How to Refinish a Kitchen Table

Give an old kitchen table new life in a weekend with these simple steps for refinishing wood furniture.
Built-in banquette with chandelier

Built-In Kitchen Banquette in Cottage Kitchen

This cottage-style banquette seating makes a space-saving dining area in this kitchen. Glass-paneled cabinets, a warm wood table, blue and beige upholstered cushions and a pineapple chandelier add sophistication.

From: Marika Meyer

Photo by: Photography by Ross Chapel

Photography by Ross Chapel

This cottage-style banquette seating makes a space-saving dining area in this kitchen. Glass-paneled cabinets, a warm wood table, blue and beige upholstered cushions and a pineapple chandelier add sophistication.

Knowing how to refinish a kitchen table is great for taking an old piece of furniture and making it look new. You don't have to have any special equipment and you can do it in a weekend.

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Choose the color of stain based on the style of the table and the wood tones in the rest of your house. The table doesn't have to be an exact match—most homes have a variety of wood colors, so don't stress if your stain's color is a little off.

If you're refinishing a modern table (Danish or midcentury modern, for example), stay in the light-to-medium tones, from white oak to teak. If your table is a country-style pedestal, and you like that more traditional style, then lean toward warm oak or maple. For larger tables, Queen Anne drop leafs, for example, you can go darker (cherry or mahogany) to enhance the Victorian-style furniture lines.

Or, ignore all of that and paint your wood kitchen table a color—white, black and aqua are great choices, especially when paired with contrasting chairs.

Just know that when you refinish a piece of furniture you decrease its resale value—so only refinish something that you're not hoping to sell for a higher price later. Refinishing and painting are best done on pieces you want to keep and enjoy for years to come.

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 to remove 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, you might want to apply more coats. Lightly sand with 220-grit paper and clean with tack cloth between coats.

Tip: 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 manufacturer's 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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