How to Refinish an Oak Table


With its attractive grain pattern and warm golden color, oak is an optimal hardwood for building furniture that is sturdy and long-lasting, as well as beautiful. Unfortunately, neglect, humidity and even daily use can take a toll on most woods. If your oak table is showing wear and tear, you can restore it to its original beauty by removing the old finish and applying a new one. Allow a few days, or longer, to complete this project.

Things You'll Need

  • Stripping solution
  • Natural-bristle brush
  • Scraper(s)
  • Soft old blanket
  • Stiff, narrow brush
  • Absorbent rags
  • Sandpaper (various grits)
  • Foam sanding pad
  • Vacuum
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood stain (optional)
  • Wood finish
  • Stain applicator pad
  • Paintbrush
  • Gloves
  • Respirator

Remove the Old Finish

  • Apply a thick coat of chemical stripping solution to the oak table with a natural-bristle brush, working on the top of the table first. Leave the solution on as long as required by the chemical's manufacturer to allow the solution time to loosen and dissolve the old finish.

  • Scrape away loosened finish on the table top with a flat-blade scraper. Strip the table in small sections. A three-foot area is plenty on the flat surface of a table.

  • Turn the table upside down and place the top surface on a soft old blanket. Strip one leg, or part of one, at a time. Use curved-edge scrapers to remove dissolved finish from rounded legs.

  • Brush away stubborn wood finish in table leg creases with a stiff narrow brush. Wipe residual wood finish from the surface of the wood with a rag, dampened with stripper solution.

  • Sand the entire wood surface with 100-grit sandpaper before applying the new finish. Use a foam sanding pad to sand round table leg contours.

Apply the New Look

  • Create a dust-free area for staining and finishing. Vacuum, and use a tack cloth on the table and on surrounding walls to remove any dust that may mar the finish of your table.

  • Smooth on wood stain with a stain applicator pad, leaving it on for a few minutes before wiping it off completely with absorbent rags. The longer you leave the stain on, the more intense the resulting color will be. If you want only the natural look of the oak to show through, skip this step.

  • Sand the surface of the oak after the stain dries with 220-grit sandpaper. This is a microgrit, and it will not sand off new stain, but it will smooth the wood if the stain raised the grain. Rub your fingers over the table to find rough areas.

  • Apply a thin coat of wood finish with a paintbrush, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Standard oak finishes include varnish, shellac and polyurethane.

  • Use multiple thin applications of wood finish, sanding in between with a very fine 400-grit sandpaper to remove any bits of dust.

Tips & Warnings

  • Allow plenty of time to complete each refinishing stage.
  • Apply stain and wood finish in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear a respirator mask when sanding the table. Wear gloves when using chemical stripper.
  • Familiarize yourself with the warnings on the chemical stripper container and on the wood finish container.
  • Do not throw away wet stain rags, they may burst into flame. Spread them out to dry, and then throw them away in an outside trash container.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
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