Restoring original woodwork

Much of the original woodwork that is found in homes today cannot be bought anymore, which infinitely increases its value.

For some houses, the original woodwork that is found within it can be a major selling point and therefore the owners want to keep it in the best possible condition. However, wear and tear can often cause damage, hence why restoring original woodwork could add value to your home.

Luckily wood restoration services are available, and nearly anything can be fixed for a pric

This does mean, however, that the greater the job is the more you will pay; it merely depends on how good you want the restoration project to be. DIY restoration can also be conducted, although for more ornate and expensive pieces of wood this is a much greater feat.

Why would I need to restore woodwork?

There are a number of different types of restorations that can be carried out, that are due to a variety of factors: -

  • Wood rot due to exposure to damp.
  • Woodworm.
  • Damage caused by window installers.
  • Cup/plate rings or scratches on furniture.
  • Damage caused to the finish of the wood.

What type of wood can be repaired?

Virtually anything that contains wood in the house can be repaired. Different companies will specialise in different types of repair, for example some will specialise in structural wood, e.g. windows, whereas other companies will specialise in more ornate repairs, e.g. furniture.

  • Window sills
  • Sills and floor joists
  • Wood floors
  • Wood doors
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Antique furniture
  • Support columns

Professional repairs

If you have a great deal of damage, need the wood to be completely restored, or have a particularly expensive and intricate piece of furniture then it is advisable to get a wood restoration company to perform the work for you.

Where can I find them?

You want to make sure that the company is of the best calibre, so that they will perform the work to your required high standard. Also, if you do not know the extent of the damage and need the company to assess your wood before they start, it is essential to get a reputable company so they tell you the true condition of your wood.

Sometimes your wood will not require stripping or refurnishing but merely cleaning, refurbishment or recoating. These processes are much cheaper than the others, and so some less trustworthy companies may tell you that your wood is in a worse condition than it is in order to make you pay for the more expensive work.

One of the best ways to find an excellent company is to get referrals from architects or from fine furniture stores. Both will use restoration companies regularly, and will therefore know the best ones in the area and be able to recommend a suitable one for you. Going by recommendation is the best way to find a company, rather than looking in directories, so ask around to see if you know people who have had similar work done.

What are the processes of professional wood refurnishing?

Initially the surface of the wood needs to be thoroughly prepared. This usually involves the paint or varnish being stripped from the wood.

  • All the furniture is cleared away from the area, so that none of it is damaged by the chemicals used throughout the process. The work will be stripped and cleaned one section at a time, so that it is performed precisely. The restoration team will mask and protect all the adjacent surfaces to the wood, using hardboard, carpet protector, poly sheeting and rosin paper. The work area is also ventilated using a filtered exhaust system, as some of the chemicals used are very powerful. The appropriate stripper is then applied and removed using wire brushes.
  • Next chemical solvents or water is used to scrub the wood with small metal bristle brushes, to ensure that all the finish is removed from the pores of the wood. When it is deemed satisfactory that all the finish has been removed from the surface of the wood, it is wiped down with a rag. A full clean-up job is then done of the area to remove any debris that has come from the stripping.

Next the wood needs to be prepared before any new finish is applied.

  • Initially the restorers will roughly sand the wood to give it an even surface. They may also bleach the wood if necessary, and all repairs done to the wood are performed at this point. This includes all carpentry patches, addition of any wood, joint splitting and filling any holes. If any new wood is added, it is matched exactly for species, grain and texture. If any holes are filled, the putty fills are faux finished so that they are approximate to the surrounding surface.
  • Once the adhesives or putty is dry, the whole surface is fine sanded by hand to create a smooth, workable plane.

Next the finish will be applied to the wood.

  • No finishing, colouring or staining work will be done to the wood until there has been an extensive consultation. As the wood owner, you will have to specify exactly how you want the wood to look, and this will be based partly on the type of wood it is, the natural colourations of the wood, any accessories or the other furniture that will be placed in the room, what the lighting is like in the room, as well as other individual factors.
  • Once this consultation has been performed, the restoration team will produce a sample on the existing wood so that you can see what it will look like. If this is approved they will go ahead and finish completing the work.
  • The initial colours will be laid down using a stain. Next the restorers will start sealing and topcoating the wood, using either a hand or spray application. They will lightly the sand the wood, using fine sandpaper, between each layer or seal or topcoat.
  • Next the tint or glaze is applied to the wood. This layer ensures that the colour is even, and that all discolourations or light spots are blended in with the rest of the finish so that they do not show. This is done by dry brushing colour, spray tinting, airbrushing or wipe glazing. The restorer may also use artist brushes, powders and pigments to create special effects, touch-ups and to help blend all the colours.
  • The final stage of finishing is to topcoat all the surfaces using clear finishes of various types. Very fine sanding is performed between each coat; about 4 to 6 coats are necessary to provide an even sheen.

