How to Refinish a Coffee Table

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Finding a nice coffee table can be fun, even if it needs a refinishing job. Be sure that the table you select is structurally sound, so that by the time you are done with it, you will have something worth keeping. For this reason, solid wood is always preferable to laminates or pressboard. After you have a table, wait for some nice weather and be ready to have some fun.

Things You'll Need

  • Stripping gel
  • Vinyl gloves
  • Paint brush
  • Sandpaper fine grit
  • Polyurethane finish
  • Sponge applicator
  • Paint scraper
  • Clear a work area that is at least 2 feet wider than every side of your coffee table. Lay down some newspaper or brown paper to collect any debris that may fall. Make sure you have adequate ventilation for the fumes that come from the stripper.

  • Check all the joints to make sure they are firm and not wobbly. If there is movement, apply some wood glue and clamp it overnight to dry.

  • Apply a gel-type wood stripper to remove any paint and or varnish that might be on the table. Use a paint brush and apply according to the directions on the container. Generally, long strokes in the direction of the grain are best. Allow it to sit until the surface has been bubbled and softened.

  • Scrape the surface with the paint scraper in the direction of the grain. Remove as much of the softened gel/paint/varnish as possible and put it into an old coffee can or other container that can be thrown away.

  • Wipe down the surface with an old rag. After it dries a bit, sand the table with the sandpaper until you have a smooth, clean surface. Wipe it again with a clean rag to remove the dust.

  • Apply the new finish with the sponge applicator, working in the same direction of the grain. Do not go over areas more than once. Allow it to dry overnight before adding a second coat, if necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use gloves when working with gel stripper. Use eye protection. Keep a fan going and a window open for ventilation.

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