How to refinish a table top with a solid or veneer top using paint stripper, steel wool, and an orbital sander to rejuvenate the look of your kitchen table.
Kitchen tables receive a lot of abuse, but you can refinish the table top to restore the original look and keep it looking good for years to come. Large table tops can be made from strips of solid wood or, more often, plywood with a hardwood veneer such as oak, maple, or cherry. It is best to remove the table top and perform the refinishing in a ventilated workshop to minimize odors and dust from entering the home.
You may want to refinish your kitchen table top when the finish starts to become cloudy or flakes, when there are several water marks, or when the finish begins to crack and split. It is important to remember that if you decide to refinish your table top, it will not look exactly the same as it did when it was new. Manufacturer’s typically use a spray lacquer finish that is impossible to reproduce in the home. They may also add additional pigments to the finish to even out any color differences in the wood. Your finish will be durable and look good, but don’t try to reproduce the factory finish.
Tools and Materials
Random Orbit Sander
Natural Bristle Paint Brush
Disposable Foam Brush
Paste Paint Stripper
Liquid Paint Stripper
Small Pail or paint tray
Fine and 0000 Steel Wool
When refinishing table tops, or any type of wood furniture, it is best to work in a well ventilated area, such as a garage. While it is possible to refinish the table top in place, care must be taken to protect the surrounding area from caustic chemicals and ventilation must be provided by opening up windows and installing a box fan into the opening to remove any vapors.
1. Remove Table Top
Examine the wooden table to confirm that the table top alone needs refinishing. Remove the top from the frame. Some table tops are attaches using bolts and others are secured with screws. Use either an adjustable wrench or a screwdriver to remove the fasteners.
2. Apply Paste Paint Stripper
Wear goggles and rubber gloves. Apply a paste paint stripper with a disposable nature bristle brush to a small area. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the container. Do not scrub the stripper into the wood; allow the paste to soak into the finish to loosen it.
3. Remove Paint Stripper and finish
Following the grain of the table top; use a wide, plastic putty knife and gently scrape up the wet residual finish lifted by the stripper. Scrape the putty knife on the edge of a small cardboard or several sheets of newspaper.
4. Apply Liquid Paint Stripper and Rinse
Brush on a liquid paint stripper following the instructions. Use fine steel wool to loosen any remnants left by the paste stripper. Make sure to remove the finish from the edges of the table top with steel wool. Always work with the grain of the wood or veneer.
After the liquid stripper has been removed, dip fine steel wool into lacquer thinner and work with the grain to wash away the residue left by the strippers.
5. Sand the Table Top
Wear a face mask while you smooth the surface using 220-grit sandpaper and a random orbit sander. Random orbit sanders can work in all directions, but as you move the sander, try to follow the grain. Be careful not to over-sand if the table top has a veneer since you can quickly sand through it to the plywood below. Check the sanding pad to make sure it does not get clogged and replace it when you start to see clumps on the paper.
Sanding pad showing finish clogging the grit.
6. Apply Stain to the table top
Match the existing color on the base of the table. You may have to mix stains together and test it on a piece of scrap wood. Apply the stain in an even coat with a brush or rag. Wipe off the excess with a clean rag and let it dry for at least 24 hours.
7. Apply Polyurethane Clear Coat
Stir the polyurethane thoroughly before applying it to the table top with a natural bristle brush. Sand off any high spots or specks in the finish and clean with a tack cloth. Apply at least 2 more coats, sanding and cleaning between each coat.
8. Apply Finishing Wax
After the last coat of sealer has dried, rub finishing wax onto the with super fine steel wool. Allow the wax to dry for a few minutes, and then buff it with a soft cloth.