How to Refinish Painted Tables


Refinishing can give new life to a table. A cheap garage-sale find can become a treasure when you strip off layers of old paint. Commercial strippers range in strength. In general, stronger strippers contain stronger chemicals. But stronger strippers work more efficiently than their safer-to-use counterparts. Paste strippers are weaker than liquid strippers but allow more time for paint removal. After the paint is stripped, you can refinish the table with a sealer, a stain or a fresh coat of paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Respirator
  • Goggles
  • Chemical gloves
  • Apron
  • Empty coffee can
  • Paint stripper
  • Natural-bristle paintbrushes
  • Metal putty knife
  • Steel wool
  • Metal-bristled brush
  • Clean cloth
  • Mineral spirits
  • Electric sander
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Sealer, stain or paint
  • Take off hardware, legs and other removable pieces.

  • Put on a respirator, apron, gloves and goggles. Protect your work surface with a tarp or a thick mat of newspaper, and lay the pieces of the table on top. Pour the amount of paint stripper you intend to use into an empty, clean coffee can.

  • Dip a paintbrush into the paint stripper and quickly spread a generous, even amount over the entire tabletop. Wait 10 minutes and scrape the paint off with a metal putty knife. Apply another coat of stripper and wait 10 more minutes if the paint does not come off readily. Scrub off remaining paint with coarse steel wool.

  • Hold up a table leg, resting the bottom of the leg on the work surface. Brush the leg with stripper. Scrape the paint off with a putty knife and scrub off remaining paint with steel wool. Gently brush crevices free of paint with a metal-bristled brush. Repeat with all remaining table legs.

  • Wet a cloth with mineral spirits and rub the tabletop and legs to remove residual stripper. Allow to dry overnight.

  • Sand the tabletop and legs with a an electric sander and manually with sandpaper until the surfaces are smooth.

  • Apply a wood sealer, stain or new paint color with a clean paintbrush. Allow to dry and reassemble the table.

Tips & Warnings

  • Work in a well-ventilated area while stripping paint, ideally outdoors. Do not inhale paint stripper, sealer, stain or paint.

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