Transforming an Old Dark Brown Table

5 Materials
$50
3 Days
Medium

Refinishing our dark wood table was something I’ve wanted to do since we moved into our newly remodeled house which has a much more beachy vibe, but I was a little afraid of ruining it since I'd never refinished a table before. I loved this table, and it’s color, when we first bought it over 14 years ago but it just didn’t look right in our new home. We use it as a kitchen table for casual everyday meals when we are not sitting at our enormous kitchen island, or in our dining room. It was a dark chocolate brown and I was unsure if I’d ever be able to lighten it up. Well, thankfully I was, and I am so happy with the result. Here is a step by step of how I did it.

transforming an old dark brown table
Materials…
Klean Strip paint stripper
Klean Strip after wash
paintbrush
paintbrush cleaner
hand sander with different paper grits
stain, I used Minwax Weathered Oak
polyurethane, I used Minwax Satin Polycrylic Protective Finish
chalk paint (to paint the legs)
wax sealer
safety glasses
mask
rags

Step 1:  Stripping the paint…
The first thing you need to do when refinishing a piece of furniture is strip off all the old paint using a paint stripper.  A very nice guy at Home Depot helped me pick one out.  He recommended Klean Strip, as shown below.  You just apply a coat of it, wait a few minutes, then scrape it off.  I had to do this several times as I was working outside and it was very hot and humid so some of the stripper dried too quickly.  I only did the top of this table since I planned to paint the legs white.  Once you are done stripping the paint off, you then need to apply some Paint Stripper After Wash.  I used Klean-Strip.  This product essentially removes any paint residue left from the stripping process.  To use, follow the instructions on the back of the can and make sure you wear gloves and safety googles.

Here is how it looked after using the stripper and after wash.  Again, I used several coats. It was still too dark for my liking, so I started sanding.
transforming an old dark brown table
transforming an old dark brown table
Step 2: Sanding…
Please make sure you wear a mask and safety googles if you attempt this. Thankfully, we have a hand sander and the thing is awesome.  Although it is very messy and very noisy.  I used a few different sand paper grits when doing this.  I started with 80 and then went up to 220 to finish it off.

I continued to sand until I liked how it looked.  I was going for a ‘farm house’ feel.  I could have kept sanding until all the colors were even but I was happy with the uneven, weathered look.
transforming an old dark brown table
transforming an old dark brown table
Step 3: Staining…
Once I was done sanding I had to decide what stain color to use so I went back to Home Depot to pick one out.  I suppose I could have just left it the way it was but I thought using some stain would enhance the color.  First I tried using some left over white pickling stain that I had in the garage, but I wasn’t happy with it.  I ended up choosing Weathered Oak by Minwax after searching Pinterest for ideas.

Before you begin applying the stain make sure to clean up all the dust. I used a damp rag, then a dry one to get rid of every last speck of dust.
transforming an old dark brown table
I applied 2 thin coats of stain and was happy with the way it looked
transforming an old dark brown table
Here is a picture of the different stages of color.
transforming an old dark brown table
Step 4: Apply Polyurethane and Paint the Legs…  
I waited overnight for the stain to dry thoroughly before applying the polyurethane.  The back of the can said to to apply at least 2 coats of poly, but I thought it needed at least 4.  This is a dining table after all,  and I wanted to protect it from getting water damage, scratches, etc.  This stage takes a while since you have to wait for it to dry for 3-4 hours in between coats.  You also need to sand lightly in between each coat.
transforming an old dark brown table
After I applied each coat of poly I started painting the legs white.  I used chalk paint that I mixed myself using this recipe that I found online, or you can purchase chalk paint at many hardware stores and online.

1/3 cup plaster of Paris
1/3 cup water
mix these 2 ingredients together first
then add 1 cup of paint
and stir until smooth and mixed thoroughly.

For those who don’t know, chalk paint is awesome.  It allows you to paint most furniture without having to sand. Since the wood was so dark the legs needed about 3-4 coats of paint. Once that was totally dry I brushed on a little wax sealer and I was done.

I love how it came out. This whole process took around 3 days since you have to wait for things to dry. There isn’t much you can do to speed up the process, but it is worth it in the end.
transforming an old dark brown table
Finishing Touches…
I found this adorable settee at Tuesday Morning.  I had been eyeing the exact one online at  Wayfair but a friend spotted this for me and I couldn’t believe it.  It is perfect.  The artwork is from Home Goods.  I wasn’t sure if I was crazy about the chairs, which are from West Elm, but I think it works, for now at least.  The last thing I would like to do is add some sort of light fixture above the table, but I’ve got to convince my husband first.  Adding things means $$$.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed my makeover.
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Jodi House - the House house

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Have a question about this project?

3 questions
  • B.s5063955
    on Nov 30, 2017

    In the final picture, the table top looks very light, which I like. However the picture of your final stain looks very dark! I like the lighter one. Ju trying to figure out which stain to purchase. Any help?

    • You are right. It does look a bit dark in that picture but it’s actually not to dark. I think it was the lighting. The stain color I used is called Weathered Oak and looks more like the last photo (With the chairs around it). Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Margaret Green
    on Nov 30, 2017

    Could you have skipped all the stripping and just used a sander? Seems like that would have saved a lot of time.

    • I sanded for hours after I stripped, so I imagine if I hadn’t stripped it would have been a lot MORE sanding. Either way will probably work fine.

  • Frannie
    on Nov 30, 2017

    What kind of paint did you use in the chalk paint? Was it water based?

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4 of 85 comments
  • Matt Johnson
    on Sep 25, 2018

    I refinish furniture for a living and just wanted to throw my two cents in regarding the paint/stain stripper. I have used many brands. No matter the brand I always use the spray can as opposed to the paint on stripper. The stripper that comes out of the can is foamy where the paintable kind just applies as a clear liquid. You would be astonished at how much stain will scrape off after waiting just 5 minutes. You will get 10 times more stain off than by using the paintable stripper. The spray cans cost about 4 times more, but in my opinion it is well worth the results. I’ve never had to do a second coat just a really light sanding and you will be down to the bare wood.

  • Matt Johnson
    on Sep 25, 2018

    I refinish furniture for a living and just wanted to throw my two cents in regarding the paint/stain stripper. I have used many brands. No matter the brand I always use the spray can as opposed to the paint on stripper. The stripper that comes out of the can is foamy where the paintable kind just applies as a clear liquid. You would be astonished at how much stain will scrape off after waiting just 5 minutes. You will get 10 times more stain off than by using the paintable stripper. The spray cans cost about 4 times more, but in my opinion it is well worth the results. I’ve never had to do a second coat just a really light sanding and you will be down to the bare wood.


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