When my wife and I moved into a new place, we knew we were going to need some new furniture. And since finding used furniture at garage sales and on Craigslist is one of our favorite past times, I knew we’d have a few projects before getting settled. The biggest project came with a $25 garage sale coffee table. I probably could have purchased it for less (the owner asked how much I would pay for it, and later said she didn’t want to have to haul it back into the house). The table was sloppily painted white with what-we-assumed beautiful wood underneath. Neither of us had ever stripped paint before. But that didn’t scare us off. So we put on our HGTV shoes and went to work. The result is spectacular, and as a result I am glad to bring you a new kind of tutorial – How to Refinish & Strip Wood in 7 Steps. Below you’ll see the BEFORE image of the coffee table.

Coffee Table Painted

Coffee Table Handle

STEP 1: Get the Right Tools

Gathering the right equipment for the job is a very important step to make this an enjoyable experience. Here is a list of equipment that we used and you might need:

  • Paint Stripper – We used Klean-Strip because it was recommended to us at Home Depot – and it worked great!
  • Paint Scraper – You’ll also want a variety of screwdrivers, toothpicks, and other little tools to help scrape off paint
  • Tarp to keep your floor clean
  • Sand paper ranging from 60-200+ grit
  • Paint Brushes for putting on the paint stripper, staining, and sealing
  • Polyurethane for sealing the wood and protecting it
  • Wood Filler if you have holes to fill
  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • Rags
  • Water – to stay hydrated!

STEP 2: Set Up Your Work Area

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As you can tell from the above photo, things get messy during this kind of project! From paint flecks to sawdust, it’s easier to keep clean if you have a tarp below you. I also suggest doing this project in a highly ventilated area (but not a windy one). A garage with the door open is the perfect place.

STEP 3: Strip the Paint

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Using protection (mask and gloves), apply a generous layer of paint striper to the surface of the wood. I suggest doing each side, one at a time. Don’t try to do everything at once. Let the stripper sit for 10-20 minutes to do it’s magic. Then use a paint scraper to peel off the paint. If it is working, the paint should come off easily. You may have to use other tools or sandpaper to get all of the paint off. Or you can leave some paint on to get a weathered look.

If you need to fill in any holes with wood filler, do so after you’ve removed all of the paint.

STEP 4: Sand the Surface

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Starting with a rough sand paper around 60-100 grit, sand the entire surface of your furniture. You may want to use a power sander if you have a big piece of furniture. It really helps make the work go quickly. Always sand with a motion going with the grain of the wood. Sanding against the grain will make scratches appear in the final product. Continue to sand with a 200+ grit piece of sand paper to get the wood very smooth.

STEP 5: Paint or Stain

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Whether you want to re-paint or stain your furniture is up to you. I’m assuming most of you won’t want to re-paint, as this could probably have been done without stripping the previous layer of paint. Adding a stain can help match this piece of furniture with other furniture of yours, or just give it a beautiful look. We decided to not stain our table because we loved the natural pine color.

STEP 6: Seal and Protect

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The penultimate step is to make sure your furniture is protected from small water spills or scratches. There are a few options including polyurethane, shellac, lacquer and varnish. Each has their own purpose. But we chose to use polyurethane because of it’s ease. Water-based polyurethane comes in a variety of options from satin to glossy. It’s great for bookcases, desks, side tables, frames – or anything that won’t be exposed to extremes. There is also an oil-based polyurethane, but the water-based type goes on completely clear – perfect for letting the natural wood color shine.

To apply polyurethane, just paint it on like you would normal paint – but with a synthetic brush. We applied 3 coats to our coffee table, and waited a few hours between each coat.

STEP 7: Let Set, Then Use!

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The last step depends on the type of polyurethane you use. Ours recommended to let the furniture set for 7 days. 7 days! That seems like an eternity when waiting to use our beautiful coffee table. We followed the directions though, and brought out table up after one week. Check out the photos below to see how beautiful the wood looks.

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In total, the cost of supplies ended up being about $40-$50. But I will be able to re-use a lot of them (paint scraper, tarp, etc.).

$25 Table + $45 Tools + Many Hours of Fun Hard Work = A GREAT PROJECT!

This project was really fun, and now we have a beautiful coffee table to use. The table has it’s own story – not just a receipt from Ikea. And I like that. My wife and I put a lot of elbow grease into this table, and I hope we get to use it for years to come!

Please let me know if you have any questions before. What did you think of this post? Did you like it? Let me know!

Phil