Home Business Ideas -- Refinishing Furniture

Here's What It Takes to Start a Furniture Refinishing Business

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Stripping, sanding and finishing chairs, tables and heirlooms -- the fundamentals of any furniture refinishing business -- is an art. Refinishing furniture might also involve reupholstering -- an additional skill that's good to have for this home business.

Starting a furniture refinishing business is not something you should take up on the fly -- either you already have the skills or you must learn through classes or an apprenticeship.

Seasoned pros can expand into reselling antique furniture they've purchased at flea markets or from private dealers. Furniture refinishing often thrives in tough times when people are determined to spruce up what they already have rather than buy new.

What You’ll Need to Get Started in a Furniture Refinishing Business
 

  • Professional before-and-after photos of work you've done, even if it's on your own furniture or inexpensive test pieces you might find at a garage sale or flea market – the improvements should be dramatic enough to highlight your skills
  • Business cards, print and online advertising, vehicle signage – ideally on a van or truck -- and a website to promote your business
  • Furniture refinishing equipment and supplies, including strippers and sanding tools
  • A well-ventilated workspace and safety equipment to help you avoid inhaling toxic chemical fumes
  • Relationships with antique dealers, flea markets and collectors to spread word of your services and promote repeat business
  • Bookkeeping skills -- consider hiring an accountant if you don’t have them

Advantages of a Furniture Refinishing Business

This can be the ideal career for do-it-yourselfers and those who love to worth with their hands. Antique lovers will flock to your door because they tend to prefer custom refinishing to factory refinishing.

You can set your own hours, stripping and sanding into the predawn hours if you’re a night owl, although pickup and delivery times must conform to your customers’ timetables. If you work out of your own home – maybe your garage -- overhead won’t be steep after you purchase the initial necessary equipment.

Disadvantages of a Furniture Refinishing Business

You’ll have to hustle to secure your first jobs. The competition for customers can be fierce in many parts of the country, and doing shoddy work can quickly erode your reputation. You might consider displaying your work at flea markets or home shows and expositions to get started. Practice your techniques on your own furniture and display only your best work.

Pricing your services can be tricky. Calculate the cost of materials, utilities and your time, then tack on 5 percent or so to cover the unexpected. Call around to competitors for their prices so you’re sure you’re in a reasonable ballpark. Don’t skimp on materials – the end result will be a sub-par product.

You'll have to forecast the time and materials you think each job will require so you can give customers estimates, then come in close to those estimates because you can't unexpectedly charge $100 more if you're wrong. 

Furniture refinishing is a solitary business and can become a little lonely, but it’s also a good home business for a family team, like a husband and wife or parent and child.

A Furniture Refinishing Business Real-Life Example

Tim and Nancy Hall toiled a combined 60 hours a week to net only $15,000 their first year as full-time furniture refinishers, but building up a solid reputation and customer base can increase your income.

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