Picture of supplies needed to remove the finish from a table

Refurbish and Renew- How I gave new life to a junky table and chairs (and saved myself some $$$) Part 1- Strip it down!

Owning a home staging business is not cheap. I am constantly buying inventory, which includes expensive furniture items. Sure, the shopping is fun and I love adding new pieces but OMG it adds up. Being the handy DIY-er that I am, I decided to start perusing local Facebook Marketplace listings, yard sales, estate sales, etc. for furniture pieces that I could buy on the cheap and bring new life to. This also reduces the environmental impact of manufacturing, shipping, and packaging disposal that comes with buying new. Plus, I can completely customize a piece and make it one of a kind. Win-win!! Full disclosure I have refinished furniture before and know my way around a power tool or two, but this is definitely something anyone is capable of completing. It isn’t the quickest project (it will feasibly take a weekend or two) but it is very rewarding and will pay you back for years to come as you enjoy your “new” piece of furniture and enjoy the ooohs and aaahs of how you made it yourself!! Boasting is totally ok here. You earned it. Let’s get down to the details, shall we….

First I had to find a suitable table set at a decent price. IMO, the cheaper the better but the furniture has to meet certain criteria:

1) Solid wood or at least a nice veneer so that it can be stripped and sanded. Ikea particleboard furniture will not work so don’t even bother trying! With a little inspection, you should be able to tell if something is real wood or not. Look at the edges for lifting or separation (fake or bad veneer) and look and feel for real wood grain.

2) Style/shape of the table and chairs work with what is on trend or have a timeless design. Let’s face it, not every yardsale bargain is worth refinishing. You don’t want to just slap some lipstick on a pig. Try envisioning the final product or “look” you are going for (Pinterest is great for visuals) and work backward to find the perfect piece.

3) Location, location, location! Don’t waste your time driving 2 hours for something unless it is TOTALLY worth it. Stay local and save time (and gas money).

So what did the “perfect” table set look like for me? Tadaaaa!!

Picture of dark stained table and chair set before refinishing
Diamond in the rough

It is beautiful, right!! Just kidding. It needed some major work but cost me $75, met the criteria, and also had 3 matching barstools. SCORE!

Once I got this bad boy home it was time to buy supplies and set up for the project. Here was my inspiration for this table (courtesy of Pinterest). I choose the painted farmhouse style because I could chalk paint the majority of the wood and would only have to strip/sand/stain the table top and chair seats. If you have yet to discover chalk paint, you are missing out! I will cover that in Part 2 but please keep on reading. There is a lot to cover before we even get to the painting part!

Picture of farmhouse table and chairs in distressed white chalk paint
Pinterest inspiration

Anyhow, I took a trip to Home Depot and purchased supplies (or gathered stuff I already had on hand). The “stars of the show” so to speak were wood stain and chalk paint. There are various chalk paints out there but I decided to give the Behr chalk paint a try. It is almost half the price of Annie Sloan products (the “original” chalk paint) and comes in a variety of colors. I choose Farmhouse White (more on that in Part 2). For the stain, I chose a Varathane oil based stain in Briarsmoke (a brown with greyish undertones).  Here a few of the basic supplies needed for stripping the finish.

Picture of supplies needed to remove the finish from a table
Glamorous tools of the trade

The first step is to set up your work area. I was working in my garage but I still covered the floor with drop cloths. Make sure you wear old clothes too. Leave the Louboutins in the closet for now ha! The next step is to get stripping!!! Put on heavy-duty gloves and eye protection (yes, this is a MUST). Then pour some Citristrip in a large plastic cup and use a wide paintbrush to apply liberally to the areas where you want to remove the finish (for this project it was the table top and chair seats).  Citristip is a great product, doesn’t smell too terrible, is relatively environmentally friendly, and works rather quickly. You can also leave it sitting for up to 24 hours so you can go do something else productive and come back to the project later in the day. Multitasking for the win! Here is my table marinating in Citristrip.

