How to Refinish a Wood Table

Got some wood furniture in your house that could use some freshening up? We certainly did.

One of my favorite pieces that we own has been in pretty bad shape for a while. Since moving into our house, we’ve had it hidden behind our living room sofa and were just using it to display pictures. Although I knew the table had so much potential, we didn’t have the time to give it the love it needed.

When I started this blog I quickly realized that having a workspace other than the kitchen table would be a nice upgrade. I immediately knew that table would make the perfect desk!  All it needed was a little refinishing and it would be ready for a primetime spot in our living room.

And so today I’ll be sharing my tips and tricks on refinishing a wood table.

How to Refinish a Wood Table | One Neat Nest

When I say this table was looking rough, I’m not exaggerating. Here are a few of the “before” photos. Note the years and years…and years…of water stains.

How to Refinish a Wood Table | One Neat Nest

How to Refinish a Wood Table | One Neat Nest

I knew that I didn’t want to paint over the beautiful wood hiding under there so we decided we were going to refinish it instead.

So we gathered our materials and got to work! Here’s a quick tutorial for the project:

Gather materials. For this project you will need:

  1. Electric sander: You can do all of the sanding by hand, but the electric sander makes it a lot easier and faster, especially if you’re working on a larger piece.
  2. Sandpaper: This is best for more intricate areas where an electric sander can’t fit and you need to sand by hand. Make sure you have a variety of grits. We had everything from coarse (50) to extra fine (220).
  3. Masks: Sanding is messy and the last thing you want is to be inhaling wood dust for hours.
  4. Wood stain of your choice: There are many brands, finishes and colors to choose from so spend some time making sure you pick the one you really want. We chose “Early American” by Minwax.
  5. Finish/sealer: The type you choose will depend on how your piece will be used (more information within the tutorial below)
  6. Clean cotton rags: This is for applying the stain. We used old (clean) white cotton t-shirts.

Move your piece to an open area. I would highly recommend that you do any sanding project completely outside or in an open-air area, such as your garage. The dust while sanding will make a mess and the fumes from the stain will need some ventilation.

Get sanding. This is the longest and most tedious part of the project. My husband took the lead here. We used the electric sander for the larger areas, like the top and sides, and then sanded the legs by hand. We started with a medium to rough grit for some of the rougher, more stained areas, and then gradually moved up in grit until we finished the whole thing off with an extra fine grit, which is best for staining. Remember to always sand in the direction of the wood grain.

This is what the table looked like after sanding (pardon the horrible garage lighting). This picture also shows this table’s very cool built-in leaf that folds up and out when you pull the sides apart!

How to Refinish a Wood Table | One Neat Nest

Clean up. Sanding makes a big mess, so make sure you give the piece a good vacuum and wipe down before you start the staining process.

How to Refinish a Wood Table | One Neat NestStain the wood. Make sure to follow the instructions on the specific stain you choose. Generally, you’ll need to rub the stain into the wood going with the grain, and then go back over and wipe off the excess. I would recommend starting on the conservative side with the amount of stain you use, and use more if you decide it’s not getting dark enough. We only added one layer of stain, but you can add several layers to deepen the color. Make sure not to let any excess stain dry on the wood.

DIY Wood Table Refresh | One Neat Nest

Apply a finish. The finish you apply will depend on how and where the piece will be used. If you’re putting the piece outside, make sure it has a good weatherproof coating on it. If you’re using it to put food or drinks on, make sure the finish will repel liquid and food stains. Since we’re using the table as a desk we didn’t feel like it needed too much protection and just did a light mineral oil finish.

Now, wait for it to dry (in a well ventilated area!) and you’re all set.

I have to say, the transformation is pretty amazing. Here’s what our table looks like now:

How to Refinish a Wood Table | One Neat Nest

Voila! A perfect blogger desk!

How to Refinish a Wood Table | One Neat Nest

Although it took some time (especially the sanding), all in all, it was a pretty easy project!



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