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Home Business Ideas - Refinishing Furniture

What it Takes to Start a Furniture Refinishing Business

By Ron Dicker

(LifeWire) - Overview of this Business

Refinishing furniture is not one of those home business ideas to take up on the fly -- either you already know how to refinish furniture, or you must learn through classes or an apprenticeship. Stripping, sanding and finishing chairs, tables, sofas and heirlooms require precision. Refinishing furniture might also entail reupholstering, an additional skill that's good to have for this home business. The competition for customers is fierce in most parts of the country, and shoddy work refinishing furniture will quickly erode your reputation.

The median income for woodworkers is around $27,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. Seasoned pros can expand into reselling antique furniture that they've purchased on the cheap at flea markets or from private dealers. Depending on who you ask, furniture refinishing thrives in tough times because people are determined to spruce up what they already have, or it becomes a tossed-aside luxury because people are willing to live with their furniture's current state instead of refinishing or otherwise restoring it.

Pros of a Refinishing Furniture Home Business

  • Refinishing furniture is an ideal home business for the do-it-yourselfer.
  • A custom refinishing beats a factory refinishing for antique lovers.
  • You can practice new refinishing techniques on your own furniture.
Cons of a Refinishing Furniture Home Business
  • Pricing can be tricky. Calculate the cost of materials, labor and utilities and then tack on 5% for the unexpected. Surveying your competition can also help.
  • The temptation to use cheap materials while refinishing furniture will lead to sub-par presentation.
  • You'll have to really hustle to secure those first jobs.
  • Refinishing furniture is a solitary business that can become a little lonely, but it's also a good home business for a husband and wife or father and son or mother/daughter team.
What You Need to Get Started in a Refinishing Furniture Home Business
  • Professional before-and-after photos of the work you're doing, even if it's on your own furniture or inexpensive test pieces you might find at a garage sale or flea market. The improvements from refinishing furniture should be drastic enough to highlight your skills. Arrange the photos in an album at the shop and online.
  • Business cards, print and online advertising, vehicle signage (hopefully on a van or truck) and a website to promote your business. These items are fairly standard for any home business ideas you may be considering.
  • Quality furniture refinishing equipment and supplies, such as strippers, finishes and sanding tools.
  • A well-ventilated space and safety equipment so you can avoid inhaling toxic chemical fumes.
  • Relationships with antique dealers, flea markets and collectors to spread the word and provide you with repeat business. You might consider displaying your work at flea markets or home shows and expositions.
  • Bookeeping skills or an accountant are crucial, as they are for all home business ideas.

Furniture Refinisher -- Real Life Example

Tim and Nancy Hall toiled a combined 60 hours a week to net $15,000 their first year as full-time furniture refinishers, Tim said in motherearthnews.com. Tim says he knows of refinishers netting $35,000 or more.

This home business idea is part of:
9 Perfect Part-Time Home Businesses

LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Ron Dicker is a New York-based freelance writer who covered sports for the New York Times from 1996 to 2005.
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