The most important step you need to take when re-loving a piece of your furniture is to prepare it correctly.
The type and amount of prep you will need to do depends on these things:
- What the exisiting finish is (if any) on your chosen piece.
- What condition the piece is in.
- How clean (or dirty) it is.
- The type of finish you wish to achieve.
If you have a piece that is in pretty good condition, with maybe just a few dings and scratches, has been previously coated with an acrylic or oil based sealer and doesn't have any areas of cracking, flaking or blistered paint/varnish, you will just need to give the surfaces a good clean. You can use warm, soapy water, or sugar soap to do this. If there are any really grimy or greasy areas it's best to go overboard and clean the surface twice. Using neat detergent on really greasy areas works a treat, but just ensure that you wash it off well before starting. You can use a very fine grade (try 0000) steel wool whilst you have your detergent on as well. You might be amazed at how much grime comes off something that looks clean on first inspection!
Sanding is required if you have any areas that are flaking, blistered or badly cracked. Try not to sand through to bare timber if possible. This may increase the risk of tannin bleed from the timber through your newly painted surface.
If you do chose to sand, just give the flat surfaces a light, scuff sand to break the surface tension. Don't forget to clean again to get all the sanding dust off before you start.