How to Refinish Wood Tables

A DIYer refinishing a wooden table with a paintbrush
What You'll Need
100-, 150-, and 220-grit sandpaper
Paint stripper
Plastic scraper
Steel wool
Tack cloth
Polyurethane or paste wax
Safety gear

A fresh coat of stain or paint can give a weathered wooden table a fresh, new look and many more years of use. Whether you opt for a natural wood stain or a bold coat of paint, giving your table a fresh look is so simple that you can complete the project yourself.

Step 1 - Clean

First, clean the table. Wipe down the tabletop with a damp cloth to get rid of any dust or cobwebs before removing the existing finish.

Step 2 - Sand

Next, sand away the finish. Start with heavy-grit sandpaper, such as 100-grit, to remove the majority of the finish. Then, give it another pass with 150-grit sandpaper. Finally, sand it with 220-grit sandpaper to smooth out the grain.

Step 3 - Use a Chemical Stripper

Next, use a chemical stripper according to the product's directions. Usually, you will apply the stripper to the wood table with a paintbrush and allow the chemicals to loosen the finish. Then, using a plastic — not metal — scraper, remove the finish. If most of the finish doesn’t come off the first time, repeat this step.

Warning: Follow all appropriate safety precautions when using a chemical stripper. Wear gloves and use a face mask.

Step 4 - Scrub With Steel Wool

Once most of the finish is gone, dip a piece of steel wool into the stripping solvent, and rub the steel wool on the table. Go with the grain of the wood when scrubbing. This step will help remove any stubborn spots of the old finish.

Step 5 - Sand Again

With a piece of medium- or fine-grit sandpaper, go over the table in the direction of the wood grain to remove any last traces of finish. Smooth out rough spots or blemished areas for a uniform look. Use a tack cloth to collect leftover wood dust.

Step 6 - Apply Stain

If you want to paint the table instead of stain it, move on to the next step. To stain the table, apply the stain evenly with a paintbrush. Remove any drips or excessive stain immediately to avoid patches. Then, use a sheet of cheesecloth to absorb any excess stain. For a deeper finish, repeat this step.

Step 7 - Apply a Clear Coat

For stained tables, apply 2-4 coats of paste wax or polyurethane with a paintbrush to protect the table. Let the table dry for at least 24 hours before using it.

Step 8 - Paint

To paint the table, use a paintbrush to apply two coats of paint. Use the brush to wipe up any drips for a more even look. Let the table dry for several hours, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.