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How to Restore Your Wood Tabletop Professionally and Inexpensively

Updated February 21, 2017

A do-it-yourself restoration on a table does not have to cost a mint. Whether it is a jewel found at a flea market for an excellent price or a beloved heirloom from grandmother's attic, old tabletops are often in need of refinishing. For the newcomer to furniture restoration, the first thought may be to call a professional, but the cost may cause second thoughts to quickly follow. It is possible to restore a tabletop inexpensively and still get a professional appearance.

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  1. Apply chemical stripper to the tabletop and allow it to sit for the manufacturer's recommended time. The old finish will begin to bubble and come loose from the tabletop.

  2. Remove the old finish with a putty knife. Scrape off the loose stain and dispose of it.

  3. Sand the tabletop to remove any remaining old stain and smooth out any rough spots. Use coarse-grain sandpaper on a belt sander to remove any remaining old finish. Switch to a fine-grain sandpaper and make several passes across the tabletop. Wipe off any sawdust with a clean rag.

  4. Put masking tape around the underside of the table. Leave approximately 1 inch of space under the edge of the table to allow for staining over the bottom edge of the tabletop. The tape will create a straight, clean edge as an end to the stain.

  5. Apply a coat of stain. Use a clean rag to apply stain. Work slowly across the table, wiping in one direction. Concentrate on any nooks or woodworking on the edges. Stain all the way down the edge of the table and onto the bottom. Select a stain in the colour you wish the table to be at the end of the project.

  6. Fill a paint sprayer with water-based lacquer finish and coat the tabletop. Skip the varnish and go straight to the finish to save money. Spray evenly in a back and forth motion for a smooth, professional appearance. Spray slightly under the table to ensure the edges are covered. Allow to dry for at least 24 hours before use.

  7. Tip

    Place the table or tabletop on a level surface. This will allow for an even application of finishing products.


    Cover the surrounding areas with tarps or drop cloths. The stain and lacquer will ruin or stain surrounding floors and items.

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Things You'll Need

  • Stripper
  • Putty knife
  • Belt sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Putty knife
  • Clean rags
  • Wood stain
  • Masking tape
  • Paint sprayer
  • Liquid-based lacquer

About the Author

Sidney Johns began her writing career in 1993 after moving to Florida. The former teacher and surgical technician worked in the home improvement industry prior to earning a Bachelor of Science in education from Indiana University. While on hiatus in 2004, Johns studied holistic healing and organic growth and gardening.

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