Kitchen Table & Chairs Re-Finishing Project and DIY

Thursday, September 24, 2015

photo cred: My Mom

Hey, everyone! So, if you’ve liked The Creative Glow over on facebook then you probably already read that I’m having an eye issue right now! If not, well, it appears as though I may have got myself a dreaded little stye! Booo! So that means that the Halloween costume makeup tutorial I had planned on recording yesterday, and having up this week, won’t be able to happen until this terrorizer in my eye clears up; you really shouldn’t put makeup, Halloween or otherwise, near your eye until it clears, so that’s where most of the problem lies. So, since I can’t get started on that stuff this week, I can at least prepare a couple of posts here on the blog for you all to enjoy, starting with showing this project my mom and I were working on while I was home in July – Kitchen Table Re-Finishing! Perhaps it’ll spark some creativity and motivation to re-finish something of your own! I’ll have some tips for you at the end of this post as well.

All the materials we used can be found at any hardware store, and most from the Amazon (affiliate) links I have provided. So, here is what the table looked like before! It was in much need of a make-over, as you can probably tell, and at this point we had started sanding it before I thought, Oh, I forgot to take a photo. It was just a simple table and chair set in the first place, but over the years, as it got older, it was abused more and more and everyone cared less and less until we just didn’t care at all. There was nail polish, nail polish remover, paint, glitter, and you see that big white rectangle in the middle leaf? Yeh, that was from a project I was working on while I was there… oops!

So, first thing you need to do when re-finishing any furniture is either scuff up the surface or strip it completely of its current paint or varnish or what-have-you, depending on weather it is wood or not, and weather you plan on painting it or staining it. In our case, my mom new that she wanted to stain the tabletop, so we need to strip off all the old varnish. We started out using some 80 grit sandpaper for stripping, and moved on to a finer 120 grit for smoothing, paired with simple sanding blocks. We did a pretty great job getting down to the wood and having a nice smooth surface, but after stripping the table, we decided we didn’t want to have to work that hard to get all 4 chairs sanded, so we got a really nice little electric hand sander (Black & Decker Mouse Detail Sander) that is perfect for furniture projects, and it was on sale at the hardware store for $40, if I remember correctly! We went over the tabletop with the electric sander and a 120 grit sandpaper and it really made a difference in the smoothness - if you’re going to be refinishing any furniture, I HIGHLY recommend investing in one! Just remember to pick up the sandpaper discs to go with it in the 80 Grit and 120 Grit I recommend in this post.

For the chairs, now that we had the electric sander, we used it only - make sure to start with your coarser grit paper (80) and go over it again to finish and smooth with your finer grit (120). The plan my mom had in mind was to stain the seats of the chairs and paint all the other parts, so we only needed to completely strip the seats and only scuff up the shininess on the other parts of the chair. Here's a great tip if you’re going to be re-finishing any chairs and, thanks to my uncle, Frank, made things much easier for us: did you know that most chair backs are attached using screws and those screws can be removed, and, therefore, you can separate the backs of the chairs from the seats? Yes! This makes it much easier than trying to get into tiny crevasses and tight areas with your sandpaper or electric sander. Just tip your chair upside-down and you should be able to find them under the seat.

Once you finish all your sanding, before you begin priming/staining, you need to make sure that any dust created from sanding is completely removed from your furniture pieces. You’ll want to do this with a special kind of cloth made for this purpose called a tack cloth. This cloth looks like cheese cloth and has a waxy, sticky feeling that makes dust cling to it and keeps the dust from shaking off, so it stays on the cloth. Your first instinct may be to just use a slightly damp cloth, but if you’re down to wood, even the slightest amount of dampness can cause swelling and raise the grain in your wood, which you may not want. So I do recommend a tack cloth - again, thanks to uncle Frank! They’re about $1.50 to $2 each depending on where you buy it.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, any places that you want to apply paint to, you only need to scuff up the surface to create tooth (texture) for your primer to grip on to and take away the shine, and then use a really good primer. We used the Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer, 1 coat, on the table and the chairs on all the areas we weren’t applying stain to: table base, chair legs and backs. We let the primer dry, and then painted with our chosen color, Mossy Bank. This was a color match of a BAER color we liked, but applied the paint we chose, C-I-L Smart3 Melamine Finish Paint for Cabinets and Furniture. The paint does cover really well, but it is best to do 2 coats for the best, most even coverage, and the directions say it activates the extra high durability. We did our first coat using brushes to make sure to get every hard to reach spot, and our second coat with sponge rollers for a smoother, less streaky finish, although this paint does even itself out quite nicely. This paint takes a while to dry to the touch (24 hours or so), and even longer to completely cure, but it is the PERFECT durable paint to use on any furniture (or cabinets) that will get heavy use and have the need to be wiped and cleaned often. So just remember to account for longer drying times when planning your project. You won’t want to attempt to re-assemble your chairs for at least a week after painting.

