Chicago experts clear up question over furniture finish
A carpenter made an alder-wood dining room table for my wife and I, but after it was finished, it appeared to be cloudy. Does it need to be refinished?
— Angie's List member Harold Van Alstyne
Finished wood shouldn't be cloudy, especially when it's new, according to Frank Giordano, co-owner of highly rated Leo's Furniture & Upholstery Inc. in Chicago. "That usually means something's wrong with the lacquer or how it was applied," he says. "An inexpensive lacquer can cause a problem. The temperature when it's sprayed is also important. If it's humid out, it's not a great idea to finish furniture."
Giordano says the only solution is to sand and refinish the table. He estimates the average dining room table would take four to six weeks to refinish, at a cost of about $1,200. Another possibility is if the surface was cleaned using an ammonia-based cleaner, such as Windex.
"Ammonia creates a chemical reaction that makes it cloudy," Giordano says, adding that a wide array of ammonia-free cleaners are available for finished furniture surfaces.
Richard Montalbano, CEO of highly rated Montalbano Furniture Factory in Northlake, Ill., says furniture refinishers should take steps to ensure a clear finish in humid climates. "You can spray a chemical called a retarder into the finish to thin it out and have it dry clearly," he says.
He recommends using a high-quality finish. "If it's a good 12-step finish like we use, you never need to polish it," Montalbano says. "Just clean it a couple of times a year with a damp cloth and Murphy's Oil."