How to Refinish a Bookcase


Bookcases may not get as much wear and tear as kitchen cabinets but eventually, like kitchen cabinets, they will need refinishing to restore them to their former glory. Refinishing a bookcase is straightforward but can be a little finicky. If possible, take the bookcase into a work area or garage; otherwise, use drop cloths on surrounding furnishing to protect them while you work.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver (optional)
  • De-glosser
  • Protective mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Scourer
  • Wood putty/putty knife
  • Sandpaper/sander
  • Tack cloth
  • Primer
  • Paintbrush/roller
  • Paint
  • Remove the bookcase shelves if possible. If there is any hardware attaching the shelves, remove it with a screwdriver.

  • Clean the bookcase well with de-glosser and a scourer while wearing rubber gloves.

  • Inspect the bookcase for any dents, scratches or other flaws that can be corrected with wood putty. Scrape wood putty into the scratches or dents with a putty knife and leave it to dry.

  • Sand the bookcase frame and shelves with sandpaper or a sander. Sand with the grain of the wood.

  • Wipe over the bookcase with a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust.

  • Apply a coat of primer to the bookcase, using long, even strokes of the brush or roller. Paint with the grain of the wood. If using a roller, don't apply too much pressure as it may cause the primer to bubble.

  • Leave the primer to dry for the amount of time stipulated on the primer instructions.

  • Lightly sand the primer back and apply a coat of paint in the same way you did the primer. Leave the paint to dry and lightly sand and apply one last coat of paint to complete refinishing the bookcase. Reattach hardware and shelves once fully dry.

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