How To Restore A Wooden Table: Learn Everything In One Go




Hey enthusiast,

Is your wooden table damaged somewhere? Do you want to know how to make your wooden table lively again? 

Or are you looking for ways to live with your favorite wooden table for a long time? Whatever you want, I have the easiest solutions for you.

These are the things I learned from other wood lovers all around the world and my personal experiences as a xylophile (someone who loves wood). 

So, are you looking for an all-in-one guide on how to restore a wooden table? Here it is. Enjoy!

How To Restore A Wooden Table

To help you understand better, here’s a little sneak peek;

Restore A Wooden Table

Clean the entire table and carefully look for possible damages. Now, fix the damages using the right methods. If you want to keep your table’s natural color and pattern, apply a gel stain, and you don’t need to sand the table. To add a new finish, sand and apply the stain and finish.

Hey! Don’t go yet. I have a lot more to share with you. We can have a chat. I always love a good chat when it comes to anything about woodwork. Are you ready? Let’s go!

An overview of the project-

Some Main Facts-

  • Splits and cracks can happen due to the use of low-quality wood. But it is mainly caused by direct heat exposure.
  • To remove dents and holes, you will need a wood filler and a putty knife. 
  • You should apply a primer before you paint your table.
Estimated CostEstimated DurationSkill LevelTools And Materials
$60010 hoursBeginnerMineral spirit, soft cloth, tack cloth, damp towel, wood filler, putty knife, petroleum jelly, grit sandpaper, wood stain, furniture oil.

Causes & Signs That Can Damage Wooden Table

How to restore a timber table? Whether it is a timber table or any other type of wood table, you need to know a few things before you move to the restoration process.

To fix the damages properly, you need to know the causes. This way, you will be able to understand the fixing process better.

Do you want to learn about the causes? These are;

Causes & Signs That Can Damage Wooden Table

Physical Damage

Are there any scratches, gauges, dents, or holes in your wood table? 

Any sharp object or other external factors cause these physical damages. Your table may have gotten damaged while moving it or other things around it. Physical damage is a real headache even if you are refinishing a fake wooden table.


Are there watermarks on your dining room table? Is there any visible swelling or signs of warping? It is because water or any other liquid was spilled on your table, and it was there for some time. This problem also happened to the glass top on a wooden dining table. Which needs immediate action if you wanna save your wooden dining table.

Heat Exposure

Does your wooden table have splits or cracks somewhere? It is probably because your piece of furniture is exposed to heat.

Splits and cracks can happen due to the use of low-quality wood. But it is mainly caused by direct heat exposure.

The heat exposure can be getting hit by direct sunlight or being around other heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, etc.

Temperature Fluctuation

Is there a constant change of humidity where your wooden furniture is placed? Is the humidity level continuously going excessively high or low?

This fluctuation in temperature can cause a lot of problems with your wood furniture. It can lead to severe swelling, warping, or serious cracks and splits.

Either way, your piece of furniture will lose its structural integrity.

Chemical Cleaners

Is there discoloration or any damage to the appearance of your wooden table? 

Chances are, these are caused by the chemical cleaners or abrasive cloths like steel wool that you use to clean your wood table.

Methods To Restore Wooden Furniture

Actually, I must share one thing with you, there are a few methods to restore wooden furniture. Such as;

RefinishingYou need to sand down the old finish and apply a new one to restore the finish of the table.
Repairing damageYou need to fix the damaged parts of the table and restore the old beautiful look.
Polishing and waxingYou need to apply polish or wax to add a protective layer and enhance the natural beauty of the wooden piece.
Restoring hardwareYou need to repair or replace the damaged hardware like knobs, hinges, etc.

How To Restore A Wooden Table?

How do you restore the surface of a wood table? There are 5 simple steps to make your wooden table new again. Let’s break down the steps;

How To Restore A Wooden Table

Clean The Table

Remove all the other objects from the wooden table. Now, clean the table using a mild cleaner and a soft cloth. You can use mineral spirits for a better cleaning.

Fix The Damages

How to repair a wooden table top? Carefully inspect the entire table and look for possible damages. You must repair the damages before the next steps.

We have already talked about the different causes of wood damage. So, you know there are different types of damage.

Let me tell you one thing. Don’t stress, okay? There are different fixing processes for each type of damage.

