Learn how to take an old rundown table, and refinish it into a beautiful farmhouse table with this tutorial for beginners!
After we moved into our house earlier this month, I was on the hunt for a new dining table and chairs, since our HUGE octagon dining room table wouldn’t fit. I already had visions of farmhouse tables dancing in my head….but was unwilling to pay the price tag for one at the store.
Enter Facebook Marketplace! Seriously, it’s the new Craigslist. I found this round table with a leaf for cheeeeeeeeap and decided to “farmhouse” it myself.
Y’all, I’m super Type A when it comes to most things in life. But when it comes to DIY projects, I get so excited that I kind of just “go for it”…..armed with just a couple inspo photos and just a basic idea of what to do.
Because of this, I ended up making a mistake that set me back several hours (more on that in a minute) and had to make multiple trips to Home Depot.
Don’t let this scare you off!!! I still consider myself a beginner at most of this stuff, and this project was NOT hard at all. I hope that by reading this you’ll learn from a few of my mess-ups (which I’m more than willing to point out), and be encouraged and motivated to try it yourself!
Here’s What You’ll Need
Take it from me: gather ALL your supplies before you start. Otherwise, you’ll be stopping to make 3+ trips to your home improvement store in the middle of your project. Not fun…
- Electric sander: I use an orbit sander, and it gets the job done. You can rent a sander, but honestly…sanders are pretty inexpensive, so you’re almost better off just buying one.
- Sandpaper: Get sandpaper specifically for your sander. Since mine is an orbit sander, my sandpaper needed to be round. You can buy them in individual packages, OR I found the one above that includes ALL the different grits you’ll need for this project. Holla!
- Wood stain: I used Varathane Wood Stain in Dark Walnut. Also, this size ended up being WAY too much…I had so much left over! So you can definitely go with the small can.
- Polyurethane: I used an oil based poly: Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane in a clear, semi-gloss finish.
- Staining sponge
- Tack cloth
- Poly brush
- Waverly Inspirations Chalk Paint
- Walmart sells this in the craft section, and it is such a steal! At under $10 for a large bottle or $5 for a small one, I use it for most of my small-medium chalk paint projects.
- Wavery Inspirations Clear Wax
- Paint brushes: I just use the cheapest paint brushes I can find….you can find this variety pack on Amazon! They DO sell specific brushes for chalk paint, but they’re more expensive and I’ve honestly seen no real difference in the finished product. Plus, since they’re so cheap, you can just toss it when you’re done instead of cleaning it.
- Staining Sponge: (used for waxing)
- You can also buy a brush specific for waxing, but a staining sponge works just fine.
- Tack Cloth
- Sandpaper or Sanding Block (optional)
- Use this only if you plan in distressing the base
Get the Stuff
Ok, Now Let’s Get Started!
Now comes the fun part….actually getting started! Just think: in 24 hours, you’ll be sitting at your beautiful new farmhouse table that you refinished like a boss!
Start at the Top….
Ok. So let’s just throw this out there so we can acknowledge it and deal with it: sanding sucks. And there’s just no way around it. BUT it can suck alot less if you have the right tools and especially the right kind of sandpaper. If you buy the “variety pack” of sandpaper like I did, it has 80, 150, and 220 grit….and that’s all you really need.
1.Start by sanding the entire top with 80 grit sandpaper (or 60 would work a little better if you have it). This step will take the longest because you’re trying to get through the current finish on the table and down to the original wood. But once you finish this step, it’s smooth sailing from here. You can do this!
2. After you’ve sanded down to the original wood, now sand it again with 150 grit sandpaper. This smooths the table out a little more. And it won’t take NEAR as long to do because you’ve already sanded through the finish on the table.
3. Now you’re ready for your last leg of sanding….woo-hoo! Use 220 grit to make it ultra smooth, and again….you’ll zoom through this part.
4. Wipe off the surface with some tack cloth (I recommend this over just a regular rag because the tack cloth is kind of sticky and picks up all those dust particles).
5. Now reflect on your master sanding skills and realize that it wasn’t that horrible.
*Disclaimer* I decided to take a short cut and use a stain+poly combined product…even though it sounded a little too good to be true. It had good reviews so I decided to go for it. I don’t know if it was operator error, but I brushed one coat on half of the table and immediately knew something wasn’t right. I waited to try 1 more coat….to see if that would even it out, and it looked even worse! SO I had to end up sanding that whole half of the table again!!! No joke. 😭 I did call Rustoleum customer service, and they happily gave me a refund. So I went BACK to Home Depot and got a separate stain and poly, and it was smooth sailing from there.
