How to Refinish a Wood Tabletop

hand with power sander refinishing wood tabletop
  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 25-75
What You'll Need
Heavy-grit sandpaper
Fine-grit sandpaper
Wet/dry sandpaper
Sanding machine
Dry tack cloth
Yacht varnish

Sometimes, table legs outlive tabletops. While the legs of your table may still look new, your tabletop is more likely to look scuffed and dingy after years of use. Refinish your wooden tabletop to extend your table’s life with this guide.

Step 1 - Stripping the Tabletop

Begin by removing your wooden tabletop’s old surface, whether it’s made of wax, varnish, or paint. To strip the furniture without using chemicals, use heavy-grit sandpaper. Strip as much of the old surface off the table as you can with the sandpaper.

Step 2 - Smoothing

Next, attach some heavy-grit sandpaper to a sanding machine. Then, sand the tabletop. Follow the direction of the wood grain until the wood is bare.

Using Fine-Grit Sandpaper

Using heavy-grit sandpaper on your wooden table can leave the surface feeling slightly rough. Smooth it out by using fine-grit sandpaper with your sanding machine.

Using Wet/Dry Sandpaper

Soak some wet/dry sandpaper in warm water, and ring the paper out. Rub the tabletop with the paper in small circles. Then, wipe the surface with a clean, dry tack cloth until all remnants of wood dust are gone.

Step 3 - Applying Varnish

Once the table is dry, use an oil-based polyurethane yacht varnish on the wooden surface. Paint the first coat of varnish as evenly as possible, covering the entire surface. Do not be alarmed if you notice pinhead bubbles appearing. These bubbles will disappear once the varnish is dry.

Applying Additional Coats

For best results, continue applying varnish and letting each coat dry before applying another. Use at least five coats for the hardest, most durable finish. Between coats, use wet/dry sandpaper, soaked in water, on the tabletop.