Let’s discover each of the processes;

Scratches And Gauges

Whether there are scratches on a laminate wood table or any other wooden table, sand the scratched part. It will remove the existing finish. 

Now, if you refinish the repair with the original finish of the table, no one will know there were scratches on the wood table.

Dents and Holes

To remove dents and holes, you will need a wood filler and a putty knife. 

Fill the dents with the wood filler using the putty knife. Let it rest until it is completely dry. 


To fix a discolored wood table or watermarks, apply some petroleum jelly on the watermarks. Let it be for a few hours. You can leave it overnight for better results.

Wipe it off with a tack cloth. The watermarks will be gone.

Well, then How to repair a wood table with acetone damage? You can apply a mix of petroleum jelly and baking soda on the damaged part.

Warped Wood

How to repair a wood table with heat damage? Well, To fix the warped wood table from water, expose the warped part to direct sunlight. But that also causes them heat damage.

Use a damp towel to cover so it doesn’t get directly hit by sunlight.

Give it some time to rest. Once the natural moisture content level of the wood is balanced, it will be even again.

How to repair a wooden table leg? It is the same as the rest of the process.

Sand The Table

What to do to smooth a rough wood table top? That’s easy just Sand it!

You can sand only the damaged part so that you can refinish it to match the original finish. Or you can sand the entire table if you want to refinish the entire table.

Use coarse grit sandpaper to sand the wooden table. You can use normal grit sandpaper if you want. 

But coarse sandpapers are a better option as they help to achieve a smoother finish.

Always sand in the direction of the wood grain.

Apply Stain

How do you restore a wood table without sanding it? If you want to restore the natural colors of the wood surface without sanding or stripping it, apply a gel stain on the wood surface. 

You can also apply a new stain if you want a lighter or darker finish. The depth of colors entirely depends on your choice and preference.

Apply a few, thin coats of stain and sand the table between each coat. For the last coat, apply a slightly thicker coat.

Refinish The Table

How to refinish a wooden table top? Here’s how-

Apply a protective layer of finish to save the wooden table from external factors. If it is a solid wood table, the best finish would be any furniture oil finish.

I highly recommend applying teak oil. It enhances the natural wood grains and gives off a matte finish.

The application process is the same as applying wood stain. You can fix a faded wood table by refinishing it just like that.

How do you make a wood table look new again? If you follow all of the 5 steps properly, you will be able to make your table as good as new.

Types Of Stains That Can and Can’t Be Completely Removed From Wood Furniture

How about if I ask you, do you know if all types of stains are removable? In case, you don’t know, let me help you, actually, all kinds of stains are not completely removable. Let me share a glimpse with you;

Types Of Stains That Can and Can’t Be Completely Removed From Wood Furniture
RemovableNot Completely Removable
Water stainsHeat stains
Grease stainsAlcohol stains
Smoke stainsOxidizable stains
Paint stainsInk stains

How Do I Remove Stains From Wood?

I know how troublesome it can be to have stains on your favorite wood table. I have dealt with some of the most stubborn stains over the last few years.

Here are some great ways to remove stains from wood;

Baking Soda And Toothpaste

Make a paste using equal amounts of baking soda and toothpaste. Gently rub the paste on the stain for a few minutes using a soft cloth. 

Make sure to wear hand gloves. Rinse the area with a damp cloth. Repeat the process until it’s completely gone.

White Vinegar And Olive Oil

Mix an equal amount of white vinegar and olive oil. Soak a paper towel in the solution and keep it on the wood stain. 

Let the solution sit for some time before removing the paper towel.

Wood Bleach

Use wood bleach that has oxalic acid in it. Apply a thick paste of wood bleach, let it sit for some time, and rinse it away.

I tried all of these and trust me, they work like magic. So, if you have stains on your wooden table, try these formulas before you try anything else.

How to Remove Stains from Wood Furniture

Types Of Stains That Cannot Be Removed From Wood Furniture

There are some stains that, no matter how much you try, will always give you great trouble. These are;

Persistent Pearlescent Stains

This type of paint penetrates deeply into the wood which makes them extremely difficult to remove.

Oil-based Stains

Soft wood like pine wood tends to absorb oil-based stains deeply which makes oil-based stains difficult to remove from them.

Bleach Stains

Bleach stains react with wood fibers and create serious discoloration. These are quite difficult to remove from wood furniture.

