How to refinish oak veneer tables

Oak veneer is a thin piece of wood that is glued over another material, usually fiberboard, to create a piece of furniture or cabinetry that resembles solid oak. Because the real wood in this type of furniture is extremely thin, it is not possible to refinish it by sanding the original finish from the furniture and applying a new finish. You can, however, do a lot of great things with paint to give the furniture a completely new look.

Thoroughly clean the surface of the table. Use a mild soap and water to clean all grease and residue from the table. Allow the table to dry completely.

Use a paint brush to apply a thick coat of paint stripper to the entire table. Be sure to get into any grooves, corners and detail areas. Allow the paint stripper to penetrate the original finish, usually 20 to 30 minutes.

Use steel wool to gently remove the finish from the oak veneer table. Work in a circular motion, taking off the majority of the finish. Wipe the paint stripper off with wet rags.

Sand the oak veneer with medium-grit sandpaper. Sanding will create texture for the primer and create a stronger finished product. Be careful not to sand through the top layer. Wipe off any sanding dust with damp rags.

Prime the table using a trim brush for the corners and grooves. Follow with a smooth foam roller for the flat parts of the table. Use a primer formulated for slick surfaces such as Glidden Gripper. Apply one or two coats of primer. Allow primer to dry completely.

Trim the corners and detail work with paint, using a small trim brush in the same way you applied the primer. Roll paint onto the flat parts of the table using a clean foam roller. Foam rollers give a thin, even coat on slick surfaces. Apply two to three coats of paint, allowing each to dry completely before applying another.

Add a coat of polyurethane if the table will be subject to a lot of wear and tear. Apply the topcoat using the same technique you used for the primer and paint. Polyurethane comes in both matt and glossy finishes. The glossier finishes are slightly more durable but if you prefer the look of the matt finish, it will also provide the table with good protection.


Polyurethane also comes in spray form, which is much easier to apply but will take multiple coats to get the same coverage. When using spray polyurethane be sure to go back over the same spot several times for complete coverage.

Things You'll Need

  • Mild soap
  • Chemical paint stripper
  • Scraper
  • Steel wool
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Polyurethane
  • Smooth foam roller
  • Trim brush
  • Rags
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About the Author

Lisa East Hunter is a consultant and freelance writer in Phoenix. Her background in marketing and technology led her to explore all avenues of writing. She is currently dividing her time between freelance writing and her consulting business. Hunter has a Bachelor of Science in management information systems and marketing.