How to Repair Water Damaged Furniture


My SIL dropped off this poor coffee table at my garage last week that had been sitting in her shed in the mud for a couple of years. She didn't understand why I was so excited. I knew this solid oak table had great potential with a little TLC.
1st thing was clean this baby up! Got all the mud out of the nicks and crannies so I could determine what repairs were needed.
Removed the knobs and glued and clamped the drawers back together.
Being in the elements for years caused this almost raw wood to bow.
It had been raining all week and I took advantage of the humidity and glued and clamped the top to the base back together again, using a board to pull it into a straight line. Left it to dry overnight.
This corner was sitting directly in the mud and had rotted a little bit. Wood filler was used to smooth the surface.
The next morning, I took the clamps off and the top was straight again!
Sanded the table and careful to be sure all the old varnish was off. Treated the table with before-stain conditioner. Applied Gray stain, following with Weathered Oak after it dried. Lightly sanding between coats.
Since the base of this table was so exposed and needed good coverage all around, I think it's easier to spray poly when it's upside down. I sprayed 5 coats of Matte Poly, lightly sanding between coats.
Flipped it over to apply the same Matte poly to the top. I applied 6 coats, lightly sanding between.
The knobs that came with the table were dirty, and needed to be cleaned. I tried Brasso, but it wasn't working easily enough. I tossed the knobs into an old pan and added vinegar. Heated up and allowed them to boil for a couple minutes.
All the old gunk was gone and I found out they were gorgeous brass knobs!
This table still has a few scars from it's time exposed to the elements. I'm not mad it though, it adds a little character. It has great lines and was good quality to begin with, and with a little TLC will be enjoyed for many years to come.
No more bowed top either!

Suggested materials:

  • General Finishes Gray Gel Stain  (Woodcraft)
  • Minwax Weathered Oak Stain  (Lowes)
  • General Finishes Flat out Flat  (Woodcraft)

Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • Linda
    on May 24, 2016

    How do you apply gel stain? Brush, rag..?

  • Elisabeth Freeland
    on May 24, 2016

    Can you tell me the process for fixing the bowing wood top?

    • Pamela Field
      on May 24, 2016

      you'll need 2-4 clamps, depending upon the bow. Also get a board the length of the top. Best way to keep the board from bending too, is turn it on it's side. Add wood glue to areas that have pulled away from seam. Clamp the boards together, wiping away excess glue when it seeps out. Let set overnight. That's pretty much it! Be careful you don't split the board when you clamp it. Also, if you want it to be more pliable, wet some towels and lay it on top. The moisture is what caused the problem to begin with, it can be part of the solution. :D

  • Mro164
    on Sep 1, 2018

    Wowza!! Amazing job, poor old thing has a brand new life, well done. Any suggestions for me as to re-surfacing older window sills and interior doors? I bought a home that was built in 1951 and has the original woods. I believe it’s oak but has been re-varnished more than once.

    Thanks so much, again, lovely work on the table.🤗🤗

    • Pamela Field
      on Sep 6, 2018

      Thanks so much!

      That's funny you mentioned that, I was just noticing one of my window sill where my lab likes to look outside. I need to fix that!

      Only thing I know to do for something like that is strip, sand and stain again. The thing is, stain won't penetrate unless you remove that top coat. I know, it's a lot of work, but it reminds me of how you eat an elephant. ;)

Join the conversation

3 of 145 comments
  • Bonnie Swint
    on Dec 25, 2017

    You did an awesome job on this coffee table! Absolutely beautiful. I have a very heavy coffee table that has some water rings and one spot where my son left a damp rag on it. Not anywhere near the damage as this. I've tried a few tips I was given and they helped the rings but still have the large spot from the rag. The hubby wants to throw it out but it's so very well made I just can't do that. Also have the matching end table that is in great condition. It has inlaid designs so I'm wary of sanding it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
    • Pamela Field
      on Dec 26, 2017

      Howard's Restore is a great product to help for that sort of problem. I can get it at Woodcraft in my area. Just follow instructions on the can. I hope that helps!

  • Carol Cole
    on May 12, 2019

    It is beautiful. I don't know what else to say.

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