How to Repair Water Damaged Furniture

Pamela Field
by Pamela Field
3 Materials
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)
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 7 questions
  • Anne Anne on May 23, 2016
    How do you apply gel stain? Brush, rag..?
  • Elisabeth Freeland Elisabeth Freeland on May 24, 2016
    Can you tell me the process for fixing the bowing wood top?
  • Mro164 Mro164 on Sep 01, 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.🤗🤗

Join the conversation
3 of 151 comments
  • Maureen McAteer Vasily Maureen McAteer Vasily on Mar 07, 2022

    Yes, I have a few projects at my home that need TLC. I appreciated the details, especially the use of a 2x4 clamped to straighten the top.

    • Pamela Field Pamela Field on Mar 07, 2022

      thanks Maureen!

      Sometimes keeping it simple works best.

      Good luck on your projects! :D

  • Vi Vi on Mar 26, 2023

    Great job....I love the colour. It is wonderful when we can give new life to something.