I’m excited to finally be able to share the before-and-after of our dining table, plus a step by step tutorial so you can do this too, because I found that painting and refinishing is not hard – it just takes a bit of time.
So, remember me telling you about this dining table I found on Craigslist for $50?
Well, what I neglected to say is that I’ve never actually refinished anything before. I’ve finished new wood and painted finishes. I’ve even lightly sanded and refinished a surface without fully taking the first finish off (this vanity top). But I’ve never attempted to try to completely remove the previous finish and start anew.
So this was a challenge for me. I could’ve just painted the whole thing, but I wanted the look and easy care of a wood top (plus, no more tablecloths...). I do like painted bases, though, so I was only challenged by the top, which turned out to be not that hard.
So, without further ado… here’s the table after:
I LOVE how it turned out. I like the darker wood top and the contrast with the creamy white base. I also like how the plain design of the pedestals look in our cottage, which was of course is purely happenstance when looking on Craigslist!
However, I am having to “embrace imperfection” here, big time. There are little white flecks in the finish and even a small fiber of some sort. I thought I wiped and cleaned before each coat of polyurethane, but I did it in the garage and there must’ve been stuff floating in the air.
But what I’m really embracing is the fact that no one will probably notice these flaws but me. Whew. (Update: I even have stopped seeing these ‘flaws’ and only remembered them when reading back through this post a couple years later!)
Now that you’ve seen the finished product, I just know you’re waiting on pins and needles for me to take you through the step-by-step process so you can find your own table to redo, so here are the details:
I didn’t get a shot of removing the finish on the table top because it’s a messy job and my hands were encased in gloves. It wasn’t hard, though- paint the varnish remover on, wait the specified time, and strip it off with a putty knife.
I then washed it with mineral spirits and steel wool and then sanded it, which is the stage at which the above picture was taken.
Since I was just painting the legs, I only sanded them, and not that much, either- ugh, they were full of crevices and bumps and hard to reach. So glad paint covers a multitude of sins.
I had read a number of blog posts about refinishing prior to this project and one said they wished they had painted before finishing the top, so that’s the order I chose.
I taped off the top with plastic so I could spray paint the bottom. I thought it would give a smoother finish and be a lot easier.
And guess what? It’s true!
It’s not as frugal as painting with a brush, but, oh the time it saves. I was seriously wondering why I had never done this before.
I started with a flat finish primer all over the bottom (one can covered).
Then I sprayed on a paint I had been reading about on all those blogs, too, Rust-oleum’s “Heirloom White.” It really is a great color- just the creamy white color I like.
The table base took one full can to coat and I did two coats. A can is about $3.50 each, so again, not the most frugal, but I think it took a quarter (or less!) of the time versus brush painting. And since I think the smoother finish is nice, this is one area where it makes sense to pay a bit more.
After letting it sit for about three weeks, *uh-hem* I removed the plastic covering the top and gave it another light sanding.
Gee, I’m glad being covered in plastic that long didn’t hurt the wood- that would’ve been a bummer.
The leaf is a different color because it was a darker color when I got it from not being used as much as the main table. Removing the varnish did not even out the color, and I don’t know how long I would’ve needed to sand to get down to the wood, but I decided it wasn’t worth worrying about, and I will just use a tablecloth whenever we use the leaf.
I decided to follow another suggestion I read about and bought this pre-stain to help the darker stain I wanted to apply go on more evenly. Since I don’t know what it would’ve looked like without it, I can’t tell you if it was needed, but this was a large surface and I wanted to get it right, so I didn’t take any chances.
After applying the pre-stain according to the directions, I stained it using “American Walnut.” I put two coats (over a period of a couple days…) on the leaf and three on the table to get the look I wanted.
When that was dry (again, weeks later…sometimes I’m just amazed at how long these things take me!), I started applying the coats of water-based polyurethane. I learned two things applying this:
- Always use a wide foam applicator instead of a brush. I had brush strokes in the middle of the table in the first coat that I spent the next four coats trying to minimize.
- Do long strokes from one side of the table to the other (with the grain), not from one side to the middle and start in the middle of the table and work towards me (yes, I have a shirt with poly on the bottom of it now…).
Oh, wait, that was really three, wasn’t it? Darn.
Do you think I left that plastic bag in the above picture by accident? It’s really to remind me to tell you that I did these five coats of polyurethane over a period of about a week (yes, I know it only takes two hours to dry between coats, but apparently this is how my life rolls right now…) and I was able to keep using the same foam applicator by keeping it in this bag between coats.
Seriously, for a week and it never dried out. Not even on a corner.
So, there you have it- all the steps I took to bring this table from Craigslist throw-out to a dining room beauty (at least in my eyes!).
I didn’t keep exact records, but all the materials probably amounted to about $25. So for a total of $75 dollars, I’ve got a great looking table that fits our needs and most importantly doesn’t need a tablecloth. Whoo-hoo!
What do you think- did I get a deal or do you think I went to far too much trouble?