Resurfacing Table Tops
A solid wood dining table is a fantastic investment to make for your home – not only is it a beautiful piece of furniture, but it will also last a lifetime when properly cared for.
A question we get asked a lot is how to resurface your wood table. You may have bought a second-hand table that needs a little bit of TLC, or perhaps your table is looking a little worn and you want to give it a new lease of life. Well, the best way to do this is to resurface the tabletop.
The process of refinishing a solid wood table consists of removing the old finish and applying the new finish – and best of all, it’s a simple process that anyone can do. It’s a great way to make your table look brand new.
If there are noticeable rings and watermarks under the existing finish, the surface feels sticky even after it’s been cleaned or there are worn out patches on your table where the existing finish is cracked or flaking off, it’s probably time to consider refinishing your tabletop.
With so many different finishes to consider, it can be hard to know where to start. To make it a little easier, we’ve pulled together our top tips for giving your solid wood dining table a new lease of life.
- What To Consider When Refinishing Your Solid Wood Dining Table?
- How To Remove An Old Finish With Sanding?
- Should You Apply A Wood Stain?
- What Finish Should You Use?
What To Consider When Refinishing Your Solid Wood Dining Table?
Before you do anything, you need to make sure you have the right equipment. The statement ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ couldn’t be truer when it comes to preparing to refinish your table.
We recommend you have the following:
- Dusk maks
- Eye protection
- A palm sander
- Multiple soft lint-free cloths
- A paintbrush
All the equipment you will need can easily be found in most DIY or hardware stores and should be relatively inexpensive.
Make sure you have enough ventilation in whatever space you’re working in. You’ll need to sand your table to remove the existing finish and as sanding releases dust and debris into the air, some finishes need to be applied in a ventilated area.
You must allocate enough time to each stage of the process, to achieve maximum results. Each step will take time, but the results will be more than worth it!
How To Remove An Old Finish With Sanding?
Removing the old finish is the most time-consuming process but must be done correctly as this will affect the finished look.
Using a palm sander with a coarse paper (either 80 or 120 grit will work), remove the existing finish, or until you see bare wood. This might take a little bit of time, but you must keep sanding until all the surface is free from old varnish/finish and scratches. Try to sand until the surface looks like one flat colour unless there are natural colour variations in the wood.
You’ll then need to sand the table using a medium to fine paper (either 120, 160, 180 or 240 grit) to get rid of any light scratches created by the coarser paper. For areas that are awkward or impossible to reach with the palm sander, you might need to use a small piece of sandpaper to finish the job.
Once this step has been done, it’s time to consider whether you want to add a wood stain or go straight to your finish.
Should You Apply A Wood Stain?
Wood can be stained to change its colour or left unstained before application of wax, oil, varnish or lacquer. The stain works by saturating colour into the wood itself without affecting the natural grain showing through and is often used by those who want a certain colour of wood to suit their surrounding space. As wood stain only colours wood and doesn’t protect it, you will still need to add a top coat to help prevent the table from UV damage, spills and scratches.
Remember, once you’ve added the stain there’s no going back. It is not like a paint that sits on top of the wood, it penetrates the fibres so you aren’t able to sand this off if you change your mind.
If you like the colour of the wood as it is, you don’t have to add a stain, instead, you can go straight to adding your desired finish.
For more advice on how to apply a wood stain, read our blog here.
What Finish Should You Use?
There are numerous types of finishes available when it comes to solid wood tables, from wax and oil to varnish and hard wax oils, each with their pros and cons. There’s no right or wrong answer and ultimately it comes down to personal preference and what best suits your lifestyle.
We’ve collated our favourite finishes below to help you decide which one works best for you.
Varnishes are dissolved resins so the liquid form is easy to apply to wood. Once they are applied, they form a hard, clear, shiny surface. This hard protective layer sits on the surface and protects the wood underneath.
Varnish comes in a variety of different sheen levels, so it’s easy to personalise depending on how shiny you want your finish to be. It’s relatively easy to rub out with steel wool or synthetic pads, which can reduce sheen, or be buffed to a high gloss. The benefit to a varnish finish is how protective it is. It cures extremely hard which means it has a tough finish, protecting the wood from damage.