Picture of table top that is covered with Citristrip stain remover
Citristrip doing its thing

The time sitting will depend on how many layers you have to remove to get to the bare wood. I think I let mine sit for about an hour or two before testing the progress. You can do this by scraping away a small area and checking out the results. Keep in mind it will most likely not be as light as virgin unfinished wood and the color will vary across wood species (this is where sanding comes in later). When the stain easily scrapes completely off as a gooey gel, you are ready to get scraping.  So what do you do with all that gloppy stain mess? My trick is to line another large cup with a plastic grocery bag and scrape into the bag. You can easily dispose of the bag when finished (check your local disposal laws of course before you pitch it in the trash). Here is one of my chairs when it was ready.

Picture of stain removal from a chair seat
Stain removal – Yeah, it can be tedious!

After scraping off all the goo, wipe down the stripped surfaces with a cloth and mineral spirits. This will help remove any remaining residue. On occasion, you may need to repeat the stripping process on certain trouble spots. Don’t worry if the color of the wood is not completely even at this point. The next step (sanding) will address that. Here are my table and chairs ready for sanding.  They are looking better already if I do say so myself!

Picture of refinishing round table and chairs after stain removal
Stripped table and chairs in progress

Up next was sanding but I’m sorry to say I do not have any pictures of this step. Complete fail on my part. Uggg! Anyhow, I highly suggest you head out and buy yourself a nice hand-held sheet sander before attempting this next step. If you want to do it the old fashion way by hand, be my guest but you will probably still be sanding a week later.  In the middle of sanding the table top, my old sander decided it was time to retire so I had to go out and buy a new one (that probably explains why I didn’t take any pictures #frustrated). I purchased a Ridgid 1/4 Sheet Sander for under $50 and it worked great. Make sure you also pick up a few different varieties of sandpaper. You may need relatively rough sandpaper, like 60-120 grit, if your piece has any flaws that need to be smoothed out. Otherwise, something around 220-320 grit will smooth and prep the surface for staining. If you piece has any major gouges or cracks, you need to fill them with paintable/stainable wood filler prior to sanding and staining. After your piece is sanded to perfection, smooth as a baby’s bottom, and wiped down with a damp cloth to remove all sanding dust you are ready for the real fun – staining!! You can approach staining like painting- with a standard paintbrush, but I highly recommend staining pads for both application and wiping if you are using a regular oil based stain. The stain goes on evenly and there is much less clean up as you can just dispose of the pad (again check your local disposal laws). You can skip a step and use a stain + poly all-in-one (stain plus the clear coat finish) but your color choices are limited and you must apply that type of product precisely with a brush. I chose the staining pad method. It is as simple as wiping the stain on, letting it penetrate for about 5 minutes, then wiping off. You can repeat the process for a deeper color.

Picture of refinishing a table top with brown stain using staining pads
Staining in progress – wipe on, wipe off

As you can see the finished product is nowhere near as dark as when the stain is penetrating so don’t freak out! I repeated the staining steps for all the chair seats and ensured the resulting stain color was the same for the entire set.

Picture of refinished table top after staining
Viola! Stained table top perfection!

The final step for the staining part of refinishing was to add a protective polyurethane layer to the stained wood. There are many options and sheens available, but I choose Minwax wipe-on poly in satin. Since this table is going to be used for staging and not really “used” a wipe-on poly would do since it is quick and easy (simply wipe on with a clean lint free cloth or staining pad). If you plan to use your table on a daily basis as a main funishing in your home you may want to go with something that adds a bit more protection such as a standard brush on polyurethane. Just make sure it is self-leveling and easy clean up (the old school stuff is impossible to remove from brushes). Also, take your time to ensure there are no bubbles or runs (think perfect manicure, just on furniture).

Well, that completes Part 1 of this post. In Part 2 I will cover chalk painting, distressing, waxing, and the final reveal! I would love to hear your comment about the project thus far.

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