When I am asked this question I nearly always hesitate. Often, the answer is not so clear cut. Lets start with the obvious. You have a dining room table that cost $2500.00 new, is mahogany veneer on a solid substrate, and the finish is worn out. You also happen to like the table and it fits your living room and matches your server. This table is clearly worth refinishing. We can give you a new finish, color match it to the rest of the furniture, and the finish will be twice as durable as what you had before.
Now let’s say you inherited your grandmother’s dining room table. The finish is completely worn, but the table is sound and the wood is in good condition and has a beautiful grain pattern. If you tried to sell it, you would be lucky to get $200.00 for it. But, you loved your grandmother and you really like the table. It fits your dining room space perfectly. We can refinish it for less then what it would cost to buy a new table and give you a better finish. In fact, we will put a finish on the table that will make your table appear to have been quite expensive and also get you to a color that you really love. So, in this case, I think it is worth refinishing.
Finally, let’s say you have an old chest of drawers. You picked it up at a yard sale for $15.00. The veneer on the drawers is missing in 3 or 4 places. The substrate is plywood and is delaminating in spots. The drawers runners are all worn. There are chips of veneer missing from the lower sides and top. You have not emotional attachment to the chest. I would tell you that it is not worth refinishing. The cost of the repairs alone, will far exceed the value. This chest would be a candidate for a gold old fashioned weekend “shabby chic” paint job or the basement for storing tools.
There are many examples of when a particular piece may seem as though it is not worth refinishing, but it is. On the flip side, I have looked a many very expensive pieces, purchased through a designer and “made in Europe”, and they are nothing more then throwaway furniture. The veneer is too thin, the substrate will expand like a sponge if exposed to water, and/or the “really durable” finish on the table cannot be stripped off.