How to Refinish a Rocking Chair

empty rocking chair on beach deck
  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-200
What You'll Need
Safety gear
Painter's tape
Assorted sponges
Paint scraper
Paint or varnish stripper
Wire or stiff-vinyl drill attachment
Fine-grit sandpaper
Spray paint or varnish

Instead of spending money to replace a worn or scratched rocking chair, you should consider refinishing it. To preserve the original piece of furniture, whether a family heirloom or an antique-market find, you can refinish your chair with a few basic tools and novice woodworking experience.

Warning: Paints, varnishes, and thinners alike contain chemicals that are potentially harmful. Always wear gloves to avoid direct skin contact, which could cause burns and other reactions. In addition, wear a respirator or painter’s mask when working with these products. Always work in a well-ventilated area.

Prepare the Rocking Chair

If the rocking chair has metal bolts or brackets that you can undo, take the chair apart before refinishing it to avoid getting paint or primer on these parts.

However, if your chair if firmly built and you can’t remove these parts, use painter’s tape to cover them. If there are any damaged areas or parts, fix or replace them now before continuing.

Apply the Stripper

Using a sponge, apply paint or varnish stripper to the rocking chair. Coat all surfaces you want to finish evenly. Allow the stripper to set up for 5-15 minutes so that it can loosen the finish.

Remove the Old Finish

Use a drill with a circular wire brush to thoroughly clean the rocking chair’s surface. If necessary, clean the brush with paint stripper periodically. Wipe down the surface as you go with a soft rag to make sure you haven’t missed any spots.

Sand Until Smooth

Fill any holes or round out splintered corners, and then sand all surfaces with a fine-grit sandpaper. 220-grit sandpaper is ideal. After smoothing out all areas, wipe the surface down with a clean, damp sponge.

Apply New Finish

Spray on the finish in smooth, long strokes, holding the can approximately 6-10 inches away from the rocker. Allow the first coat to dry for at least one hour, and then apply a second coat. Let dry before sanding.

Finish the Chair

Finally, lightly sand the surface of the rocking chair. Then, apply a third coat of finish. You may apply additional coats as desired to refinish your rocker. To finish the look of your updated rocker, consider purchasing a new pillow to place on the seat. Or, repair your old rocking-chair cushion.