How to Refinish a Coffee Table

Wood furniture can age gracefully if it is carefully protected and gingerly used. Some types of furniture, such as coffee tables, usually see much more abusive use than this, and can end up with stains, scratches, and a faded or chipped finish. If a damaged coffee table is of special value to you, or if you'd simply like to use it as a DIY project, you can learn how to refinish a coffee table with only a few tools and materials.


  1. Image titled Refinish a Coffee Table Step 1
    Set up your work area. Because you will be sanding the coffee table and creating a lot of dust, it is best to work outdoors or in a garage. If this is not an option, choose a room that is well-ventilated and will not be needed for use during the refinishing project. Lay down a plastic drop cloth to cover the floor of the room and collect the sanding dust. Make sure the room is not really in use by anyone else during this time period.
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    Sand away the existing finish. Your coffee table may be covered in paint, a clear sealer, or a stain and a clear sealer. Any type of finish can be sanded away to expose the raw wood underneath. If you hope to re-stain the wood or use a clear finish, you'll need to sand the finish away completely. If you want to paint the coffee table instead, you can leave some splotches of the previous stain.
    • For the fastest results on the coffee table's surface, use an electric sander. Fitting the sander with coarse-grit sandpaper will help you cut through existing layers of paint or varnish quickly.
    • For sanding along legs, molding, or other intricate or tough-to-reach places, use a sanding sponge. For very hard-to-reach areas, you can wrap a piece of sandpaper around your finger.
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    Remove all sanding dust from the coffee table. When you are finished sanding, use a vacuum with a hose attachment to remove as much sanding dust as possible from the coffee table. To ensure the removal of all sanding dust, moisten a rag with some mineral spirits and rub it across the coffee table.
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    Fill in any deep scratches or gouges. If there are scratches in the wood that were too deep to be removed through the sanding, you should fill them in before refinishing the coffee table. Small scratches can be filled in by rubbing them with the meat of a walnut or pecan. Larger scratches can be filled in with wood putty.
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    Apply a coat of stain if desired. Wood stains are available in a wide range of shades for darkening your furniture. Apply the stain according to the manufacturer's directions; an inexpensive foam brush is usually adequate for the task. Make sure that you wipe away all excess stain after allowing it to penetrate the wood. Allowing stain to dry into the wood will create an uneven appearance.
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    Apply a clear coat of sealer to the coffee table. Whether or not you stained the coffee table, you'll need to apply a coat of clear sealer to improve its appearance and protect the wood. The best option for achieving the durability needed in a coffee table is polyurethane, which can be applied using inexpensive foam brushes.
  7. Image titled Refinish a Coffee Table Intro


  • Always wear a dust mask when sanding to prevent respiratory problems. When working with oil-based finishes or mineral spirits, always wear safety glasses and thick gloves.
  • The classic linseed oil and furniture wax finish is not ideal for coffee tables, as the finish will wear away quickly with repeated use and cleanings.

Things You'll Need

  • Coffee table
  • Drop cloth
  • Electric sander
  • Sanding sponge
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Rag
  • Mineral spirits
  • Walnut, pecan, or wood putty
  • Foam brushes
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves

Article Info

Categories: Furniture and Cabinets