My sister has lived in her new home for about a year now and has started to feel settled enough that she has been having me help her fix things up and decorate a bit. I was at her house and she was telling me about this darling farmhouse table that she wanted that was $1,000. I had her show it to me and low and behold it looked very similar to her current table. I told her I could save her a ton of money by refinishing her old one. I didn’t know until I started in on the project that this tabletop was not solid wood. I’ve shared how to refinish a table before (that is solid wood) so this time it is all about refinishing a wood veneer table!
She was over the bar height table and bar stools. I told her I could cut the legs down. She didn’t love the stain color and the spots where her daughter spilled fingernail polish remover. Easy. Sand the top down to the bare wood. She wanted white legs to brighten up her space. Super easy. Paint :)
This was the table in her previous house.
I first approached this table makeover like I have others in the past. I grabbed my sander and started with a heavy grit sandpaper. I soon discovered that the top was not solid wood, but in fact a thin layer of wood veneer over plywood and then a layer of real wood. I found this out when a spot along the edge sanded down past the veneer. I knew I was going to have to do things a bit differently.
Here are my tips for refinishing a wood veneer table!
Removing the Old Finish
If I would have realized it was veneer beforehand, I probably would have used a stripper first. Then I would have hand sanded it the rest of the way.
Since I already had sanded 1/4 of the table, I kept using the sander. BUT I switched out my heavy grit sandpaper for a medium grit (120 or 150). It made it go a bit slower but also made it so I didn’t go through the veneer.
Be careful around the edges. There’s a tendency to use more pressure around the edges and it wears them down more. The couple of places I sanded through the veneer were both along the edge. I ended up leaving the edges for last and doing most of it by hand. Since it is a thin veneer, it went faster than you might think.
Once you are done with the sander and the majority of the previous finish is gone, wipe off the dust. Get a 220 grit sand paper and sand the whole top by hand to get a very smooth finish. The sander will leave small (almost undetectable) marks in the raw wood. When you go to stain they will will become more noticeable. Doing this last step of hand sanding will make all the difference in your finished project.
Get really close and look to make sure all marks are gone. Sometimes wiping it down with a wet rag will mimic staining and allow you to see the areas that still have sander marks.
Staining and Sealing
Once it is all sanded, you are ready to stain! Since my sister’s dream table had a grayish brown finish, I used Weather Oak by Minwax. I did two layers of stain and once it was completely dry, I sealed it with polyurethane.
Tabletops take a lot of wear and tear so it is recommended to do three coats of poly. Follow the directions and lightly sand between each coat for the best finish.
At first I was worried about cutting the legs since they are tapered and wouldn’t lay flat on my miter saw. I was worried they would be slightly off from each other and the table would wobble. When we went to take the legs off to cut them, we realized they had adjustable feet. So after we cut them we added the adjustable feet back on and they helped balance out any imperfections with the cuts. So if you are shortening legs, add adjustable feet! Easy way to make sure your furniture won’t wobble.
I am really happy with how it turned out and more importantly, my sister is too. She ended up buying new chairs and I think the new metal chairs fit the table much better.
I think the gray stain paired with the bright white legs is gorgeous!
Another thing she did to update her builder grade home was to buy all new lights. It took us all day to shop around for deals. I am a cheapskate even when it’s not my money ;)
Have you ever refinished a table? What about refinishing a wood veneer table? What are you best tips.? I’d love to know so share in the comments!