Be careful of these types of stains or your favorite piece of furniture will lose its shine forever.

Types Of Paint That Can Be Painted Over Wood Furniture

Are you thinking about painting your wooden furniture? I’ve got you! These are some types of paints that are really good for wood furniture. 

Let’s discover why are they better for you compared to other types of paints;

Latex Paint

Do you want a type of paint that is accessible and has a lot of colors and finishes? You will love latex paint. 

These are also easy to clean. So, no worries about having leftover paint on your hands or clothes for days.

Chalk Paint

Are you looking for a matte finish? Chalky paints provide a sanded look. If you want to paint an antique piece or want to go for a vintage look, this is it.

Milk Paint

Do you want a type of paint that is made of natural ingredients and has a thin texture? You must be looking for milk paint.

It also provides a matte, antiquated finish. An additional benefit is that it dries quickly because of the thinner finish.

Acrylic Paint

Are you looking for a durable, water-based paint? Acrylic paint is suitable for you. It is strong and long-lasting. 

How to restore a wooden table that’s been outside? If it is your concern, don’t worry. Acrylic paint is multi-functional and can be used for both indoor and outdoor furniture.

If you ever paint your wooden furniture, I would recommend using any of these depending on the features you want.

The Process To Paint Over Stained Wooden Furniture

How do you bring a wood table back to life? The answer would be different for everyone.

Personally, I like to change the appearance of my wooden furniture once in a while, and it seems like my entire house lights up. 

Speaking of changing appearance, have you ever felt like painting furniture that is already stained? I was surprised to learn how easy it is! Do you want to know?

Use fine-grit sandpaper to remove the previous finish. It will smoothen the wood texture for a better application and smoother finish. It will also make the new finish durable.

Make sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain. After you are done sanding, use a tack cloth and clean all the dust and debris from the wooden table. 

The Process To Paint Over Stained Wooden Furniture

There shouldn’t be any residue or it will mess with the new finish. So, clean properly.

How to restore a wood table without sanding? As you are painting over stained wooden furniture, you must sand it before you paint.

You should apply a primer to paint your table. Apply a thin coat of primer and move on to the next step.

It is what you’ve been waiting for. Use a foam roller and apply a few coats of paint. You must sand between the coats. 

To end it, apply a durable finish. It will work as a protective layer that will protect the paint from fading or other external factors.

Tips To Keep Wooden Furniture Intake

To end the discussion, here are some tips to maintain your wooden furniture forever; 

  • You should dust your wooden furniture every day to remove dust and debris.
  • You must clean your piece of furniture every week with a mild cleaner to avoid the buildup.
  • Use tablecloths, coasters, and placemats to protect the wood furniture from spills and moisture.
  • If there are any spills directly on the table surface, clean it promptly so the water doesn’t get inside.
  • Make sure to place your wooden furniture in a way that the sunlight doesn’t directly hit it or there are no other heat sources around it.
  • Apply a protective finish on the wooden furniture.
  • Regularly inspect the table. If you spot any damage, fix them immediately.

These tips always helped me to maintain the appearance of my wooden pieces and I hope it will help you too!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Should I Varnish Or Wax My Table?

A varnish is a durable option compared to wax.

Is Buying Cheaper Than Restoring Wooden Furniture?

Restoring is a lot cheaper than buying wooden furniture.

Should I Hire Someone To Restore Wooden Furniture?

Wooden furniture is easy to restore. You can restore wooden furniture even if you don’t have previous experience. Also, it costs less. So, if you have some knowledge about restoration, you don’t need to hire anyone.

Is It Better To Oil Or Wax Wood?

It is better to oil wood because it provides more protection.

What Is The Best Finish For Old Wood?

Oil-based finishes are best for old wood.

Final Thoughts

How to restore a wooden table? It’s quite simple. 

Start by cleaning the entire table and while you are cleaning, identify the damaged parts that need to be repaired.

Now, repair the damages using the specific repair methods as each of them has a different way.

After you are done fixing, decide whether you want the natural finish of the wood or a customized one.

Refinishing wood table without stripping? Apply gel stain and you don’t need sanding. For a customized finish, sand the table.

Then, apply the new stain and complete the process by applying a finish of your choice. Voila! 

I know it seems like a lot but the process is easy. Try it and you will be surprised by the results. 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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