How to refinish and stain an old wood table

DIY wood table renovation

Repurposed wood dining table tutorial


This old wood table DIY project is close to our heart, especially for Amado, because it has a high sentimental value for his brother. It was custom made by his friend a long time ago using reclaimed wood.

When we saw the table in its sad condition, we instantly started working on it and gave it a complete makeover.

Let’s see how we repurposed this wood furniture, and if you follow along, you can give a new life to your wood coffee table or dining table too.

Create something that will make you happy, bring beauty to your home, save you money, and most importantly have fun in the process.

Furniture repair tools and supplies you’re gonna need.

There are many items often used in wood finishing projects.  Our list might not include all the supplies needed, but this is what we used and successfully finished the project.

  • Rags
  • Brushes
  • Sandpaper
  • Electric sander
  • Paper Towels
  • Stir Sticks
  • Drop Cloths or Newspapers


Step 1. Prepare the wood table for sanding

reclaimed wood table makeover

All surfaces should be clean and free from all dirt and oils. I often fight this important step for no particular reason. But don’t be like Andrea, just do it!

Grab an old clean t-shirt and soak it in warm water.

Clean all surfaces of your wood furniture and let it dry.

Once it’s dry, you can go on for the sanding process.


Step 2. Sand down wood

Sanding an old reclaimed wood is a super important step in wood finishing. Without it, your wood project won’t be beautiful. Don’t rush this process you will thank for me later.

We started with a medium grade of sandpaper (e.g., #120) using an electric sander. Depends on the type of the reclaimed wood you are using for your project you might need to adjust the grade of the sandpaper.

modern reclaimed wood dining table

And this happened. There was a thick layer of glue or old paint, and it would take forever to send it down. I don’t even remember what that “tool” is that we used, but you get the picture if it is too thick to sand it, you have to scrape it.

Don’t forget to check the joint areas as well for paint build up.

Unfortunately, if you don’t remove all old paint or stain, your staining process would be a waste. Your repurposed wood table could end up with different colors (one color on bare wood and a different color on the leftover paint).

Sanding to bare wood also avoid paint chipping and get all scratches out.


  • How to sand furniture with an electric sander

recycle wood furniture

Using an electric sander is fast and makes your prep process sooo much easier.

We used a Ryobi CFS1503 power sander with dust bag, and it really helped us to smooth the wood surface and buff out between topcoats.

You want to make your life easier and use lower grade sandpaper, like #120 for buffing and sending down to bare wood.

Do you need help to choose the correct sandpaper and know your reclaimed wood type? Check out this guideline.

Sand in the direction of the grain for a smooth surface. When you finished, remove all sanding dust using a cloth.

  • How to sand furniture by hand

You really don’t have to sand by hand if you don’t want to but the last sanding when you actually want to be careful and using a very fine paper it is a good idea to do it by hand.

We like to do the last sanding by hand because the electric sander can dig in and “damage” the wood, leaving round areas of wear, and it can ruin the whole wood project.

Step 3. Cleaning with a wet rag

Clean your project in between each step (each sanding and painting) This way; you can ensure no dust, piece of wood, hair, etc. would stay on your wood table project.


Step 4. Paint with sanding sealer

So here is the thing we always protect our outdoor wood furniture with sanding sealer. Why?

Sanding sealer does exactly what its name suggests. It seals the little cracks and pores of the bare wood, and it protects the wood from the elements.

Plus it will provide a perfectly smooth base coat for a protective clear finish.

My tip: Makes sure you use sanding sealer at the end-grains too (like the sides of the tabletop). It usually soaks up more stain than surfaces cut with the grain.


Step 5. Sand down wood with light sandpaper (e.g., #220).

repurposed old rustic wood table

We include this extra step after the sanding sealer is dry because sometimes there are rough spots or a little excess of the sealer. We barely pressure the sandpaper on the surface to make sure we don’t sand it too much down.

This step is important for creating the perfect smooth surface for staining or painting.


Step 6. Clean with a wet rag to take all the dust

The same as step 3. Clean all dust and dirt from the surface of your wood project with a damp cloth. Let it dry and move on to the painting process.


Step 7. Repainting or staining the table

how to refinish furniture with wood stain

Finally, we got to the fun part! After all the boring BUT very important sanding you prepared you reclaimed wood for painting.

We chose to stain this outdoor table because we wanted to keep the original look and the carving on the tabletop.

If you don’t know what color of stain you want to have on your wood there are a couple of things you have to consider:

  • What color of the stain you selected.
  • What type of wood you are working with
  • How the wood will absorb the stain. 
choose stain color for repurposed wood furniture

Example of testing different colors of stain.

Here is the thing: a different type of woods absorbs stain differently.  We test the colors on our wood project and wait until it dries to make the final decision which wood stain we will use to finish the DIY project.

You can have more than one layer if you want. Usually, we do this if we would like to have the stain darker. BUT remember to sand with the fine sandpaper #220 grade in between staining.

Steps would be:

  • stain
  • let it dry
  • sand
  • clean
  • stain again


Step 8. Apply polyurethane cover for shine and protection

repurposed wood furniture and decor

We used polyurethane cover for protection since this repurposed wood table will be in the patio.

If you decide your wood table need the extra protection, remember to allow the stain to dry to avoid chipping, peeling, or loss of color. Then you can move on and put on the clear coat.

The same applies here. If you want to put more layers of protective coat, you have to wait until the coating is thoroughly dry. Then lightly sand between coats with #220 grit sandpaper, clean to remove dust and dirt before you put on the next layer.

I don’t like long video tutorials, and I found one I think would benefit everybody who needs some directions on how to repurpose old wood furniture. If you want more visual instruction, check out this very useful short video.

There are so many materials you can upcycle and create a unique outdoor dining table. Check out this elegant composite decking DIY tutorial. 


Final tips on a repurposed wood table DIY project

I hope you got inspired by our DIY wood project and you’ll soon turn one of your old furniture into something new and beautiful.

Don’t forget to clean and sanding stain off to bare wood to prepare your reclaimed wood for painting.

We used stain, but you can refinish your furniture with chalk paint to get a farmhouse or more modern look.

Go recycle, repurpose, resurface your old table instead of spending money. AND HAVE FUN!


Related DIY home decor ideas:


Please show us what you’ve repurposed in the comments.

As always please pin it and share so others can have a fun DIY weekend too. 

repurposed patio wood table DIY

Do you wanna DIY more?


  1. Britt

    That turned out beautifully and you laid it out in a step by step way that makes it look so easy for a beginner to give it a try. Thank you!

    • Andrea

      Thank you Britt! I hope all beginners get inspired and won’t be afraid to repurpose on old wooden furniture.

  2. Caroline

    Looks great! Excellent tips too. I have a few projects I’ve been wanting to tackle so this really helps!

    • Andrea

      Thank you Caroline. When you are done with the wooden projects let me see them. 😉

  3. Bianca

    This is perfect!! I just bought a new old house and we are finding great old pieces to fill it. Lots of them need some TLC, so these tips will come in handy!

    • Andrea

      Bianca, that is exactly our situation too. We got a house and some very old furniture. Most of them need a lot of love and a new stain or paint.

  4. Marianna

    I was looking for this actually, thanks for sharing and for the tips!

    • Andrea

      Hope these tips are useful and happy DIYing!

  5. Laura

    Looks so good. I redid a bookshelf, desk and chair about 10 years ago. It’s true that sanding is the most important step.

    • Andrea

      Right, Laura? Meanwhile, we still have to admit sanding is boring and we just want to paint already. 🙂


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