Refinished Coffee Tables

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After a year of living with a broken coffee table (they don’t make MDF coffee tables for 4 year-olds to jump off of, apparently!), we decided to invest in a new set for our new house and pitch the old one.

Trouble is, with buying a house and all, we didn’t want to invest much. I didn’t want MDF ones again (because, four kids) but if we were to buy brand new, that’s all we would be able to afford. $200 on a set that would likely have to be replaced again in a few years seemed imprudent, so I started checking Kijiji regularly for a used, solid wood set. (Kijiji is Canada’s Craigslist.)

coffee tables before

Within a few days, a gorgeous collection appeared online. Gorgeous, if you looked passed the nasty stain and dinged up top to the beautiful wood underneath and the great leg detail. These babies had curves! The seller was asking $150 for all three tables. I offered $100 and he accepted it. Yay!

Brad picked them up the next evening and in a moment of insanity with just three weeks before moving day, I decided to refinish them. Surely it wouldn’t take me that long, would it?

Six days, guys.

It took me SIX days! Not bad if you don’t have four children five and under, a nursing baby, and a whole house to pack while you’re homeschooling. πŸ˜€

I decided to stain the top dark and paint the legs white. Our living room is on the North side of the house and I was afraid staining the whole set dark would make the room feel too “heavy.”

First I stripped them with a heavy duty, gel-based furniture stripper. All I had to do was wipe the stuff on and then wipe the stuff off, the back of the can said. It’ll be fun, it said.

It took three applications of gel just to get the tops of the tables stripped. I used the whole quart and then some. I’m still sure it was faster than sanding them though (at least, that’s what I tell myself), and with the help of a putty knife, I was able to scrape every last bit of old stain, wood glue, and shellac off. If you’re attempting a project like this, be sure to use a plastic putty knife or you may accidentally scrape your wood. (Ask me how I know. On second thought, don’t).

After stripping the tables, I sanded them lightly with 220 grit sandpaper, vacuumed and dusted them off and wiped them down with mineral spirits to make sure every last bit of residue was removed. “Mineral spirits” sounds so weird, don’t you think? *Shudder* Let’s just call it “paint thinner,” mmmkay?

You could easily use a detail sander, or similar but I just used sandpaper; a favorite place to get tool advice is – great site :).

coffee tables leg detail

Then came the primer for the legs of the tables. I applied two coats of Rust-Oleum’s Zinnser Cover Stain Primer . I used this stuff before when I painted the kitchen cabinets in our old house and it held the paint amazingly for the 6 years we lived there.

At this point I thought, “What have I done?!” It had taken four days already and I knew I had at least three coats of paint to go before staining and sealing the tops. Thankfully, the painting time goes faster and faster with each coat.

coffee tables painted legs

For the legs, I used Behr’s Interior Semi-gloss Enamel for Cabinets and Trim in “Spun Cotton,” a warm white.

coffee tables wood top

The tops were stained with one coat of Minwax’s Dark Walnut using a foam brush. I chose this color because it matched the legs of our couch. This was my first time staining anything and I was very pleased with Minwax’s product. I couldn’t believe how little I needed. I should have bought the tiny sample size; a quart was waaaaaaaaaay too much. Now I’m walking around the house looking for other things to stain…

After letting the tables dry for 24 hours, I sealed them with 3 coats of Minwax’s Polyurethane.

living room watermark 2I love how they turned out! They were totally worth all the time and all the fumes. You just couldn’t pay me enough to do it again. πŸ˜‰ We had two full weeks before moving day, which gave them a good chance to “cure” before being moved around. They held up fabulously during the transfer and we’re enjoying them in our new living room.

coffee table before and afterLinking to: Miss Mustard SeedThrifty Decor Chick

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7 thoughts on “Refinished Coffee Tables”

  1. Pingback: | Friday Favorites
  2. Just a tip on stripping old finishes for next timeβ€” Try applying the stripping gel, then apply torn off strips of tissue paper or even old newspaper over the gel. This keeps the moisture of the gel from evaporating too fast, and it “concentrates” the stripper’s volatiles in and around and closer to the old finish. I have used a tissue paper layer with strips of plastic wrap over that to great results on tough problems like deeply carved details or deep fluting.


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