Saturday, May 25

Furniture Upcycling is a Hot Trend – Here’s How to Get Started


Upcycling discarded furniture and giving it a new life is now much more fashionable than purchasing a brand-new characterless flat-pack furniture set.

Repurposing or upcycling old furniture and second-hand finds look to remain one of the hottest trends for 2023. More and more DIY, crafting, and renovation enthusiasts are discovering the fun of transforming junk-shop furniture into beautiful, unique pieces for their homes.

And it is not just about fun. Repurposing or upcycling old furniture is a great way to save money as it offers a budget-friendly solution to style your home, whilst also doing your part for the planet. By repurposing old furniture, as opposed to buying new, you lessen your carbon footprint, contribute to a circular economy, and reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.


The good news is that you don’t need to be a skilled at DIY to embrace upcycling – start with a few simple projects (like painting) until you build up confidence and become savvy enough to experiment with more challenging ventures.

For those who are keen to try their hand at furniture upcycling this year, check out this advice on how to get started, and the DIY tools and products needed.

Start the search

Start by visiting your local second-hand shops and charity stores, or have a look on Gumtree or Facebook marketplace, for second-hand furniture items that appeal to you and fit your needs. Use Pinterest to spark your creativity and fuel you with inspiration. There are no limits to what you can create.

If the item you wish to upcycle is wood, metal, melamine, or cane, if it has been painted many times before, or not at all, if it is veneered or even if it has seen better days and is damaged and broken – there are techniques as well as DIY tools and products that can have it looking beautiful and fresh again.

Essential DIY tools and products for upcycling and DIY furniture projects:

Once you’re sure of the project you want to tackle it’s time to stock up on the tools and equipment you will need to complete it. Some of the essential DIY tools and products you’ll need include:

  • Paint stripper: A must for furniture that has multiple layers of paint on it that you wish to remove. This would be your first go-to product and can be applied to multiple surfaces to remove old paint. Just be sure to wear gloves and protective equipment as it does burn when it gets onto the skin.
  • Heat gun: Brilliant for stripping off old paint and varnish from any surface, as well as stickers, vinyl adhesives, etc. You can purchase a good entry-level heat gun for about R450 or spend a bit more on a 3-heat heat gun or a cordless heat gun.
  • Orbital sander and mouse sander: Handy to remove the final bits of paint and varnish from an item, give a beautifully smooth surface, and bring out the patina of natural wood. Orbital sanders can handle larger surface areas, whilst a mouse sander can get into small corners and the hard-to-reach angles of furniture. They can both be used on a range of surfaces including wood, metal, and plastic.

Chalk paint

  • Sandpaper: Power tools are great for sanding but at times a bit of elbow grease is required for the fiddly areas on an upcycling project. Buy a range of grits, from rougher to smoother, to keep on hand for your projects.
  • Wood glue: Ideal if the wooden item you are upcycling has any loose joints or connections. It dries clear and is easy to use. Make sure you also have a few furniture clamps in your toolkit to hold the furniture together while the glue dries.
  • Wood filler: Wood filler is a good solution if the wooden item you are upcycling has holes from old nails or screws or any other damage you wish to smooth out.
  • Paint spray guns: Paint spray guns makes painting furniture quick and easy! There are lots to choose from, including airless paint sprayers, and those with an air compressor.
  • Paint brushes: Paint brushes are a really important tool for upcycling furniture. Buy good ones which will make a real difference to the quality of your paintwork as they will lay down a smoother layer of paint, reducing the appearance of brush strokes.
  • Paint and varnish: Good quality paint and or varnish is essential to finish off your upcycling project. There is a vast range of paint products available on the market, and your choice would ultimately depend on the item that you are upcycling and budget.

Other tools and supplies you may wish to have on hand are a claw hammer for removing nails and hammering in new ones, a screwdriver to tighten or replace any screws, a scraper to assist with removing paint and applying wood filler, and rags to help clean up and wipe down. These are just the basics for an effective upcycling project. More advanced up cyclers may choose to have a staple gun to assist with reupholstering, a sewing machine, a jigsaw to cut as required, a drill, and a cordless screwdriver – the list is extensive, but the above will get you started.


Paint and varnish

Once you’ve reached the final stages, it’s time to paint or varnish your creation. Good quality paint and or varnish is essential to finish off your upcycling project. There is a vast range of paint products available on the market, and your choice would ultimately depend on the item that you are upcycling and your budget.

Chalk paints are highly recommended for newbie DIY fans as they can be used on almost every surface and comes in an array of colours. For many projects you will not need to use a primer before applying the chalk paint – however, there are instances that primer may be necessary – such as wood that has been stained and varnished previously.

Chalk paint also does not have to be sealed afterward; however, it is recommended to use a top coat so that the item is less susceptible to wear and tear and weathering.

When it comes to varnish, the are several well-known brands that make an extensive range to suit all needs and applications. Whether you need to seal a kitchen table that will get heavy usage, a chair that will live outdoors in all weather, or a decorative shelving unit – there is a product to fit any requirement.


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