#374–The yucky job of refinishing furniture . . .

I have two outdoor redwood chairs that I have had since 1976 that are similar to Adirondack-style chairs. I just love them and they were the first thing that my second husband helped me buy shortly after we met before we were married.

My two red chairs were quite new in this 1976 photo.

Life was easier for the chairs in California where it didn’t rain nearly so often. When we moved to Oregon in 1985, I would carry them down the outside stairs and store them in the basement during the winter and return them to the lower deck in the spring. And every few years, I would give them a fresh coat of paint.

Here they are with my mom in 1986 not long after we moved here in late 1985. Looks like they were freshly painted. The little redwood table developed too much rot and was tossed last year.

The last 10 years or so, I haven’t been carrying them up and down the stairs. So, the winter weather has been hard on them. I still gave them a new coat of paint every so often . . .  that is, until these past few years.

Last fall when I had my deck worked on, I realized how awful they looked. They had moss growing in all the crevices, ferns peeked out from below, and all over them lichen was beginning to appear. And, of course, they needed another coat of paint. So, I had them pressure washed, which got rid of all the lichen and most of the moss and ferns, but also blasted away much of the existing paint. They looked like a bad job of camouflage. I hated the way they looked.

So, on my to-do list was to refinish them. I got some CitriStrip, which is supposed to be less potent than regular paint stripper and some low-fume mineral spirits.

This is what I needed to do the job.

And heavy duty gloves and safety goggles.

I watched a YouTube video of a person using CitriStrip on a flat table with four rounded legs. She made it look easy. I, who had no experience stripping paint from anything, figured I could do this. What I didn’t realize was that my chairs were so much more complex.

The process of scrapping off the loosened paint is messy, yucky! Here is the wooden spatula that worked so much better.

I decided to do it in my kitchen because I have very good light there—both natural and great light directly overhead. And I have windows and sliding glass doors to open for good air flow. I spread plastic and covered it with a sheet and put one of the chairs on its side and got started.

I spread the CitriStrip, which is the consistency of soft pudding, fairly thick on all four sides of two legs. Then wrapped in Saran Wrap and let sit for 40 minutes. I then used, as they suggested, a plastic scraper. It was a lot of work and only got part of the paint. After a whole day of work, I got much of the paint off of two legs and the supports directly under the seat. It all looked much worse than before I started.

So, much work, and I wasn’t happy with how it was going. I wasn’t convinced that I should even continue. I totally lost my motivation.

I’ve started painting here after smoothing every surface with steel wool and cleaning with mineral spirits.

The next two weeks I was busy with other stuff and didn’t even try to find time to work on the chair. It just sat there in the kitchen. Then, the day of the heat pump installation and big snow, I decided to give it one more go. I would not try to do all of the chair, just the sections that looked really bad. And I wasn’t pleased with the rubber spatula, so I tried a wooden one. It worked so much better, and I began to feel like I knew what I was doing. Finally, I was making progress.

I spent that day and the next and got most of the paint I wanted removed, removed. Then I smoothed all the surfaces I had been working on with steel wool. Before I could paint, I had to clean every place I had put CitriStrip with mineral spirits. So, I did. Yikes! I had on my mask and that stuff still smelled awful! I had every window and the sliding glass doors open, even though it was very cold outside. I wiped off any excess mineral spirits and let it sit until the next day.

First coat and it looks good.

The painting took only about an hour and a half. A few hours later, I flipped the chair over to get some underneath parts. The next day, I gave a second coat. It looked almost new. I was so pleased. It had been worth it, after all. Now, I just had to repeat the whole process on the second chai

After the second coat, it looked fabulous! So glad I persevered.

I started on the second one by using a metal scraper and scraping off any loose paint, which I had not done on the first one. Then I flipped the chair over. That is when I noticed, while trying to pry out some embedded moss, that the wood in one area was punky! Upon closer inspection, I found one support piece was rotted through on one end and almost as bad on the other end. And one of the pieces where you sit was looking suspicious. So, I decided that this chair was not worth doing. It is now in the garage, awaiting a trip to the dump. Dang! Well, it lasted 47 years––a very good run. Time to part with it.

I have two white vinyl chairs that will go on the main deck where the two red chairs used to be. And the beautifully refinished one will go on the balcony. At the moment, however, I have found a place for it in my bedroom until the weather turns warmer and less rainy. Too much work to let it get ruined again! From now on, it’s going to be pampered.    

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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1 Response to #374–The yucky job of refinishing furniture . . .

  1. I’m sure those chairs hold a lot of sentimental value for you! 😀

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