DIY Dining Room Table Refinish

Will and I were really blessed to get this solid wood farmhouse table for free a couple of years ago (….how have we been married long enough that I can say things like “a couple of years ago”?!). It even came with 4 chairs, and we had previously purchased two off craigslist when we were temporarily using an old table of his mom’s.  The adorable little house we rented for the first 2 and half years of our marriage had that yellow-ish oak finish cabinets and matching counter tops, so despite my feelings toward that color, I left the table and chairs alone because they went perfectly.  The chairs from Craigslist also went perfectly since our kitchen was an aqua color; making them a really nice accent at either end of the table.

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish

When we moved the Walsh House, it was finally time to refinish the table.  It needed it anyways as it had some dings and stains, but it also no longer went with the décor in our house.

Step 1) Due Diligence

I was really excited for this project! It was a big task, one that would save us a lot of money, and something I had never done before.  I perused pinterest for inspiration to figure out exactly what I wanted.   I read countless posts by bloggers, HGTV, and other hanydman/DIY sites.   I looked at stains and read tutorials on different finishing techniques.  I read up on using chalk paint (which I had never done before), and I researched and compared different sealants.

Step 2) Sanding

It was time to embark.  I knew the first step was sand and sand and sand some more.  This is where things get hairy.  When I sanded the table it was early March, that means I was sanding in the garage.  For a while I had the door to the house open so the dog could come and go as she pleased…. Till I realized that was blowing dust straight into the house and all over our dark wood floors… #fail.

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
This is Ellie, my poor car, an innocent bystander in the garage.
DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
and this was me post sanding….

I used the orbital sander that my husband got for Christmas a couple of years ago.  This worked REALLY well on the table top.  I was very cautious to go with the grain of the table top.  For the rounded edges it was more tricky, but it worked out well because it sort of gave the table a more distressed look. The legs were a bit more difficult, but it still worked.  Our roommate Ben helped out at this point and sanded the little detail areas of the table legs with sand paper.  For the legs I used fine grit sandpaper, and for the top I used super fine grit.  It might not have been the most efficient, but it gave me the confidence that I wasn’t going to mess the table up somehow and gave me a super smooth finish ready for stain.


DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
this shows the difference between the sanded and unsanded table top
DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
the top is sanded, but the skirt and legs are not

Insert a 6 week pause.

Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, but at this point I got so buy with marathon training and school that it took me 6 weeks to get to the staining and painting portion of this project.

Step 3) Staining

Once I got there, I flipped the table upside down and tried the stains we were considering out on the bottom side of the table.  After reading various blogs and comparing the stain pamphlet to our pallet wall, we had two stains we were interested in – Weathered Oak and Classic Gray (both Minwax).  Well, with all the testing on the underside of the table I couldn’t seem to produce the finish that we were looking for.  Enter Ben again.  He suggest combing the two.  I tried it, and it was perfect!

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
on the left is one wet coat of the weathered oak, and the right is the unfinished/sanded top/
DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
here is two dry coats of weathered oak and the beginning of the classic grey coat.

We used two coats of Weathered Oak to start with.  They were not heavy coats.  I would brush it on, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe off any excess.  Those two coats were followed with a coat of the Classic Gray.  Now this stain was weird to me.  It gets opaque very quickly, and it does not spread easily.  I worked in small sections with small amounts.  I would get about 2 rows of the table top covered and then I wipe off the excess. The wiping really helped to evenly distribute the coverage of the stain.  DIY Dining Room Table Refinish

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
clearly I wasn’t going for full coverage here.

After the top was stained, I brushed the legs and skirt with the classic grey stain.  I was not trying to cover them completely or evenly, just enough so that some would show through the chalk paint.

Step 4) Painting

Once the grey stain was dry I painted on two coats of white chalk paint, being cautious to use long smooth strokes going with the grain.  Chalk paint is really tender stuff.  It was easy to rough it up around the details of the table legs and edges of the skirt with a little fine grit sandpaper.

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
the stained, painted, and distressed table leg.

Step 5) Sealing

The final step was sealing the table.  After reading about polyurethane vs polyacrylic vs lacquer vs wax I decided to go with the water based polyacrylic.  I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer here, but I knew I wanted this bad boy very well protected.  I didn’t want to be stuck rewaxing my table multiple times per year.  I have used polyurethane before and was not fond of working with it or the results.  Lacquer seemed like over-kill and not the finish I was going for so I tried something new.  I used Minwax clear polyacrylic in satin finish.  In total I used 2 coats on the legs and skirt and 5 coats on the top (I am super proud of this table and I don’t want it getting messed up!).  I let the sealant dry for 2 hours and sanded lightly between coats.  After the final coat, I let it cure for a full 24 before bringing the table back inside to the dining room.

I chose a stain finish versus a glossy finish because I was looking for a more velvety/aged end product rather than something with a lot of sheen.

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
Finished Table. See how the grey stain sort of cooled it down and brought out more variety in the top?
DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
But those chairs….

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish

Step 6) the Chairs….

For the chairs I followed the same procedure, but the seats ended up being badly scarred from attempting sand around the spindles.  Half of them looked ok stained, and half of them looked bad, so I ended up painting them all completely white.  I did not distress them, they sort of appear distressed anyway because the paint is a little streaky from attempting to paint so many angles.  They have 2 coats of paint and 2-3 coats of spray polyurethane.

The spray polyurethane was my main deviation, because while it is more pricey, after painting all of those spindles I did not want to carefully try to brush on sealant as well.

To finish things off, we bought some grey seat cushions for $5 each at Ikea.  When we were there to get supplies for redoing out closets (more to come on that).

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
The whole shebang!  I seriously couldn’t be happier!
DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
and here is Izzy modeling it…. I think she thinks she is modeling her baseball, but it’s all in the eye of the beholder, right?

Project Cost:

  • Stain                                      $4.78* 2 (one small can of each)= $9.56
  • Polyacrylic                           $17.97
  • Spray Polyurethane           $7.78 * 2 = $15.56
  • Chalk Paint                          $8.48 * 3 (I barely touched the third one) $25.44
  • Cushions                              $30

Total:                         ≈$100

So what do you think?! I think it was worth it!  And now we have a unique table that fits our needs, style, budget, and perfectly matches our pallet wall (more on that one at a later time as well).

DIY Dining Room Table Refinish
one more of our hilarious fur child… I mean our AWESOME table.

If you are considering redoing your table and chairs – go for it!  Give yourself time and you will be fine.  It really wasn’t a hard project.  It was time consuming. The only times I had problems were when I was rushing. All in all, I think this turned out amazingly well for my first attempt at refinishing furniture!

There are going to be a great many more DIY posts in the weeks to come, and I will also be posting links to some of the tutorials and tips/hints that I have been finding to be the most helpful.

Featured on the Painted Tea Cup.