How to Refinish Wood Furniture

When thinking about what brings me joy, I recently decided that the over-sized tablecloth leftover from my wedding covering up my outdated kitchen table no longer brought me joy. After a quick google search on various furniture sites, I determined that a brand new table was not in our budget. So I decided to give our wood kitchen table a makeover.

Wood refinishing supplies on wood floor

Refurbishing furniture has recently become a hobby of mine, and I have picked up a few tips.

Here is my tutorial of how I transformed this kitchen table (that my parents so kindly gifted me when I moved into my own apartment during grad school) into a table that has me seriously considering buying placemats so as to not damage it.

Before and after refinishing a kitchen table
Before / After

*Note: I decided to write this guest blog post AFTER I completed the table. The pictures will mostly be of the two leaves of the table I did afterwards*

Step 1: Strip the Paint

First, I stripped the top of the table using a paint stripper. I brushed a generous amount on and waited the suggested amount of time on the can. While it didn’t take much of the color off, it did remove most of the top coat, which makes step two much easier.

Step 1: Stripped leaves

A few tips when stripping (paint): Wear heavy gloves and don’t get it on your skin (it WILL burn and cause you to have a small meltdown and make your husband scrape off the rest), and don’t let it sit in the sun for too long (it will harden and make it impossible to scrape – hence the meltdown).

Step 2: Time to sand!

I used a power sander with a medium grit to sand the entire top of the table. While I did not sand the base or legs, (which I will explain why later), I did sand over a few deeper scratches on the legs and stains (most likely from my childhood).

After everything was sanded, I went over it again with a fine grit to make sure everything felt smooth.

Tips for sanding: make sure to wear appropriate eye coverage (dust WILL get in your eyes) and clothing coverage. Below is a picture of my outfit, complete with safety goggles I purchased for my one lab class during undergrad.

Wearing protective clothing while refinishing a wood kitchen table
Me, looking pretty cool during the sanding process


Wood kitchen table leaves that have been sanded and are ready for stain.
Step 2: Sanded leaves

Step 3: Stain the Wood

Once the table is sanded and you have cleaned off all the sawdust, it’s time to stain!

I chose to use a gel stain, which I still can’t decide if I like or not. Use whatever stain you like in whatever color you like.

Step 3: Stained leaf

I wanted to use a stain you wipe off so the grain would show well. After 3 coats, I was finally happy with the color.

Step 4: Painting the Bottom Base and Table Legs

After staining, the next step is to address the table legs/bottom base. I wanted this part to be white. Instead of using white paint (which in my experience takes two coats of primer and two coats of paint),

I chose to use a Rust-Oleum brand paint kit. I used this product to paint my kitchen cabinets and I LOVE it.

Before and after look at kitchen cabinets that have been refinished
Kitchen cabinets before/after

It makes the cabinets look great and is more durable/cleanable than regular paint. It also allows the natural grain of the wood to show through more. Here is a before/after picture of my kitchen cabinets. This is with a darker color paint.

I got the Rust-Oleum paint kit from Menards in the color “pure white”. There are 4 steps to this kit (deglosser, base coat, glaze, top coat).

I won’t go into specifics on how to use this kit (it comes with detailed directions), but just know it is now my go-to for any refurbishing I need to do (cabinets, furniture, even doors/trim!).

I made sure to tape off the upper edge so I didn’t get any white paint on the stained area. Here is a link to Rust-Oleum Kit on Amazon.

Step 5: Apply Polyurethane

Demonstrating the step of refinishing wood furniture
Step 4: Bottom edge of leaf painted with the Rust-Oleum paint kit

After the legs/bottom base is dry, the final step is to apply polyurethane to the stained table top. The Rust-Oleum painted areas do not need a coat of poly, as the kit comes with it’s own top coat. After everything is dry, you are finished!

Step 6: Enjoy!

I hope you have enjoyed my tutorial on refinishing a table! The one other bonus of refinishing wood furniture is that it is also eco-friendly. Rather than throwing quality furniture into a landfill, refinish it and enjoy it for years to come. Comment below on your thoughts or any additional tips/hints you have for refinishing furniture.

Refinished wood furniture looking fantastic!
The final product!

Note from Ellen: Thank you to my daughter, Jamie, for submitting this guest post. Jamie and her husband Jim have great DIY ideas for their home. I have fond memories of buying this kitchen table many years ago when Jamie was a young child. It brings  me joy to have her now modifying it to fit the style of her own home. Much appreciation for her sharing this kitchen table makeover project.

Woman refinishing wood furniture

5 Replies to “How to Refinish Wood Furniture”

  1. I still have a few pieces of college furniture. Now I’m thinking I need to bring them back to life! Cool project.

  2. So cool! I’ve been meaning to do my kitchen table for about a year… I need to get on that! Lol 🙂

  3. I love how the table turned out. I really think the kitchen cupboards make the area look brand new. FYI love you grey flooring!

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