How to Refurbish or Repaint a Table Top

Refinished table top
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  • 01 of 04

    Prep Steps and Supplies

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    Don't get rid of that table or pass up a good deal at a yard sale or flea market! With a handful of supplies and a bit of time, you can transform an old table top to look just like new.

    What you'll need:

    • Optional: electrical sander
    • Sandpaper (variety of grits)
    • Optional: deglosser
    • Wood putty/filler
    • Paint and primer or stain
    • Optional: lacquer
    • Paintbrush
    • Newspaper or drop cloth to protect workspace

    Before you begin refurbishing your tabletop, thoroughly inspect it to get a good idea of how much sanding you'll need to do, how much wood filler/putty you'll need, and how much time it will take. You'll also want to decide whether you want to paint the table top or apply lacquer or varnish.

    Start by thoroughly cleaning the table top, especially if it is a hand-me-down or a garage sale find. Be sure to remove any sticky residue, food droppings, and any dust or dirt. You may also need to strip any paint or varnish before beginning.

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04


    Focused young female artist sanding side table in art studio
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    The first step in the refurbishing process is to sand the table top. This step will be easier and faster if you have an electric sander. If you don't have an electric sander, you can still sand the table top by hand. The quality is the same as long as you use the right sandpaper and you thoroughly sand the wood.

    For the first round of sanding, use a medium to low grit sandpaper. This will help remove some of the minor dings, dents, and scratches, as well as any existing shellac, varnish or paint. If there is a heavy layer of shellac, varnish or paint, you will probably need lower grit sandpaper and a bit of muscle. You can also supplement this step by using a deglosser/liquid sandpaper, but you may still need to sand the wood.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    Applying Wood Filler/Putty

    Man preparing putty, cropped view of hands
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    If the table top has any dents, dings or cracks, apply wood putty or filler into these areas with a putty knife. When applying the filler or putty, make sure the putty/filler fills in the damaged areas and remove any excess with the blade of the putty knife. You want to create a seamless surface.

    Let the putty/filler dry overnight. Check the putty to see if it has completely dried. If it hasn't completely dried, let dry up to 24 hours.

    After the putty/filler is completely dry and hardened, gently sand over the entire table again to remove any excess putty/filler. For this step, use very high grit sandpaper and try not to use a lot of force in the repaired areas. If any of the putty falls out or is damaged, add the putty again to the area and leave to dry.

    Brush off or vacuum the tabletop to remove any and all dust particles. Wipe down the entire table afterward with a damp rag to remove any fine sanding dust.

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Priming and Painting

    Painting wood
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    If you plan on painting your tabletop, apply multiple thin coats of primer with a brush or use a paint sprayer.

    • If painting the table a dark color, use a gray primer.
    • If painting the table a light color, use a white primer.

    Choose paint that is suitable for wood. If your table is kept on a patio or outdoors, look for paint that is suitable for outdoor wood furniture. Using the right kind of paint will help keep the quality of your refurbished table top for a longer period of time.

    1. Let each thin coat of primer dry for at least two hours. Apply multiple coats of primer until you no longer see the original tabletop color.
    2. Let the primer completely dry. This may take overnight or up to 24 hours. If the primer is still tacky or sticky it may smear or clump in the next step.
    3. Gently sand over the primer with very high grit sandpaper. I suggest performing this step by hand (i.e., don't use an electric sander). Your goal is to gently remove any deep brush strokes if you brushed on the primer and any beading or runs caused by a paint sprayer.
    4. Next, gently wipe down the tabletop with a dry rag or brush off with a soft brush to remove any sanding dust.


    With a brush or a paint sprayer, apply multiple thin coats of paint. Like the primer, let dry a couple of hours in between coats to prevent any running, beading or puddling of the paint. If you notice some runs or beading, let the paint dry overnight and gently go over the area with high grit sandpaper to remove any of the blemishes before applying another coat.

    Keep applying thin coats of paint until you reach the desired color and effect. Let the table completely dry. This can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. Wait at least 72 hours before using the table again.


    If you don't want to paint your tabletop, you can apply a stain to display the natural color of the wood.

    After painting or staining your tabletop, apply a layer of lacquer to add an extra layer of protection to preserve the quality of the table top.