Does Repairing or Refurbishing Antique Furniture Cause Loss of Value?
Collecting and building your home’s beautiful décor using antiques or precise antique reproductions can elevate your favorite space into an entirely new dimension of comfort. Antique decor offers luxury, elegance, as well as a subtle refinement that can be enjoyed daily for many years.
But not every antique arrives or is found in perfect condition. Some are discovered in leaky attics, or stored away in old, uninsulated and barely closed garages. Sometimes insects, moisture, dirt build-up, and damages have been done to the furniture itself.
The question most often wondered is: does a repaired or refinished piece of antique furniture lose value? There are several reasons to take this into serious consideration before refinishing or repairing your antique pieces.
While it is true that most antique experts will tell you that an antique with its original, pristine finish has more value—they occasionally forget to tell you that this generally covers only the very rarest antiques.
A great example of a very rare piece of antique furniture you would not want to refinish or repair is The Goddard and Townsend secretary desk that was made in the 1760s. Only 9 of these types of desks were ever made. Refinishing such a priceless antique would have certainly affected its value and any repairs as well, even with an expert touch. Many collectors of very rare pieces prefer their antiques as is to preserve authenticity.
Another example is if you should find yourself in possession of any authentic Thomas Chippendale furniture, or suspect it might be. You’ll no doubt wish to hold off on any sort of refinishing or repairs until appraisal and verification.
If your antique piece is something that has far more value to you sentimentally, there is more leeway for you when it comes to refinishing. Personally, cherished family heirloom antiques may benefit largely from a good cleaning, refinishing or repainting, as well as restorative repairs.
Occasionally, you can bring an antique back to life with very minimal effort as well, so keep in mind that it may not even need a refinish to get it back to its former luster.
Before you decide to refinish, remember:
- Inspect your antique thoroughly to look for any identifying labels or maker marks that will help you research its origin.
- Make note of the overall quality of the wood, as well as craftsmanship, and any carving your piece may have.
- If you find your item is extremely valuable, we highly suggest that you leave it alone and instead, contact a professional that works with high-end furniture or contact a museum curator that may be able to assist you in finding professional restoration and repairs.
Once you’re certain it is not an extremely rare antique, we do still advise you to try the simpler methods of cleaning your antique before going into more complicated refinishing techniques.
- Dust. To start with, get a clean, undyed, soft cloth that will not scratch. Lightly dampen the cloth and gently wipe your furniture surfaces. Be sure not to get the furniture wet or soaked. Do not use any harsh cleaners and do not use any chemical dusting agents that have lemon or lemon oil in them. After, a simple wax of beeswax (never spray polish) can bring out the original color and grain of the wood and provide natural protection.
- Never allow spills or wet rings left by glasses to remain. Always clean them as soon as they happen to keep them from staining your piece.
- Always make sure after cleaning that your wood is completely dry. If not, when beeswax is applied the still damp wood will darken, leaving the appearance of an ink stain.
- Always work in small areas out of eyesight at first to see how the process works and how the furniture’s wood responds to being cleaned.
Should you find the piece still needs significant work after cleaning it, there are two ways to you may go: attempt to repair it yourself or get it professionally done.
Note that refinishing is not considered the same as restoring. Restoring often refers to a professional returning a piece to the closest possible state of what it was originally. Restoration artists will use original, or as similar as possible recreated materials and techniques as possible, including labor-intensive techniques as used in the past and any expensive or rare materials. For example, if your pieces include hand-hewn nails, then a restoration artist would do their best to acquire and use hand-hewn nails, most likely reclaimed period-appropriate nails to match your piece.
Small repairs such as using wood glue to reattach a very small splinter or piece of cracked wood or filling in a split can easily be done to any antique. We have a detailed guide on how to repair cracks in wooden furniture you can find here: https://www.laurelcrown.com/how-to-repair-cracks-in-wooden-furniture
To simplify and better help you decide, it is entirely up to you if you wish to repair and refinish. Generally, if your antique is an investment that you mean to sell—avoid refinishing and repairs, as this does tend to lower the price.
If you are simply looking to continue the practice of handing down a family-loved heirloom antique and wish to refinish and repair, then there’s no need to worry about lowering the value of a piece already cherished by you.
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