Whatever the color of your piece of furniture, there is always a fix.

How to Repair Chipped Furniture Finish

by Nikki Fotheringham

If you have a favorite piece of furniture that has been damaged resulting in a chip in the finish, do not throw it away. You can repair it with some very basic tools and a little time. Wooden furniture lacquer becomes brittle over time and can eventually chip if struck by something hard. These chips can become unsightly and make the piece of furniture look old and damaged. You can repair these chips, returning your piece of furniture to a beautiful piece you will cherish for years.

Sand the area in and around the chip to remove some of the finish and expose some of the bare wood around the chip. Remember to always sand with the grain of the wood, in the same direction as the growth lines, starting with the 220-grit sand paper before moving on to the 360-grit paper to smooth the surface.

Apply some wood putty with a putty knife if there are any dents or if the chip continues into the wood. Smooth and level the putty to the surface of the wood around the chip. Allow the putty to dry and harden for 12 to 24 hours. Once the putty has dried, check to make sure it is still level with the surface of the wood; some putty may shrink while drying and will require another application.

Sand the area of the dried putty using the 360-grit sandpaper to create a uniform, smooth surface.

Clean the area you have been working on using some mineral spirits and a cloth.

Use the wood grain pencil to continue any growth lines or patterns in the wood to disguise the putty and make the repaired chip blend into the wood. Many different colors and tones of wood grain pencils are available at hardware stores; be sure to select the color and tone that best matches your piece of furniture.

Apply some clear polyurethane topcoat using a paintbrush. Paint the finish onto and around the site of the chip covering all the area that you sanded. Allow 12 to 24 hours for the polyurethane to dry. Polyurethane finishes are available in a number of different finish types: gloss, semi-glossy and matte; select the type that best matches the furniture you are repairing.

Rub down the area of the repair using some fine steel wool. Like sanding, remember to rub it with the grain and not against. Rubbing abrasives against the grain of wood will lead to unsightly scratch marks.

Items you will need

  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • 360-grit sandpaper
  • Wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • Mineral spirits
  • Cloth
  • Wood grain pencil
  • Clear polyurethane finish
  • Paint brush
  • Fine steel wool


  • If the color does not turn out the way you wanted, repeat using a different color wood grain pencil.


  • Apply polyurethane finishes in a well ventilated area.

About the Author

Nikki Fotheringham is a Toronto green living blogger specializing in environmentally friendly building technologies, renewable energy and all things green. She's the copy editor for Greenmoxie.com which dispenses green living advice for urban dwellers. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact).

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images