However, varnish can take longer to apply than other finishes. This is because there is longer drying time and sanding is required in between coats. It’s also important to note that this finish doesn’t maintain a wood feel or texture as the varnish forms a layer on top of the wood, which some people may not like. It can also leave brush marks on the wood if over brushed during application.
Oil finishes soak into the wood and enhance the distinctive grain patterns and the depth of colour within a wooden dining table. They are an extremely popular finishing method as oils can offer a great level of protection to a dining table whilst maintaining a very natural matte, non-glossy look. Because the oil is soaked into the wood, the surface of the table still feels very natural, whereas other finishes tend to sit on the surface of the wood.
Wood oil finishes and protects your dining table whilst showcasing the look and feel of the wood grain. As oils are made from natural products, mainly from various seeds, they are micro-porous which allows the wood to maintain its texture and feel.
Wood oil is a fairly durable finish and protects against water spillages and general use. It’s a popular choice as it enhances the natural colour of the wood and is easy to apply yourself. However, not many people realise that this finish requires periodic reapplication for tables that are regularly used. This is because it’s not as protective or durable as other finishes, such as varnish, lacquer or hard wax oil.
Hard Wax Oil
Hard wax oil is a blend of oil and wax to give a more durable finish to your dining table. Similar to oil, hard wax oil maintains the natural look and feel of the wood, however, it also forms a more durable barrier against water, stains, heat, dirt and general wear and tear.
Once dried, hard wax oil has a matte to a satin sheen that is very complimentary to natural wood. It maintains the original wood feel and texture, whilst also offering better protection and water resistance than its oil and wax counterparts. However, this finish still may need a frequent application, depending on the usage of the table and ultimately is not as protective as varnish or lacquer.
Wax is a traditional table finishing method that has been used for over a 100 years. Made mainly from natural beeswax and carnauba wax, they help prolong the life and maintain the appearance of your wooden dining table.
Wax is relatively soft when they’re applied to your wooden dining table, but once it’s exposed to air they start to form a protective seal over the top of your table. Wax can enhance the grain of the wood and in particular, looks great on reclaimed style pine dining tables. It can also produce a very deep shine once you buff your table (after the finish is applied) which can be very hard to attain with other table finishes.
One of the greatest things about a waxed finish is how easy it is to re-apply, you can completely rejuvenate your dining table with some simple steps. You can remove any marks as they appear by re-applying wax to an affected area, rather than refinishing the whole tabletop as you would with a lacquer finish or varnish. This gives you full control over your table maintenance and ensures your table looks great and stands the test of time.
However, this finish is perhaps the least protective of the finishes available, which means it requires frequent reapplication. Typically if you have younger children in your family and your dining table is multi-functional and used throughout the day, your table finish could wear pretty fast, so may not be suitable.
Lacquer is an increasingly popular finish when it comes to solid wood tables and perhaps uses the most modern technique. The word lacquer means a range of clear or coloured wood finishes that dry by a curing process. Once dry, it produces a very hard, durable finish.
There is a wide range of clear or coloured finishes available, to suit any interiors. Lacquer is widely used across dining furniture, particularly in the hospitality industry. This is due to stronger cleaning detergents being used on the tabletops to maintain hygiene levels, which means an extra hard-wearing finish is essential. This type of finish can be of any sheen level, from ultra-matte to high gloss, and it can be further polished as required.
As it is best to apply lacquer with a sprayer, to give it a professional finish, this can be more costly than other finishes on the market. As it’s so hard-wearing, it’s harder to repair small scratches and areas of damage on tables that have been finished with lacquer. The whole finish has to be stripped off and refinished, which can be expensive and timely.
Whether you opt for a varnish, wax, oil, hard wax oil or lacquer finish, refinishing a solid wood dining table requires tools, time and patience to achieve a high-quality finish.
Once you’ve worked out what finish works best for your lifestyle, what durability you need, what look you’re trying to achieve and your skill level, nothing is stopping you from bringing your solid wood dining table back to life.
For more information on maintaining your table, read our step by step guide here.