to refinish your chair legs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use an old toothbrush to work wood stripper into intricately turned or patterned legs.
  • Replace chair legs that are simply too far gone to refinish with unfinished legs that you can customize with paint or stain.
  • Never use wood strippers or stain in an unventilated area.

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  • Photo Credit wooden chair image by Christopher Nolan from
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