Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I'm not happy with the way my ________________ looks. (You fill in the
furniture piece.)  What are my options?

A: Depending on the piece's condition, treatments range from a simple
cleaning/polishing, through finish touch-up/restoration, to complete
stripping/refinishing, plus any required repairs.  A thorough inspection by an
experienced professional will generate the advised course of action.

Q: Can it be cleaned?

A: A dirty furniture surface may be comprised of many components, including
dust, oils from human skin, built-up waxes/polishes, spilled food/drink, etc.,
plus the micro-organisms that live in our homes, all of which can interact to
cause deterioration of the finish.  If the finish itself is sound,
cleaning/polishing is an option.  Sometimes a washing with a mild detergent,
followed by a silicone-free polish, will suffice.  Other times a more
aggressive intervention, such as with Simple Green or like products, Murphy's
Oil Soap, or Stoddard solvent, will clean the finish.  Always test the
cleaning agent on an out-of-the-way place before tackling the most visible
surfaces.  Again, you may find that the cleaning process reveals finish
failure.  Here's where professional advice can be helpful.

Q: Should I have it refinished or restored?  What's the difference?

A: There is great disagreement among furniture care professionals as to the
definition of restoration, while refinishing is understood to be the removal
of an old finish and its replacement with a new coating.  Restoration may
involve touch-up of damaged spots of finish, re-amalgamation of existing
finish, and applying a new coating over the old.  All of those treatments have
advantages and disadvantages, depending on the state of a piece's finish.  A
qualified professional can offer the appropriate options.

Q: Can I do it myself?

A: You can do most cleaning/polishing procedures easily in the home, with some
requiring a professional's touch.  You can also refinish furniture yourself,
but it requires time, patience, space to do the work, and often dangerous
chemicals.  Restoration is generally best left to a pro.  Structural repairs
and veneer/inlay work should also be done by an expert.

Q: What kind of finishing materials do you use?  What about glues?

A: The coating I use most is good old varnish, a drying oil.  I also use
lacquer, both catalyzed and non-catalyzed, and shellac.  I use both oil-based
and lacquer-based stains.  I use adhesives best suited to the application.
For example, I use epoxy for stressable joints (chairs), contact cement for
veneers, hide glue for non-stress joints, white glue for cane seats, plus
others depending on the circumstance.

Q: Do you upholster?

A: I do not do upholstery work, although I work with an area upholsterer.  I
repair and finish the frames, and she does the upholstery.  I can perform
structural repairs on frames and springs in most cases.

Q: Do you do seat replacement, like cane, rush, Shaker tapes?

A: I do or can sub-contract all seat replacement work including both hand and
sheet (prewoven) cane, rush, reed, tapes, etc.

Q: What will happen to the value?  On the Antiques Roadshow, I've seen folks
admonished about having their furniture refinished.

A: Elsewhere on this website, there's a fuller discussion of the issue, but
briefly, most of the furniture in use in people's homes and offices today was
made after 1900.  It was mass-produced in factories, as opposed to the
individual pieces produced one at a time by well-known craftsmen in the 17th
through 19th centuries.  Because of the rarity of the latter pieces, their
value can be astronomical, while newer furniture was produced in such large
quantities that it likely will never accumulate the value of, say, a table
made by Duncan Fyffe in the 1820's.  If the finish is damaged, the coating no
longer does its job of protecting the surface and if the piece is un daily
use, that finish should be replaced or repaired.  That will maintain the

Q: What are your credentials?

A: I have been in the furniture care trade since 1974, having worked full and
part-time for a furniture restoration business for 12 years, and been
conducting my own restoration work since 1980.  I have attended several
regional and national workshops.  I participate in a daily email exchange
involving over 150 fellow professional furniture care providers from all over
the world.

Q: Are you a member of a trade association?

A: There is no formal trade association for furniture 'caregivers', but I am a
member of the Professional Refinishers' Group, which sponsors and moderates
the email exchange, maintains a directory and archive, and sponsors periodic
workshops.  See the link to the PRG website.

Q: Do you warrantee/guarantee your work?

A: I guarantee you will be satisfied with my work, and that it will last a
minimum of 5 years under normal use.  Finishes should last decades, if cared
for properly.  All glues fail at some point, but not normally in the first 5

Q: Do you have references from current clients?

A: I do and can give you a list.  For privacy reasons, I do not have that on
the website.

Q: Will you do the work in my home?

A: Depending on the nature of the project, I will either do the work in your
home or bring the work back to my shop.

Q: Do you pick up and deliver?  Do you charge for estimates?

A: I normally do not charge for estimates, pickup, or delivery.

Q: How should I care for my furniture after you've worked on it?

A: Clean the finish with water or a silicon-free polish.  Don't leave hot
dishes directly on wood.  Don't leave sweaty glasses directly on wood.  Don't
stress glue joints unnecessarily.  (For example, don't drag furniture across
carpeted surfaces, and never tip back in chairs.)


Kingsley Greene
Hannacroix, New York


     page last updated: 5/16/11