How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table in 4 Easy Steps

Ahna Fulmer
by Ahna Fulmer
6 Materials
3 Days

Learn how to refinish a wooden picnic table in 4 easy steps with this DIY tutorial!

How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table in 4 Easy Steps

Last week I refinished our favorite outdoor wooden picnic table that we bought for our very first house 7 years ago. If you have a piece of wooden outdoor furniture that you would like to refinish, then this DIY is for you!

Let’s check it out!

Look how pretty it is here. We bought this 7ft beauty from a local Amish man 6 years ago, and we got so much use out of it at our first fixer upper (check out the story of our Vintage Victorian fixer upper here!)

Then we moved to our second fixer upper, the Colonial foreclosure , and it got even more use on the stained concrete patio I designed.

And by the time we moved to our third fixer upper (the French Country Cottage), it looked so worn and dilapidated that it was begging for a makeover (aren’t we all at the moment?! Thanks COVID).

It was peeling, rotting, cracking . . .

And the benches told the same sad story.

Ok, let’s get to work!

How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table in 4 Easy Steps

You will need:

  • Orbital hand sander
  • 60 grit sanding disc
  • 120 grit sanding disc
  • Cabot Gold The Ultimate Finish
  • Paint brush
  • 220 fine grit sand paper sheets

I used Cabot Gold Sunlit Walnut, but I have also used Sun-Drenched Oak which is a really pretty lighter stain. The advantage to this particular brand is that it has a polished finish built into it specifically for decks and outdoor furniture.

How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table in 4 Easy Steps

#1. Sand the top of the table and the benches.

Use the 60 grit sanding discs first to strip the peeling finish.

Follow that with the 120 grit sanding disc so it is smooth to the touch.

The top of the table and the benches should feel soft and smooth to touch. Don’t forget to sand the sides of the table and bench tops!

I rarely sand the bottom of tables and benches when I redo them. It’s a bother, and frankly, you can hardly tell the difference unless you are on your hands and knees picking up all the crumbs from your messy children. And at that point I’m more bothered by the fact that I have such messy children.

How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table in 4 Easy Steps

#2. Stain the bottom of the table and benches first and then the top.

A couple pointers here.

First, make sure the bottoms are really clean. Use a shop vac or a bristled brush to make sure the dirt and grime are off the bottom. I don’t bother sanding, but I do make sure they are very clean.

Two, if there is break down or rot in the feet fill them with wood filler and let harden prior to staining. This will help protect from further damage.

Three, when staining the underside of the table top slats try to avoid getting too much stain in between because it will run through and drip on the top of the table. Make sense? Don’t slather a ton of stain into the creases. You will not see them from this angle and could get darker pools of dried stain onto the top.

Lastly, don’t stain the sides of the table top when it’s upside down. Same principle. It will run and leave a darker line all around the top.

Once coat is usually enough for the bottom.

Flip after an hour or so and stain the top and sides.

How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table

#3. Sand the top with 220 fine grit paper.

This is the secret to a smooth finish. In between coats of stain or poly use a fine grit sand paper (220 or 320 for an indoor piece) and hand sand in between coats.


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Here I am using the sand paper. Sand with the grain then use a brush to wipe clean or a tacky cloth.

How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table in 4 Easy Steps

#4. Apply a second coat of stain.

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Apply a second coat.

Here is the difference between the first coat (left) and the second coat of stain (right).

Allow to dry.


How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table in 4 Easy Steps


And now your sad, dilapidated picnic table is restored back to life for many more hours of sweet memories around the table.

How to Refinish a Wooden Picnic Table in 4 Easy Steps

Before and After

Pin any of the images below for later!

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Ahna Fulmer
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  • Diane Diane on May 12, 2021

    You brought it back to life! Excellent

  • Rhonda Sue Holmes Rhonda Sue Holmes on May 29, 2021

    I am so glad that you did this. I have an old picnic table that has weathered many storms. LOL. This looks to be a job that's actually doable for me. Plus, my husband won't try to get rid of it again.😀 Thank you so much!