How To Restore and Refinish Your Home’s Woodwork

ECOS Paints 05/16/2022
How To Restore and Refinish Your Home’s Woodwork

Whether it’s the window trim, staircase banisters, or ceiling rafters, woodwork adds a certain vintage charm to any space. That charm can make the place feel warm and inviting. However, the one caveat is wood can become scratched and damaged over time, taking away from the room’s aesthetic.

Fortunately, with a little elbow grease, you can breathe new life into the wood in your home. The key is knowing how to restore and refinish your home’s woodwork.

Choosing a Stain or Varnish

Sometimes, people use the terms “varnish” and “stain” interchangeably since both offer ways to restore a home’s woodwork. However, both offer different things to woodwork. Wood stain penetrates the wood, allowing you to revitalize or change its color. Varnish adds a protective topcoat, which is typically clear but can also have pigments added.

Some prefer varnish because of the protection it can offer woodwork. However, if you want to change the wood’s color, you can always apply a stain first and apply varnish on top of it.

Pro Tip: Always Test Your Stain

As with paint colors, wood stain colors can look different in your space than they do online. Test the stain on wood scraps similar to the room’s woodwork for a better idea of the color. Keep in mind that applying multiple coats of stain will darken the color. 

Prepare the Woodwork

How well your stain or varnish works on your wood will depend on how well you prepared the woodwork beforehand. Here are some key steps to walk through as you prep your wood.


Wood tends to build up a layer of dust and grime over time. Because of this, you will need to scrub the surfaces first. Mineral spirits are the traditional option. However, dish soap will work too.


Usually, there will already be a layer of varnish on the woodwork you will have to contend with. Before applying new varnish or stain, you will need to strip this away. There are non-toxic varnish-stripping solutions on the market. You can also utilize sandpaper to help rough up the surface for better adhesion.


If there are holes or significant cracks in the woodwork, you will want to fill them before finishing. Use a wood filler to fill the cracks, then sand the top.

Apply Stain or Varnish

When the wood is properly prepared, there is nothing left but to apply the stain or varnish. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you restore your woodwork:

  • If you are using water-based materials, you should use synthetic brushes. For oil-based, use natural-bristle brushes.
  • You can also use a clean, lint-free cloth or rag to apply wood stain, especially on close-grained wood.
  • When staining open grain wood, use more pressure and go against the grain to better fill the pores.
  • Applying multiple coats of stain will deepen the color.

The only thing better than woodwork is well-maintained woodwork. That’s why ECOS Paints has a collection of water-based stains and varnishes to help refresh your home’s wooden accents today.

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