How Do You Refinish A Wood Table? Get A New Table Without Buying One




I was just staring at our old, beat-up wood table when my mom walked over. “You’re thinking about fixing this table, aren’t you?” she asked, smiling.

“Yeah,” I admitted, “but how do you refinish a wood table.”

How Do You Refinish A Wood Table

Refinish Wood Table

“It’s easier than you think,” Mom said. She laid it out simply: “Clean it first, then strip off the old stuff. Sand it to make it smooth. Next, stain it to bring out the color, and finally, seal it to protect it.”

She moved her hands as if she were doing the work, showing me each step. “We’ll need to grab some supplies like sandpaper, stain, and sealant. But once we’re done, it’ll look amazing.”

I could almost see the table transforming with each step she described. It felt like something we could definitely do.

Main Facts:

  • Damage to wood tables can be caused by water spills, excessive sun exposure, harsh cleaners, scratches, dents, and neglect.
  • Tools and materials needed for refinishing a wood table include stripper, stain, polyurethane, sandpaper, steel wool, brushes, rags, tack cloth, sander (optional), rubber gloves, mineral spirits, and protective gear.
  • To refinish a wood table, clean the surface, apply stripper if necessary, sand the surface, apply stain, and finish with a protective sealant.

What Causes Damage To The Wood Table?

Before getting into how do I refinish a wood table top? But first, find out what causes damage to your wood table that forces you to refinish it. For the following reasons, your table can be damaged:

What Causes Damage To The Wood Table
  • Water Spills: Water can really mess up your wood table. If you leave wet stuff on your old wooden table, the wood can get stains, swell up, or even warp. Thus, water spilling can cause damage to a wood table.
  • Too Much Sun or Heat: Keeping your table in the sun or putting hot items on it can fade the oil finish and make the wood crack or bend. This ruins the look of the wood grain.
  • Harsh Cleaners: If you clean your wood furniture with strong chemicals or chemical strippers, you’ll take off the finish. This leaves the wood surface looking dull and damaged. Especially on your dining room table.
  • Scratches and Dents: Sharp things or cleaning too hard without using coasters can scratch or dent your table. This affects how your entire table looks.
  • Wrong Cleaning Tools: Using tools like a putty knife or orbital sander the wrong way can permanently damage the wood grain. Always clean up after with a tack cloth to catch all the dust.
  • Not Taking Care of It: If you don’t regularly clean, polish, or re-oil your table, the wood can dry out. This makes it more likely to get damaged.

How Do I Know If My Wood Table Needs Refinishing?

By seeing your old table, you may often think how do you refinish a wooden table. But before, you need to know when your wood table requires refinishing. At the following times, you will understand that you need to refinish your tabletop.

How Do I Know If My Wood Table Needs Refinishing
  • Look at your table: If your whole table looks old and scratched, it’s time to make it look new again. You need to refinish your wobbly table.
  • See the wood lines: Can you see the lines in the wood clearly? If not, because of scratches or stains, it’s time to fix it up.
  • Touch the table: Does your table feel sticky or rough? That means the top layer isn’t protecting the wood anymore.
  • Find any deep marks: If there are deep scratches or water stains, the wood itself is damaged. You’ll need to refinish your table.
  • Check the oil finish: Does the oil finish look dry or patchy? Then, it might be time for a fresh start.
  • Try with sandpaper: Rub a hidden spot with rough sandpaper. If the finish comes off easily or the wood looks bad, you need to work on it.
  • Decide if it needs work: If cleaning with a cloth doesn’t make your table look better, you need to do more.
  • Use steel wool: Lightly rub a small spot with steel wool. If the finish gets worse or the wood changes color, it’s time for a change.
  • Think about where to do it: Make sure you have a place with lots of air to work safely because of the fumes.

Tools And Materials Do I Need To Refinish A Wood Table

Ok, now it’s time to refinish the wooden table. But to repair a wooden table, you need some tools and materials. I know what you are thinking: there is dozen of  tools and materials you need to refinish your table top. But there are only few you need to table repair. Such as:

  • Stripper & Putty Knife: Got an old, painted table? You’ll need these to scrape off the old paint or varnish and get it ready for a makeover.
  • Oil-based Stain: This stuff changes or refreshes your table’s color. It soaks into the wood and shows off the cool patterns in the wood.
  • Oil-based Polyurethane or Tung Oil: These keep your table safe from spills and wear. Pick one based on how shiny you want your table to be at the end.
  • Sandpaper (100-, 150-, 220-grit): Start with the rough 100-grit to smooth out the bumpy spots. Then use the finer ones to get it super smooth for staining.
  • Fine Steel Wool: After staining, rub yoru table with this to get rid of any tiny bumps before you seal it.
  • Stain Brushes & Cotton Rags: Use the brushes to apply the stain and the rags to wipe off the extra. This helps you control how dark the color gets.
  • Tack Cloth: This sticky cloth picks up all the dust from sanding. It’s a must to clean your table before you stain it.
  • Sander (optional): If you’re working on a big table, this tool can save you a lot of time. But you might still need to hand-sand some parts.
  • Rubber Gloves: These protect your hands from the chemicals you’re using. Always wear them.
  • Long-sleeve Shirt & Goggles: Keep your skin and eyes safe from splashes and dust. Always work in a place with good air flow.
  • Mineral Spirits: This cleaner is great for spills or cleaning your tools. It also makes sure your table is totally clean before you start the makeover.

How Do You Refinish A Wood Table?

Got everything you want? Great, now let’s start refinishing your wood table. Follow the easy ways below:

Clean the Surface

First off, clean your table with some soap and water. This gets rid of any grime. If there’s old paint or varnish, you’ll need to strip it off next.

How Do You Refinish A Wood Table

Apply Stripper

Grab a chemical stripper from the store to get rid of old paint or varnish. Read the instructions and put it on carefully. Let it sit, then scrape it off gently with a putty knife, following the wood’s lines to avoid damage. You might need to do this more than once. Afterward, smooth the table with fine steel wool. Refinishing wood table without stripping doesn’t work well. 

Clean With Mineral Spirits

After stripping, and once your table is dry, wipe it down with mineral spirits using a soft cloth. This cleans off any leftover stripper. Let it dry well before you move on.

Sand Table Surface

Now, sand the table. Always go with the wood’s natural grain to keep it looking good. Start with coarse sandpaper and move to finer ones until it feels smooth. Clean off the dust with a tack cloth when you’re done.

Apply Stain

Use a brush and go with the grain. Let the stain sit a bit, then wipe off any excess stain with a cotton rag. You might need a few coats to get the color you want. Sand lightly between coats with 220-grit or fine steel wool, then wipe it clean. This keeps it smooth.

Apply Finish

Finally, after the stain dries (wait about 24 hours), put on an oil finish or polyurethane. Do at least two coats, letting each one dry completely. This step protects your table, making it last longer.

How Do I Protect The Newly Refinished Wood Table?

After refinishing your wood table with all that hassle, you, of course, don’t want its shine to go away, right? Well, then:

  • Always Use Coasters and Placemats: Keep your wood table safe by using coasters for drinks and placemats for hot dishes. This stops water rings and heat damage on the wood surface.
  • Keep It Out of the Sun: Sunlight can fade and damage your table. Try to keep it away from direct sunlight to protect the wood grain and oil finish.
  • Put on Sealants Regularly: Every now and then, brush on some oil finish or other protectors. This keeps spills and scratches from hurting your wood furniture.
  • Dust the Right Way: Use a soft cloth or tack cloth to pick up dust gently. Stay away from strong cleaners that could mess up the wood surface.
  • Cover It for Big Projects or Meals: If you’re doing something messy or having a big dinner, throw a tablecloth on. It helps keep the solid wood from getting scratched or stained.
  • Be Careful with Cleaners: Clean up spills with just a damp cloth, not strong chemicals. Those harsh cleaners can strip the oil finish and damage the wood.
  • Polish Softly: Now and then, use a gentle polish that’s okay for your table’s oil finish. It makes the wood grain look nice and adds some protection.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

What Does Refinishing A Wood Table Involve?

Refinishing means you’re going to clean your table, strip off the old finish, sand it to be smooth, and then put on a new coat of stain or finish. It’s like giving your table a new look.

What Is The Easiest Way To Refinish A Wood Table?

You should start by cleaning your table. Then, you should use a chemical stripper to take off the old finish. You have to sand it until it’s smooth. Finally, you should finish by applying a new stain or sealant.

Can I Refinish My Wood Table Myself, Or Should I Hire A Professional?

You can definitely refinish your table yourself if you like doing projects and have some time. It requires effort but you can do it. If your table is really valuable or you’re not sure about doing it, you can hire a professional.

Final Note 

Let’s sum up our guide on how do you refinish a wood table. Refinishing an old table isn’t just about making it look better. It’s about giving your space a new feel. Just clean it, strip off the old stuff, sand it smooth, stain it to pop, and seal it to last. This way, any old piece can look amazing again. It’s pretty straightforward when you break it down: with the right tools and effort, any furniture can get a second chance. Got more to restore? Then be with restore journey.

Richard Journey

Written by

Richard Journey

Meet Richard Journey, the Antique Furniture Maestro. With a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Restoration and Conservation, he’s a guardian of historical craftsmanship. His accolades include the Golden Chisel Award, and he’s your guide to discovering and restoring antique treasures.

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