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What is the difference

between Refinishing and Restoring?

We feel it is important to help the average person understand the difference between 'refinishing' and 'restoring'; terms that some use interchangeably when seeking out solutions related to finish issues. Let's take a brief look at the contrast between the two:


This is simply the process of removing an old finish (either chemically or mechanically) before applying a brand new finish. One might choose to have their furniture refinished to change the look of their piece (like going from a darker stain to a lighter one). This process may also be necessary if the current finish is too degraded to salvage. Refinishing may also be appropriate to get rid of a stain that has migrated down into the wood where a surface treatment would have little effect.

Although sometimes unavoidable, refinishing should be considered a 'last resort' course of action in order to help maintain the character (and sometimes value) of your furniture.


Restoring involves different techniques, but the ultimate goal remains the same: carefully repairing damage to the finish without being invasive. A great first step is to repair and renew existing finishes whenever possible. This can include careful cleaning to remove accumulated dirt and oils, smoothing out any surface irregularities, balancing color due to damage from UV and visible light, as well as adding a compatible and renewable finish to increase the protection and beauty of the piece. These processes take a more delicate touch, a good eye, and time to successfully enhance an old finish. Much of your furniture's 'character' can be preserved while restoring.

Restoring may also involve what we call 'partial refinishing'. If the finish on top of your table has issues that the restoring process may not adequately address with a surface treatment we may be able to refinish just the top, matching the color and sheen to the base and legs. This may help correct the issue without the excess unnecessary work of fully refinishing. The refinished areas of these projects receive a period appropriate and renewable finish making any issues down the road easier to correct.

Kerrigan Restoration favors restoring over refinishing but ultimately your individual needs will help inform which process may be the most appropriate for your furniture.

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