How I Refurbished an Old Rocking Chair | Quarantine DIY

Monday, July 20, 2020
Easy Tutorial on how to refurbish old furniture

Sometimes an old, ugly item can be made new with some TLC, elbow grease, and lots of determination. 

In today's post, I will be sharing my process on how I turned an old, dilapidated rocking chair found on the street to a cute, modern, and brand new looking piece of furniture perfect for the front porch! It is also a short tutorial for those of you interested in refurbishing old furniture.

Refurbishing an Old Rocking Chair | My Quarantine DIY Project

After much deliberation (and procrastination), I finally decided to write this post on how I refurbished and upcycled an old rocking chair. 

Why was I deliberation you may ask? I was planning on inserting this project into an upcoming "What I did During Quarantine Post", but it came to my attention that furniture refurbishing might be of interest to some of you and I wanted to share my experience with it. 

I love DIY project tutorials and this is definitely a fun DIY that is perfect for those who love flipping furniture or are thrifty. Plus this chair has become one of my favorite pieces of furniture! 

*This post contains affiliate links (marked with an *) meaning that at no extra cost to you I will earn a commission if you click through it which helps support this blog. Thank you*

preface (ie how I ended up with an old rocking chair)

Last fall, I went to my neighborhood thrift store and found a beautiful cedar rocking chair (known as a glider) that was in great condition although outdated for $20. 

Yes, $20 for a glider! With a coat of paint and new fabric, it would've been a fantastic fixer-upper, perfect for the living room.

Unfortunately, I had taken the bus and by the time one of my parents had arrived home the store would've closed so I did not buy it.  But although I was heartbroken, I still held out hope that one day I would refurbish an old chair. 

Cue to late April 2020 (during the middle of the pandemic).

Around this time my dad had started working again and on his way home one day he saw a rocking chair on the side of a street-ready to be picked up by the garbage men. Seeing how it was in great condition, although old looking, he took it and brought it home for me!

It was perfect, it was exactly the type of challenge I wanted. 

It was a bit worn and scratch in some areas, nothing a good sanding and coat of paint would fix and the cushions were worn down but the wood itself was in great condition and soon I began refurbishing the old rocking chair!

It took longer than expected to finish, as I didn't have the fabric on hand for the cushions but I loved how it turned out. 

If you are here for the tutorial then here it is

What you will need to refurbish an old piece of furniture:

  • 100* to 150 grit sandpaper
  • wood paint primer (I used the Kilz 3 Premium Interior Primer*)
  • paint 
  • new cushions
  • optional- fabric for cushions (between 1-2.5 meters depending)
  • optional- paint sealer such as polycrylic* (usually around $20 at a hardware store)
tutorial on how to refurbish and fix old furniture

first: sanding

The first thing I did was remove the cushions then I started sanding it. In the beginning, I used a 80 grit sanding paper but it was way too rough thankfully my dad had some 100 and 120 grit paper, which sanded more while being gentle. The rocking chair had a glossy finish which I sanded off all the way until the wood underneath was bare. 

It is best to wear a mask while doing this to prevent breathing in wood dust and since face masks are no mandatory it's not going to be hard to find one.

Refurbishing an old rocking chair | fixer upper

Although this part is fairly easy, it is annoying as depending on your furniture you will have to sand all the tiny places, but remember it is worth it!

After sanding it, take a clean somewhat humid cloth and wipe it all down. Removing as much wood dust as possible, I used a tack cloth* (it traps and attracts all dust particles) and it helped immensely in cleaning tiny, hard to reach places.

second: priming the wood

Because the rocking chair was previously sealed it is better to add a primer to it than to skip this step. 

I found this paint primer at the hardware store for about $17 and, I'll be honest with you, I've used it for over 4 different wood projects and I still have a third leftover! If you are a DIYer or painter this product will last for many many projects.

How I Refurbished an Old Rocking chair for cheap by Plaid and SUgar Blog. Easy DIY tutorial

I used two coats of primer in the important areas, such as the arms, sides, and back as they are often in contact with your body and you don't want the paint to easily chip.

The primer I used is a 'paint in one hour' type so after cleaning my garage a bit I was able to come back and finally start painting.

third: painting

Now that your rocking chair is primed, it is not ready to paint! I found this beautiful beige colour that goes with everything and is timeless. I'm so glad I did because it made the old chair look brand new!

Following the directions of your paint, add two coats.

Let dry.

fourth: updating the cushions

This is the perfect step to do while your chair dries. You can always buy the cushions already made or you can make your own!

Be aware that upholstery/furniture fabric is quite expensive, can be anywhere from $20-40 a meter. But remember: always look in the sale corner/isle of your store! I found this beautiful Waverly upholstery fabric in the sale corner in the fabric store for only $6 a meter.

how I refurbished an old Rocking chair for cheap. Easy Tutorial

As for the cushions, I used the ones that came with the chair, used them as a pattern, and then covered them with the new cushion covers. Always being thrifty and saving money!

optional: sealing it 

The chair is now painted and the cushions are ready to be placed on. But will you choose to seal (finish) the paint or will you just let it be?

I left my rocking chair/glider as is, I didn't add the sealer as I liked the semi-matte look of the chair. But if you want extra protection I recommend using this polycrylic glossy sealer, which I've used in many projects and leaves the material looking semi-glossy and smooth to the touch and makes it easier for cleaning/wiping.

Add the cushions and you are done. 

You have just refurbished an old rocking chair (or any piece of old furniture)!

Wasn't that easy?

I love how my chair turned out. It looks so modern, cute, and fun! 

It now sits (pun intended!) in my living room and it is getting lots of use. Sometimes I'll take it outside to my front porch just to rock back and relax while listening to the birds. It's one of those projects that I'd love to do again, maybe with a bright color like aqua?

What do you think? Would you refurbish an old piece of furniture? Have you made any projects during quarantine?

Til next week

Loren Camila

P.S My Etsy shop is having a sale! It's my birthday week and all my printable art/decor and blog post planner are on sale. Go check it out here!


  1. The new refurbished chair looks so pretty! Painting it white makes it look more modern.

  2. It looks so good! I’m always hesitant to try things like this because I want it to be perfect right away, but this explanation gives me some hope, so thank you 😊

    1. Thank you. and I'm Glad that it was helpful to you!

  3. Wow, what a before an after! You did an amazing job :) I'm not very handy with things like this but wish I was!

    1. Thank you, Jenny!It super easy for beginners, it was my first time doing something like it.

  4. Such an amazing before and after. Your chair looks amazing now. I need to send this to my mum, she's been wanting to do up an old dining set of my grandparents for a while now x


    1. Thank you, Sophie! It is definitely a project for beginners, f you know how to paint then you're ready to go!

  5. You have done a great job, it looks so pretty and a great addition! Thank you for sharing the process!

    Lauren |

    1. Thank you, Lauren! Since it was a fairly easy project, I thought to share it so it could help others.

  6. Oh wow, you've made an absolutely beautiful job of this! I would never have thought of refurbishing a chair like this, I am so rubbish at DIY. I love how you've laid out the step by step so it's really easy to follow. And I agree with you, I prefer a matt look as well, shiny just looks wrong on older furniture :) Lisa

  7. This is very cool! Love the way it turned out. I've never thought about refurbishing any furniture, but I'd like to try now. ;)


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