Professional furniture restorers and hobbyists alike all have one thing in common: the desire to pluck a piece of furniture off the side of the road and restore it to its former glory. What’s not to like? You’re saving something from a landfill and breathing new life into a forgotten item. The former owner only saw a table with broken legs and a surface marred by water rings. As a furniture restorer, you see possibility.

Furniture restoration involves tackling any aspect of work that’s required to get an old dresser or chair as close to the original condition as possible. Often, it’s more than just a facelift — it’s making the item usable again and possibly even adding value. Here are 10 tips that can help you make the old new again.

Make Sure You Have Time to Devote to the Project

You’ve just found the perfect end table for the right price: free. It’s sitting on the curb, and all it needs is a little tender loving care. You can already see how it’ll look sitting in your living room.

However, it’s important to remember that a small side project can quickly turn into a time-consuming chore, depending on your restoration skills and how many free hours you have to devote to the work. The more complex the task, the longer it’ll take to finish, so be sure you have enough time in your schedule — or are willing to give up several weekends — to finish your piece. Deep carvings can take many hours to strip and refinish. Slats and spindles are not easy to redo. If you have to remove rust, that step alone can take days of work, which is something you should keep in mind before deciding whether or not to haul that table home.

Research and Inspect

Do a little research to determine your piece’s value before you restore it. Inspect it for marks or labels that may indicate its origin. If you suspect it’s worth some money, consult a professional before proceeding with any work. Take photos of any markings or tags for your records. Removing a collectible antique’s finish could lessen or void its value, so hold off on stripping or sanding until you know exactly what you have.

If you’re not an expert furniture restorer, don’t worry. It’s easy to look for a few telltale signs of age. Feel underneath for dull interior corners. Partially unscrew a screw and look at the threads. If they have inconsistent widths between them, then the piece is probably pretty old. Remove a drawer and see if it has dovetail joints. If you find any of these things, the furniture is likely old and well made, and you should have a professional antique appraiser value the piece.

Establish a Budget

Once you’ve determined whether your found treasure is actually worth any money, you need to decide how much cash you want to sink into it. Yes, you might love the challenge of furniture restoration, but if the piece isn’t valuable, you’ll need to figure out how important it is to you. Is it something that can be repaired relatively inexpensively? Will the project cost you less than buying a new piece? Is it worth your time?

Some projects may just need a few simple fixes you can quickly complete. Others may be more involved and could wind up costing you way more than you intended to spend, which could be the reason the furniture was sitting on the curb to begin with.

Know What You Want It to Look Like 
It’s happened to every restorer: You pull a wooden table off the curb, thinking its color will nicely match the rest of the furniture in a given room, only to discover after restoration begins that the piece is actually made from lighter-colored wood and doesn’t match at all. Luckily, with a little examination, you can get an idea of the true grain’s color. Find a spot that’s been protected from everyday wear, such as the back of a drawer front. Taking a peek at an unworn area will give you an idea what the the finished product will look like.
Safety First 

When embarking on a furniture restoration project, be sure you have safety in the front of your mind. The last thing you want to do is have a splinter of wood accidentally lodge itself into your eye or be overcome by harsh fumes.

Make sure you wear long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from harmful chemicals found in wood strippers and varnish. Use safety glasses to shield your eyes. If you’re stripping or varnishing a piece, wear a mask and work in a well-ventilated room to keep strong vapors at bay.

Read more: