How To Refinish A Table: An Organized Guide For You!




So, I just refinished my dining room table last year, and you won’t believe how good it turned out.

Honestly, I had no idea how to do that. You will be surprised that it was my first DIY project, and I nailed it!

I was considering hiring a professional, but my neighbor Robert stepped in and said he would help me. 

I trusted him because he had some experience, and I am proud of myself for that decision.

He guided and assisted me through the entire process and taught me everything. How to refinish a table? I’ll help you with that. Here’s everything I learned throughout my restoration journey.

How To Refinish A Table

Refinish A Table

Assess the entire table and find out the issues that need to be fixed before the refinishing process. Then, clean the wood table and fix the issues such as dents, splits, cracks, etc. Now, you can refinish your wood table following the proper guidelines. 

It was a quick overview for you to understand the content better. But don’t start it yet! The biggest thing I learned from Robert is that there’s a right way of doing everything.

So, stay with me to learn all the details!

A quick overview of the project-

Summery of the article is-

  • The refinishing process can be simple or complex depending on the size and shape of your table. 
  • Make sure to wear rubber gloves on your hands before you start the process.
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper is used for smoothing and refining the surface before applying a new finish.
Estimated CostEstimated DurationSkill Level
$160hours Beginner

Things That Influence The Refinishing Of Table

How do you refinish a table for beginners? Before Robert, when I was a complete beginner, I tried searching for this question everywhere.

The answers were only about the refinishing process. No one mentioned the other important things that influence the process.

When I worked with Robert, I was surprised to find out how important these things are. So, I think you should know them before anything else. These are;

Things That Influence The Refinishing Of Table

Current Condition

If you are confused about whether or not to sand or strip, you need to know the current condition of your table.

You can understand how much it influences the refinishing of your table by this. A lot of the decisions you need to make during the process depend on you.

So, I suggest carefully assessing your entire table before you start the process. 

Type Of Wood

Whether you use wood stain, paint, or finish, you need to know the type of wood of your table to choose the right products for your table.

Size And Shape

The process will be simple or complex depending on the size and shape of your table. 

Also, you will need to consider the size and shape of your table to collect the right materials and the amount of materials.

Previous Finish

The previous finish influences the type of the new finish, the materials of the process, and also the actual process.

Desired Finish

Everything about the process will depend on your expectations of the finish. 

You need to decide whether to stain or paint, which type of paint or stain to use, which materials and process to use, etc, depending on your desired finish. 


The budget will affect the amount and type of the materials which will ultimately influence the process.

These factors influence all your decisions for the refinishing process. 

As a result, your materials, types of finish and stains, and even processes get affected by these things.

From my personal experience so far, I would suggest considering all these factors carefully before you make any decisions.

It may sound weird to you now but trust me, you will understand the difference later.

However, if you notice any of these signs on your mahogany table, then be sure it is time to refinish the mahogany table.

The Materials Needed To Refinish A Table

Do you know what is the most important thing in any woodworking project? It is the materials used for the process. Those materials are needed even if you are wondering How to refinish a dining room table?

The Materials Needed To Refinish A Table

Well, you don’t need to be worried about it. These are the materials that you need to refinish a table;

MaterialPurpose Of UseEstimated Cost 
Grit Sandpaper & Electrical SanderTo smoothen the rough surface and remove the leftover stain or finish.$50
Wood Stain Or PaintTo add a new color to your table.$30
Wood FinishAdds a protective layer to your table.$25
Wood FillersTo fill the gaps, dents, holes, cracks, or splits in your table.$15
Applicators (Brushes)To apply the paint, stain, or finish$10
Safety Tools (masking tapes, drop clothes, safety goggles, rubber gloves, etc)To protect the surroundings and yourself during the process.$30

Well, don’t be worried if you don’t have any of these products. Why is that so? To be honest, these are available in local stores as well as in the Facebook marketplace.

How To Refinish A Table?

Actually, I must tell you one thing before you move forward with the refinishing process, there are many methods for many types of wood and desire. Such as;

Assess The Table

For any wood furniture project, you should always start by assessing the entire wood surface.

It will help you get an idea of the current condition of your piece of furniture. Do you remember what I said earlier?

It is important for you to know the current condition of your table to make the necessary decisions.  

Clean The Table

You must clean your table properly before you start the process. Cleaning helps to remove dust and debris from your table, and it helps to achieve a smooth finish.

Use mineral spirits to properly clean the table. 

Remove The Old Finish

How to strip and refinish a table? Let’s start with the stripping part.

To remove the old finish, use chemical strippers. You should always be careful while dealing with chemical strippers. Apply the stripper using a tack cloth. 

To strip off the old, use a soft cloth, putty knife, or wire brush. For solid wood, it is better to use a wire brush as they are porous.

To refinish a table that is not real wood like engineered or raw wood, you should use a soft cloth.

Make sure to wear rubber gloves on your hands before you start. It will help to keep your hands safe while working.

Sand The Table 

Use grit sandpaper to sand your entire table. You can use an orbital sander, but it is better to use grit sandpaper.

If you want to keep the natural color of the wood table or the table has a lighter wood finish, I suggest going for the alternative options instead of sanding or stripping them.

Make sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain.

With Stain

Now, you must be wondering, how to refinish a table with stain. Well, apply the wood stain on the entire wood surface using a tack cloth or a paintbrush. You should apply a few thin coats of stain. Do not forget to remove the excess stain from the wood to avoid a sticky finish.

So, after applying a coat, let it rest. When it is completely dried, sand the wood surface before applying the next coat. It helps to ensure a smooth finish.

Repeat this process, and for the final coat, apply a slightly thicker coat of stain. 

With Paint

Now, How to refinish a table with paint? To use paint, you need to apply a primer. It helps to prepare the wooden furniture for paint.

For the rest of the application process, it is the same as the wood stain process.

How to refinish a table top with polyurethane? If you have understood the previous process, refinishing with polyurethane is the same as refinishing with paint.

Not Real Wood

How to refinish a table that is not real wood? There are some things you need to keep in mind for this one.

  • It is better to avoid sanding or stripping.
  • Use a gel stain. It will refresh the existing finish.

The rest of the process is completely the same as other wood tables.

Without Sanding

How to refinish a table without sanding? To refinish without sanding, use an effective chemical stripper so all the previous finish comes off at once.

However, you can refinish a coffee table without sanding the same way and can definitely get a good result.

With Veneer

How to refinish a table with veneer? To refinish a veneer table, the process is the same but some things you need to keep in mind are that;

  • Sand lightly and gently.
  • Apply a wax finish to enhance the beauty of the veneer.

With Laminate Top

How to refinish a table with laminate top? Again, the process is completely the same as the other ones.

From my previous experience, shellac is the best finish for laminate tops. So, consider this to enhance the natural beauty of your tabletop.

Without Stripping

Actually, most of my friends or clients always ask me, How to refinish a table top without stripping. Is it actually possible? Well, the answer is yes possible.

To refinish the kitchen table without stripping, you just need to use chemical strippers such as mineral spirits to remove the existing finishes from the table instead of sandpaper. Boom! You are done!

No worries you can still refinish your table and gain a smooth and impressive finish look.

Also, it is a safe option for delicate woodworking projects like refinishing a burl wood table.

With Water Stains

How to refinish a table top with water stains? Water stains are mostly on the wood surface. So, if you sand or strip the old finish, the water stain will come off too.

So, don’t worry about that. You already know the rest of the process.

That’s all about the refinishing process. I have mentioned all the possible ways of refinishing a wood table. However, it can take a long time to refinish a table because the process is kind of lengthy.

If you follow these guidelines, you will be able to refinish your wood table no matter what problems you encounter. The impressive result will definitely make you think it is worth refinishing a dining room table or any other table.

Types Of Table Damage That Can Be Refinished 

Is it worth it to refinish a wood table? From someone who just experienced the difference, let me tell you.

You will be amazed to see the difference between a refinish dining table before and after. The difference is clearly visible.

All the small damages I had on my table such as scratches, water stains, discoloration, etc are all gone.

Yes! You heard me right. A lot of the damages can be fixed by refinishing your table. Curious to know what they are? Here you go;

Types Of Table Damage That Can Be Refinished

Scratches & Water Stains

Scratches get fixed while sanding and stripping off the previous finish. 

So, if you have small scratches all over your table, things that you don’t even notice, all of these will be fixed when you refinish your table.

The same goes for water stains too.

Dents, Cracks & Splits

You must already know that you can’t refinish any piece of wood furniture without filling any existing gaps.

Filling dents, cracks, spills, and other small holes is necessary for refinishing. 

Faded Finish & Discoloration

When you remove the previous finish from your table to apply the new finish, all the faded finish and discoloration on the table finish will be automatically fixed.

Now that you know the types of table damage that can be refinished, here is a quick summary of these damages and why these occur;

Type Of DamageDescription
Scratches & Water StainsWear marks from everyday use.
DentsResults of heavy objects falling on the table.
Cracks & SplitsHappens due to changes in humidity levels and temperature.
Faded FinishWhen the original finish fades away over time.
DiscolorationHappens due to exposure to chemicals and direct sunlight, or aging.

My purpose was to help you understand why these damages happen in the first place so you can avoid them in the future.

I hope it helped!


What Sandpaper Do I Need To Refinish A Table?

There are a lot of different kinds of sandpaper available. I thought it would be difficult for you to understand them as it was for me.

So, here I am to help you with a sandpaper guide; 

What Sandpaper Do I Need To Refinish A Table
Type Of SandpaperGrit RangeUse Of The Sandpaper
Coarse Grit Sandpaper60-80It is used to remove the top layer.
Medium Grit Sandpaper100-150It is used to smoothen the surface and remove the residue after initial stripping.
Fine Grit Sandpaper180-220It is used for smoothing and refining the surface before applying a new finish.
Extra Fine Grit Sandpaper320-400It is used to achieve a smooth and polished look, mostly for a finishing look.

Now, you can easily choose a sandpaper depending on your needs.

Precautions While Working With Chemical Strippers Or Sanding Materials

To be very honest, it is necessary to take safety precautions while working with chemical strippers or sanding materials. You may think this is just a work with wood so why would you take safety precautions?

But buddy, your safety should be your first priority. Many people get hurt during these procedures because of not taking safety precautions.

Anyways, to protect yourself you can take these safety precautions and complete the process without any kind of danger and problems. Such as;

  • Wear clothes that cover your whole body. You can wear old clothes to avoid ruining your clothes. Wearing an apron is a must.
  • Be careful not to touch your eyes or mouth while working or the chemical strippers can go to your eyes and mouth.
  • Make sure to keep a first aid kit near you while working so that you can have the primary aid in case of emergency.
  • The work area must be a well-ventilated area. The air should be able to circulate in and out of the work area.
  • You must properly dispose of the sanding materials and the chemical stripper waste while maintaining your local regulations.
  • Store the leftover sanding materials and chemical stripper in a chill and dry space. 

Your life is precious, right? So what are you looking for? Take these precautions and keep yourself safe while refinishing your table.

Some Creative Or Decorative Finishes That Can Be Applied To A Refinished Table

How about if I share some amazing hacks and secrets about the finishes? That might sound really good right? I know it is.

Well, I have a list of some creative or decorative finishes that definitely can be applied to refinish your precious table. No, I am absolutely not lying. Here you go;

Some Creative Or Decorative Finishes That Can Be Applied To A Refinished Table
Type Of FinishCharacteristics
Distressed FinishIt gives a rustic and weathered appearance.
Chalk Paint FinishIt gives a matte, velvety finish with a shabby chic look.
Stencil DesignIt can be a floral design, geometric pattern, or any other motif design.
Decoupage FinishIt is created by adhering a decorative paper or fabric to the table using decoupage glue.
Marble Faux FinishIt gives a marble effect and is created by a faux painting technique.

Free Tips!!

Alrighty, folks! Ever had a wobbly table leg ruin your day? Wondering how to bring that woolly table back to life or jazz up your console table? No worries, we’ve got your back! Check out our article for all the juicy details – and a sprinkle of humor, of course!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

What Is The Best Sandpaper For Wood?

Actually, fine-grit sandpaper is the best choice for wood.

Can I Paint My Wooden Table Instead Of Staining It?

You can obviously paint your wooden table instead of staining it. But make sure you are using the appropriate paints.

What If The Table Can’t Be Refinished?

It is better to hire a professional or replace the table if the table can’t be refinished.

What Is The Easiest Way To Refinish A Wood Table?

Actually, the easiest way to refinish a wooden table is to prepare the table, sand it, apply the finish, and let it dry before starting to use the table.

How Do You Refinish A Table Without Sanding It?

Basically, you need to use chemical strippers instead of sandpaper to refinish the table without sanding it.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, now you have the proper solution to how to refinish a table. To be honest, refinishing a table is a lengthy and time-consuming task and anyone can easily get bored.

But if you follow these easy guidelines above and joyfully run the process, you can seriously gain the best outcome so far. 

So what are you waiting for dear? Start refinishing your table and enjoy the amazing outcome.

Good luck!
If you are interested in learning more about restoring a table, stay 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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