When it came to staining, we wanted something dark and slightly warm with no reddish undertones, so we went with MinWax Wood Stain in Espresso and it turned out the perfect color. I found staining to be quite easy – you apply it fairly liberally with a sponge in the direction of the wood grain, let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes (I did 5 minutes), and then wipe off the excess with a clean, lint free cloth. You can use a wood conditioner prior to doing your staining if you want your wood to take the stain more evenly. MinWax sells a wood conditioner that will pair well with their stains. We weren’t particularly concerned with that, so we did not use a wood conditioner, and we really liked the way the different pieces of wood soaked up the stain more than others. If you’re going for a re-claimed or farm fee, then I suggest not using a wood conditioner for best results. You can also add some distressing by beating up your table in different ways prior to staining, which will cause the stain to soak up differently in those areas, and really bring out those characteristics.

Once I finished staining everything we needed to seal it all in with some polyurethane. We used MinWax Helmsman Indoor/Outdoor Spar Urethane in a Semi-gloss finish, which still turned out quite glossy looking. I think we were hoping for slightly less sheen, so if you’re doing a project and don’t want glossy, make sure to buy the satin finish for sure! If your project is something that will need to be wiped and washed, like a kitchen table or cabinets, then it's a good idea to use the indoor/outdoor clear coat, like we did, since it's made to protect against moisture and wetness. Polyurethane can be a little tricky to apply because it begins to get tacky quickly, and is already fairly thick to begin with. So remember to get it on, move quickly, and never go back to re-stroke once you’ve moved on from a section. If you miss a spot, you’ll just have to even it out on your next coat. Also, remember to never shake up your polyurethane clear coat to mix it, only gently, but thoroughly, mix with a stir stick. Shaking will cause bubbles and you’ll need to wait for 24 hours for them to settle before you can use it. We applied 2 coats.

Take a look at our beautiful masterpiece! What a nice change from what it was! Keep reading for some tips to remember if you’re about to re-finish some furniture for the first time.

Make sure to put down lots of newspaper to catch any drips or accidental spills and for easy cleanup.
Don’t spend time sanding parts down to the bare wood if you’re painting or re-painting. All you need is to scuff these areas up with some sandpaper and use a good primer before painting.
Invest in a small electric palm sander to make stripping easier, and for much better smoothing. Look for one that comes with a small attachment that allows you to get into tight spots.
Most chairs will have screws that can be removed to detach the back of the chair from the seat. This makes sanding the seat down to the wood smoothly much easier if you’re planning on staining it.
Use a tack cloth rather than a damp cloth to remove any wood dust from your pieces before painting or staining.
If you use the C-I-L Smart3 Melamine paint as well, make sure you wait a week before re-assembling your chairs, or any other pieces that need re-assembling, and you’ll probably need to wait about a month before wiping or washing.

If you can't find the exact color stain you want, you can mix the different colors of MinWax wood stains together to get a custom color.
Take care along any edges or holes that your stain doesn’t drip down onto any areas where you don’t want it. This is especially important when you have spots that you have finished with paint already.
If you want a used/re-claimed/farm/shabby-chic look, before staining use your sandpaper to purposely create scuffs around edges and other spots. Use other items to “beat up” areas for more of a worn/used look. These areas will really soak up the stain and stand out.
Again, for a used/re-claimed/farm/shabby-chic look, do not use any wood conditioner prior to staining. This will allow the separate pieces of wood to soak up the stain at different rates, creating darker and lighter spots of different levels throughout.
Gently stir, DO NOT shake, your clear coat. Shaking will cause bubbles in your clear coat that will need to be left sit for 24 hours to get rid of.
If you’re having trouble or want to avoid having trouble with applying your polyurethane clear coat without streaks/brush strokes, try diluting it slightly with mineral spirits (Varsol) - I wouldn’t recommend any more than 10%. Keep in mind that you will need more coats of clear coat if you are applying it diluted.
Lastly, HAVE FUN!

That’s it for this post, guys! Hope you enjoyed! As always, leave any questions or comments in the comments section of this post, and I’ll get back to you! Have an awesome day and I’ll see you in my next post!

Ta-ta & happy re-finishing,
Sam ♡

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  1. Great ideas , Thanks for your post. I’ve been thinking about writing a very comparable post over the last couple of weeks, I’ll probably keep it short and sweet and link to this instead if thats cool. Thanks

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Yeh, sure, you can link to this post if you like - so long as you're following my Sharing Policy for this blog I don't mind that at all! You may have already read the Sharing Policy but, if not, you can find that in the right hand column of this blog just above my Popular Posts widget. Thanks for getting in contact with me, and once you publish your post let know! I'd love to see it and check out your blog as well! ;)

      xo Samantha

  2. Excellent build. Fantastic and simple. I was waiting for something like this and perhaps I will shamelessly copy your design of the table.

  3. Your kitchen tables and chairs looked fantastic after the project! Sanding really makes a HUGE difference so it is really worthwhile to invest in a good quality sander if you plan to do some DIY home projects. And I agree, never ever shake the clear coat - learned it the hard way!

    1. Thanks, James! It was a fun project to do and my mother and I were both pretty happy with how it turned out! She loves her new table and chairs and has sent me some photos of other projects she's tackled on her own since - very nice!

      We may be getting our own house soon enough, so there may be--well, I'm certain there will be--more furniture projects in my future and here on the blog! Excited for that!

      Thanks for stopping by! :-)

  4. Hi Samantha, I love your decoration and style. However, I’m wondering if you could offer some details about the kitchen decoration, you could explain it more. I would love to get it as I intend to introduce a new hub of information to our website ( Thanks!


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