How to Refinish a Dining Room Table

Easily refinish a dated or worn dining room table to give it a fresh look.
Wood Inlay Dining Table

Wood Inlay Dining Table

Two tips to keep in mind when staining wood: Water-based polyurethane is not only better for the environment, but it will also dry in under an hour and always sand and stain with the grain of the wood for a smooth finish.

Photo by: Debbie Talianko

Debbie Talianko

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How to Refinish a Dining Room Table 01:46

Update a dining room table easily with this material list and step-by-step instructions for refinishing a wooden table. It only takes half a day to complete this project.

Materials and Tools:

stain
polyurethane
100-, 150- and 220-grit sandpaper
stain brushes
rags
tack cloth
orbital or belt sander (optional)
router (optional)

Steps:

  1. Sand the entire table removing all stain from edges and legs. If using an orbital or belt sander, be careful not to gouge the surface. Do most of the initial sanding and varnish removal with the 100-grit sandpaper, then step up to 150-grit and do a final pass with 220-grit to smooth out the grain for the new finish.
  2. Carefully remove all sanding dust with a tack cloth.
  3. Apply stain with a brush, following the wood's natural grain. Apply stain liberally, allow it to soak in for a few minutes then wipe off excess. Tip: The longer stain sits before wiping, the darker the final color will be.
  4. Apply at least two coats of stain. Depending on the desired color depth and richness, apply more coats. Lightly sand with 220-grit paper and clean with tack cloth between coats. Note: Staining the wood causes the wood fibers to swell as they soak up the stain. The reason for sanding between coats is to knock down the swollen fibers to maintain a smooth surface.
  5. After the final coat of stain has thoroughly dried, apply polyurethane according to the manufacturers' instructions. Apply at least four coats, since dining room tables get a lot of use. Allow the final coat of polyurethane to dry for at least 24 hours before using the table.
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