Once the work is done, all masking is removed from the surface and the fine detailing can be done to the wood. This includes any minor touch-ups and polishing. The surface will be rubbed, waxed and buffed in order to provide it with the required finished. This can either be a low lustre, a satin shine, a semi-gloss or a full hi-gloss finish.

Finally, the restoration team will perform a full and thorough clean up of the site.

Amateur repairs

If you cannot afford to spend a great deal of money on restoring your original woodwork, then it is possible to perform the repairs yourself. Of course, the results will not be comparable to those of the professional restorers, but if this does not bother you then there are a great deal of products available on the market to equip you for such repairs. There are various ways in which you can perform repairs to your wood:

  • You can cut out the really badly damaged sections of wood, then cut out patches of wood and affix them in the place of the damaged wood. Then sand the surface so that the new wood is flush with the old. The patch will show, but if you are going to apply a finish over the top this may not always matter.
  • Any problem areas can also be filled will putty, so as to prevent you from having to actually replace the wood. The putty will be stained and finished, usually with shellac, using a paintbrush and then the surface will be sanded flush with very fine grained sandpaper. Grain lines can then be drawn onto the wood using a pencil.
  • Coloured hard waxes are available in burn-in sticks. These are melted with a soldering iron and mixed to produce the right shade of the wood. Then are then used to fill the holes and dents with. Although these sound like they will not produce a particularly accurate job, they are one of the most popular products available and can actually produce pretty good repairs.
  • If you are using replacement wood to match the existing wood the most important thing to take into consideration when choosing which replacement wood to use is not the colour, as this can be changed, but the grain and cut of the plank from which the wood came.
  • Using stains on the wood will make the grain more prominent, whereas pigments will obliterate it. If you have patched the wood then it may be best to use a pigment rather than a grain to finish your wood, so that the patch is less visible, or not at all visible.

Where can I find suitable products?

Most products are now sold over-the-counter at hardware shops or DIY centres. If you wish to get a more professional finish, many restoration companies are starting to sell their products so that people can perform the repairs themselves. These products will usually be of much greater quality, although this will be reflected in the price.

Types of Product

  • Exopy Resins - this product can be used for bonding, filleting, fairing, filling, composite construction and coating. Most companies will provide a variety of resins to use. These work better than most adhesives, will dry clear in a short time, and are resistant to water, most soaps, oils, lubricants, fuels, diluted acids, alkalis, and most common chemicals.
  • Liquid Wood - this product is an adhesive that can be used to rebuild, reinforce, water- and insect-proof wood by hardening it after penetrating. It can be used on rotted windowsills, frames, furniture, structural and decorative parts of the property, and floors.
  • Wood Filler - this is used for large-scale damage to wood. It is an expoxy based resin that has high shock-absorbity and can be coated by most primers and paints.
  • Wood Stopper - this product is like wood filler but is used for small scale damage, for example filling small holes etc. It is resistant and can be coated by most primers and paints.
  • Burn-In Sticks can be used to fill holes within furniture repair. They are a very popular and effective method of restoration.
  • Wood repair kits are also available. These will provide you with all the essential items needed for whichever type of repair you specify, and are often a cheaper way of buying products.

How much will it cost?

The cost of the restoration will depend on a variety of factors, including the extent of the damage, the type of wood, the type of finish that exists and will be applied, and if any replacement wood needs to be used. For a small piece of furniture that needs to have replacement wood fitted and total restoration, the average price would be around £300.

Things to take into consideration?

  • You may not need to restore the wood – good cleaning and applying a new finish may be all the wood needs. Make sure you get the wood fully assessed beforehand to see the extent of the damage.
  • If you are going to do the restoration or finishing yourself, make sure you use appropriate protection for your skin and clothes as the chemicals can often be harsh.
  • Make sure that you keep the temperature cool in the room you are working in, so as not to distort or cause damage to the wood or chemicals.
  • Get a few quotes from a variety of different companies before you choose which one to use. This means that you will get an accurate representation of what state the wood is in and what really needs to be done.
  • It is often better for the wood to bring an old finish back to life rather than to apply a new one. Try to only refinish wood as a last resort.
  • Surface preparation is the most important step in wood refinishing. Make sure that you remove all previous finish and sand the surface down so that it can be worked on.

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