How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table

picnic table located next to a lake, surrounded by greenery
What You'll Need
Chemical stripper
Safety gear
Wood filler
Putty knife
Polyurethane finish
Turpentine (optional)

Wooden picnic tables are perfect for bringing your family together. Not only are they a great spot for a summer lunch, but also they’re easy to keep up. If your wooden picnic table is looking old, consider refinishing its surface instead of spending money on a replacement. Find basic directions below to successfully refinish your picnic table.

Step 1 - Apply a Chemical Stripper

Warning: Chemical strippers can be harmful to your skin and lungs. Use safety gloves and a respirator when working with chemical strippers, and only work with the product in a well-ventilated area.

First, apply a chemical stripper to the wooden picnic table. Pour the chemical stripper onto the wooden surface, or as specified on the product. Cover all areas. Refer to the product’s directions for how long you should leave the stripper on the surface.

Step 2 - Scrape the Finish Off

After you’ve let the chemical stripper sit, you should be able to easily scrape off the finish. Using a putty knife, firmly press down on the table and scrape the finish completely off.

Step 3 - Clean the Stripper

picnic table on a deck with water in the background

Next, clean the stripper off the wooden table. Use a hose to rinse it away from the table. If the stripper won’t come off, you may need to use turpentine to remove the chemical. Check the label on the stripper to see what the manufacturer recommends.

Step 4 - Sand the Table

After you let the table dry, you can sand it. Using your hand and some sandpaper, or a small power sander, smooth out the picnic table’s surface. Sand the entire surface, and then remove the sawdust with a tack cloth.

Step 5 - Apply Wood Filler

At this point, you may need to apply some wood filler to the table. Wood filler will help fill in any gaps around the grain of the wood to make it look and feel smoother. Use the wood filler as specified on the product. Sand down the wood filler once it's dry.

Step 6 - Use Stain

applying stain to a wood planks

Once you've allowed the wood filler time to dry, you can stain the wood. Choose any color that you want, and apply the stain with a rag or paintbrush. Wear gloves and a face mask for safety. Cover the surface evenly, and then let the stain dry.

Step 7 - Seal the Table

Finally, apply a polyurethane finish over the top of the wooden picnic table. If need be, you can apply a second coat after the first one dries. Let all coats dry thoroughly before using the wood table.

Use your newly finished picnic table for outdoor-movie theater seating, a summer lunch, or enjoying nature.