How to Restore Oak Furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Oak is a sturdy wood that makes handsome pieces of furniture. Although oak can last for generations, its surface can become scuffed and scratched from many years of regular use. Oak furniture can be restored by stripping and sanding off the worn finish and applying a new coat of stain and polyurethane.

Brush a heavy coat of chemical stripper onto the oak furniture to dissolve the old finish. Allow the stripper to set for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Scrape the old finish off the oak furniture with the putty knife when the old finish begins to peel. Use steel wool to scrub the finish off of difficult areas. Wipe the oak furniture down with a damp cloth to clean it of stripper.

Sand the oak furniture with 120-grit sandpaper to sand off the last of the old finish. Wipe the wood with a tack cloth the remove sawdust. Sand the oak again with 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the wood for absorbing the final finish. Wipe the furniture with a tack cloth again.

Apply grain filler with a rag to the oak furniture. This will fill the open grain structure of the oak to create an even final finish. Work the filler into the wood and scrape off excess with the putty knife. Allow the filler to completely dry and sand the wood lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.

Brush a heavy coat of sanding sealer onto the oak furniture with a brush to prime the wood for staining. Allow the sealer to soak into the wood for a few minutes then wipe off excess with a cloth and allow it to dry. Lightly sand again with 220-grit sandpaper.

Apply a coat of stain onto the oak furniture with a brush. After the stain has absorbed into the wood, wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth. Allow the stain to dry for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Brush a very light coat of polyurethane onto the oak furniture to seal the wood. After this initial coat has dried, lightly sand the oak with 220-grit sandpaper. Brush a second light coat onto the oak furniture and sand again after it has dried.


Work with the grain when sanding, brushing and wiping the wood. A plastic putty knife will ensure you don't gouge the wood.


Don't shake polyurethane or bubbles will form in the finish. Wear gloves to protect your hands from chemicals. Wear goggles to protect your eyes from sawdust. Work in a ventilated area at all times.

Things You'll Need

  • Grain filler
  • Stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Sanding sealer
  • Brush
  • Cloths
  • Putty knife
  • Steel wool
  • Chemical stripper
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Hubert Oresco is a writer with over one year of experience. He has written for Demand Studios and several other online clients, including He has a degree from SUNY New Paltz. He lives and works in New York City.