In For your practice

Budget Clinic Fit-out that looks fabulous

Whether you are starting out in practice or starting again keeping your budget under control is paramount. And you can save a fortune with a budget clinic fit-out approach. A major expenditure item when is furniture so being able to reduce your outlay can help reduce the stress levels and/ or allow you to use valuable funds elsewhere like for marketing your practice. Finding damaged second hand furniture can save you a fortune and with a little elbow grease you can restore the pieces to their former glory.

Here’s an example of some pieces I restored recently and how to step by step instructions.

  • 2 desks in poor condition $AUD50 total
  • Paint stripper 2 ltrs $AUD24
  • Varnish (water based) 1 ltr $AUD23
  • Japan black stain $AUD21
  • Stain cloth $AUD8
  • Cling film sandwich wrap           $AUD4.50
  • Steel wool medium grade          $AUD3.50
  • 120 grit sandpaper 2 metres $AUD7
  • Paint brush $AUD7
  • Fancy drawer knobs $AUD26
  • Total $AUD172
Desk 1 $AUD10

Desk 1 $AUD10

Desk 2 $AUD40

Desk 2 $AUD40

I don’t particularly like using the chemicals involved in this process but I also struggle with good timber furniture going to waste. I love the idea of recycling things in my clinic and putting time into the furniture so it adds a little more of my own energy into my surroundings.

Preparing the furniture

When stripping back furniture the important thing to remember is that paint stripper dries out very quickly and once dry it loses it’s effect. A way to improve the performance of paint stripper and use less of it is once you apply it quickly cover it with cling film or plastic sandwich wrap. This prevents the paint stripper from drying out and saves energy and having to use a lot more

paint stripper. Always remember when using chemicals like this to use eye protection, skin protection and chemical resistant rubber gloves. Follow the safety directions on the can as they are there for a reason.Most of the time by using the cling film you can scrap of all the layers of paint or varnish in one go. I usually leave the paint stripper on for at least 20 minutes.

Next you need to reapply a small thickness of paint stripper in sections and use the steel wool to strip back any left over varnish or paint. I always wipe it down afterwards as next you will be sanding and if there is any residue you go through the sandpaper much faster as it clogs. I use an orbital sander to sand the timber lightly and remove any of the deeper scratches that the steel wool can leave. Once finished wipe down the desk again to remove any dust.

Desk 1 stripped and sanded

Desk 1 stripped and sanded

Desk 2 stripped back

Applying the colour

Wait a day before applying the stain as sometimes any paint stripper residue can affect the stain absorbing into the timber. Apply the stain onto a rag and again make sure you use gloves, mask, skin and eye protection. Timber stain can be very difficult to get off and in some cases can cause irritation to skin etc. If you do get some on your skin it can be removed with methylated spirits. Rub the stain into the timber along the grain where possible and don’t apply too much at once as you can end up with areas being different shades. Make sure you rub the timber down so any residue stain is removed and marks are blended. Once finished again leave the timber sit overnight as stain when first applied can smear if you put varnish on too soon. If you have lightly coloured timber like pine I personally prefer using ‘Black Japan’ stain as it makes the timber go quite dark. Having a look in the hardware stores there are usually samples that show you how stains end up looking on different timber.


Final finish

Next day using a paint brush apply small amounts of water based varnish to the timber as if the coat is too thick droplets can form and dry quickly leaving a messy finish. I prevent to use a satin finish so there is some sheen but not too glossy but it is a personal preference. Always begin with the inside bits of timber so you can test that the stain doesn’t run and you can get your application technique right. Keeping the area free of dust is also vital as any dust will dry to the varnish and leave bumpy imperfections on the finish. Use a medium priced brush as cheap ones fall apart leaving brush fibres all over the finish. Wash the brush with water and leave the bristles only immersed over night.Leave the varnish to dry over night and the next day clean the brush using newspaper and make sure it’s dry before applying the next coat. In some cases if the finish is not quite right a light sand in between coats can help. Repeat process for the third coat next day.

Desk 2 looking fabulous

Desk 2 looking fabulous

Desk 1 came up a treat

Now your desk or furniture is finished and ready for the treatment room. In some cases there can be some residue smell so it can help to leave the furniture for a couple of days to ensure your clinic room doesn’t smell of varnish.

What did I save?

Well I visited a furniture store and two pine desks such as these brand new, on special were $AUD600ea so it was a huge saving of $AUD1027. Something I would much prefer to have in my pocket at the beginning of a new adventure.

Another simple idea is using unusual pieces to create useful spaces in your clinic. This antique ladder has become a feature piece in my reception as a set of shelves and took me a couple of hours over a couple of days to put together. Now it’s become a conversation piece for all of the people who enter.

Creating your own mark to make a special entrance

This is a wonderful way to save money and create something unique for your clinic. You don’t have to be super handy to do it just patient and willing to make the odd mistake. But remember it’s through mistakes we learn and grow. For more easy tips on building your practice check out our useful articles section and sign up for our free monthly e-news. All tips without the hard sell or hype.

As always wishing the best for your successful and of course Ethical Practice

Jeff Shearer

BHSc (Acu), Cert IV MT, Cert NLP, Cert CST

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