Woodwork Restoration and Refinishing

    Woodwork Refinishing and Restoration

    Woodwork Restoration

    There are two ways to revive woodwork.  Restoration is the less intrusive or, to put it another way,  less dramatic approach to repairing the woodwork in your home.  When we restore the finish of your doors and trim, we start by removing the old dirt, grime and degraded finishes on the surface.  We do this with a combination  approach depending on the results you want to achieve but it usually involves washing the wood with TSP, trisodium phosphate (the active ingredient in dishwasher detergent) and then scrubbing it with Methyl Hydrate,  also known as denuded alcohol and very fine steel wool.

    By using a combined chemical and mechanical cleaning approach we can take off a good portion of the old coatings without taking out the colour or the original patina of the wood.  We follow up with a light coating of stain to even out the finish and then multiple coats of clear waterborne varnish applied with a sprayer called an HVLP system.

    The result is a lighter and more brilliant clear, clean look to the woodwork.  You end up with a finish that more closely resembles the original finish and you will see the grain and unique colourations in the wood itself.  Once we’re done, our customers appreciate how the colour had darkened over time.

    This woodwork restoration process is labour intensive, time consuming and involves a great deal of materials to complete.  In other words it can be expensive especially if you want us to do an entire room.  But if you like the wood, it’s in good condition and you plan on staying in your home, this is a tremendous way to completely brighten up a space.


    Woodwork Refinishing

    The more intensive treatment for woodwork we refer to as refinishing and that involves removing all the finish on the wood and starting over again.  In order to do this we start by applying paint remover and take off  the coatings in order to get down to the bare wood.  This approach is actually a 3 stage operation and ends with scrubbing the surfaces with fine steel wool and paint thinner.

    Once we have removed all the coatings we’re in a position to assess the condition of the woodwork.  You may decide that you want all the colour removed as well and that means  sanding is needed to continue removing all remaining colour.

    We generally refinish only woodwork that is damaged, has been coated many times with different stains and varnishes and will be re-finished in a lighter or a different colour.

    We want a natural finish so can you remove all the colour ?

    This is possible and simply requires more time.  The results you are looking for may or may not be possible for a number of reasons.

    • Older homes in Toronto at least had darker stains applied to pine and maple to make it appear to look like mahogany. The dark stains evened out the finish and also hid the different grains and characteristics of the original wood.  Taking off all the finish can sometimes be a bit of a disappointment
    • It may not be possible to remove all the colour. Some softer woods like pine, hold stain and may need extensive sanding to remove all colour and that is very time consuming

    We want you to remove the paint and restore the woodwork to its’ original look.

    We don’t recommend that painted woodwork be converted back again to a stained finish.  From our experience we have found that after spending all that time and effort to remove the paint, all we do is learn why it got painted out in the first place!  Paint covers a multitude of old problems and damage.  Removing it reveals all the old patches, filler, nail holes, gaps, cracks and other the damage caused over the years by chairs, children, birthday banners, curtain rods and pets.

    The woodwork is damaged so can you just paint it white for us?

    We do this as well and in order to do it properly we still need to remove some of the old hard varnish so new paint will actually adhere.  That process involves some sanding to scratch up old varnish which is very smooth.  We follow up with an alkyd-based, (oil) primer before painting.

    Also keep in mind that painting out woodwork creates unique challenges.  A wood door frame as it is now, looks perfectly fine when you’re standing looking at it.  If you get down close to the floor though, then you’ll see the years of damage to the corners.  Painting it out will instantly highlight damage.  In the same way a window frame that’s full of holes from multiple assortments of curtain rods, painting woodwork requires filling holes, gaps between boards and damage from impacts.


    Can we get natural stair treads and white raisers?  How much is that?

    If your stairs are painted out now, removing just the paint from the stair treads and leaving the rest of the staircase painted is possible but very challenging for the crew.  It’s really difficult to remove the paint from only one area without effecting the wood beside it.  It can be done,  we’ve done it but it’s best if you’re on vacation while we’re working!  Also, in Victorian era homes the treads were always painted with a carpet runner installed up the middle.  The treads are most likely pine planks and if we can get all the finish off it’s only possible once we remove the hundreds of nails and carpet tacks painted over in previous upgrades.  (We lost count on one staircase once we had collected 100 nails.) It’s a labour of love either way, and at some point only you can decide if it’s worth the investment.

    Should we just replace all the old wood with new then?

    Sadly, you may wish to go that route but if we have a chance to meet with you, at least you’ll know the options.  Generally speaking, it’s difficult to get wood that is as good as the original in your home.  If you can get it, it may need to be custom milled to get the sizes and shapes, (profiles) to match and the cost may be prohibitive.

    Hopefully we can at least advise you on the best approach that works for you.  As we mentioned earlier, if you love you home, want to stay in it for a while longer and the woodwork is in overall good shape then investing in refinishing or restoration is something that you’ll appreciate every time you walk into the room.

    Furniture Refinishing

    This is a new area for us.  As we’ve mentioned, our customers keep challenging us so here are pictures of a recent hotel renovation project in Toronto.  After we did the chairs and tables, we were back touching up the floors, then the baseboards, the boardroom tables and recently the main reception desk!