Skip to Content

How to Strip and Refinish a Dining Room Table

Hey friends! A few weeks ago, I found an old dining room set on Craigslist and tried my hand at refinishing and updating it. Ever wanted a new dining room set, but can’t believe the price tag? Let me tell you, it’s amazing what a little paint and upholstery can do … you can go from old and outdated to brand new for a fraction of the price.

I didn’t have any supplies on-hand when I started this project and spent just under $100 for new stain, new upholstery, paint, and finishing. Such a deal! 

Plus, it’s nice to be able to refinish all the details to match your style exactly and make it your dream dining set!

This post is one of three parts of the dining set refurbish and covers how to strip and refinish a table. Check out this post for the details on reupholstering chairs and head over here for the details on repainting the chairs and table base.

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of refinishing a table top!

This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure here.

Tools & Supplies:

  • Citristrip Stripping Gel
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Scotch Brite Scouring Pads
  • Plastic Scraper
  • Stripping Bristle Brush
  • Chip Brush
  • Stain of your choice
  • Polyurethane or Polycrylic for finishing

Step 1.

Wash the table down with soap and water to remove any grease, crumbs, sticky residue, etc. 

Step 2.

Apply a thick coat of Citristrip with a chip brush over the entire table. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

apply citristrip

If you have extra time, let it sit for a couple hours. I left the stripping gel on for about 3 hours, which really allowed it to sink into the existing finish and made the whole scraping process quite a bit quicker. Depending on the finish on your table, you might even want to wrap the table in plastic wrap after applying the Citristrip and let it sit over night (but no more than 24 hours according to the instructions on the bottle).

let citristrip sit

As you can see in the photos, I removed the table top from the base when I refinished it. However, this is not necessary. For most tables, you should be able to leave everything intact. If you’re planning to paint the base, rather than re-stain, simply make sure to use a drop cloth to avoid getting stripping gel on it. My table was constructed in such a way that I couldn’t cover the base completely, so it was easiest to remove the top.

Step 3.

Scrape off the existing finish with a plastic scraper. Use a wire stripping brush for edges and crevices.

scrape the existing finish

This is definitely the most labor-intensive part, but it’s worth taking your time to get rid of all that existing finish!

Step 4.

Using an abrasive pad (such as a Scotch Brite scouring pad), wipe down the table with Mineral Spirits to remove any residue left from the stripping process.

clean with mineral spirits

Step 5.

Sand the entire surface down to make sure all the original finish and any residue is gone.

sand the table top

If your sandpaper gets gummed up, it just means that there’s still residue from the Citristrip or the original finish. Simply wipe the surface again with Mineral Spirits until the surface is completely clean. Once you’ve finished sanding, it’s on to the fun part – refinishing!

Step 6.

Stain your squeaky-clean table in the color of your choice.

I used a couple different stains in order to achieve the color I wanted. I started with two coats of Minwax ‘Special Walnut’, one coat of Rustoleum ‘Carbon Gray’, and one more coat of ‘Special Walnut’.

Step 7.

Finish off your table with a protective coat of Polyurethane or Polycrylic. I applied 4 coats of Clear Gloss Polycrylic, making sure to lightly sand between coats for proper adhesion.

protective coat

And there you have a brand new table top!

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. I’d love to hear from you 🙂

P.S. – I refinished the base of the table with the same process as the chairs. Head over to this post for the details!


How to Refinish a Kitchen Table