1. Wipe on your stain with a staining sponge (or old T-shirt) in long sections going with the grain, and then wipe off. Work your way across the table.
2. Let the stain dry, and if you have it outside in the sun…it’ll dry pretty quickly. I’m super impatient so I only waited like 30 minutes between coats.
3. I applied about 5 coats on mine (letting each coat dry in between). That sounds like a lot, but it was the easiest part. Each coat took less than 5 minutes to wipe on and off.
I’ll be honest: I had no idea which polyurethane to use. And I wasn’t going to take a chance guessing after my mistake earlier. So I loaded up and went to Home Depot, yet again, and asked an expert there what to use. He pointed me in the right direction for the poly and brush that I needed and they worked great for this project.
1.Apply your first layer of poly with a polyurethane brush, and then go catch up on your favorite TV show while it dries.
2. After that, apply a second coat, let dry, and then a 3rd. The kind I used recommended 3 coats, so that’s what I went with.
*Some tutorials say to lightly sand the top between each coat of poly, but I think you have to have a SUUUUUPER fine grit for that. I did no such thing, and my table still looks great!
…and Work Your Way Down.
First off: you DO NOT need to sand the legs before chalk painting. Yippy! You’re done with sanding!
You’ll be painting the base with chalk paint, and you can actually do this while you’re waiting for the polyurethane to dry. I’ve gone into more step-by-step details on chalk painting on this post if you’re new to it. But don’t be intimidated…this is the easiest part.
1.Apply the first coat with your cheapo paint brush. Don’t worry about brush direction since it’ll be covered up with a second coat. You can see how I did it on this dresser.
2. It takes no time for chalk paint to dry, so you can apply your 2nd coat pretty quickly. Pay more attention to brush stroke direction on this coat (especially if it’s going to be your final coat), but you’re more than welcome to go for a 3rd coat too.
3. *Optional* If you plan on distressing after your final coat dries, now would be a good time. Just take some sandpaper or a sanding block and sand the areas that would naturally see wear and tear. Be sure to wipe it off with tack cloth when you’re done.
Don’t be intimidated by waxing…it’s not hard! If you’ve never waxed, I go way more in my post: How to Chalk Paint the East and FAST Way!
1. After everything is dry, take your staining sponge and wax over the chalk paint.
2. Ideally, you’re supposed to wait overnight before you apply a second coat of wax, but again….I’m impatient. So I only waited a few hours.
Girrrrrrrl, Look at the Beautiful Farmhouse Table, You!
You’re done, so do a happy dance and spend the next 24-48 hours just staring at your beautiful table. Then begin obsessing about what you can refinish next, am I right?
And if you’re wondering where I got those awesome metal chairs to pull the look together, check out this STELLAR deal on Amazon!
Complete the Look:
Bonus: Do’s and Don’ts
I am gonna leave you with a few do’s and don’ts to hopefully prepare and encourage you to try this on your own.
- DO get all your supplies before you start. I don’t know if you were counting, but I ended up making 3 trips to Home Depot in 2 days because I did NOT take inventory of what I needed before I started.
- DO this outside….and try to be in the sun. It helps everything dry much faster.
- DO buy or rent a sander…don’t try to do this by hand!
- DO use the right grit of sandpaper. Using the wrong grit to remove the layer of finish can really slow you down. 80 is good….60 is better.
- DON’T use and poly+stain blend if you’re a beginner….in my opinion. It’s not very easy to work with.
- DON’T be afraid to ask your home improvement store for help picking out supplies. They’re the experts!
- DON’T worry about sanding the base before chalk painting….it’s not necessary!
- DON’T overthink it…just go for it! It’s almost impossible to mess your table up. If you do something you don’t like, you can always sand it off and start over (but hopefully you won’t have to 😉).
I would so love to know if you’ve tried to farmhouse your own table and how it turned out! If you have a photo and you’re on Instagram, tag me at @herhappyhome….I’d love to admire your table!
Hi, What kind of wax do I use??? Thank you
When I put on my poly, I kept getting bubbles. After letting it dry I tried to sand but noticed partial bubbles still. Help please.
Hi. I can’t seem to buy Waverly chalk products at my Walmart in Canada. However, I can buy the rust-oleum chalk paint. However, they do not seem to have a wax to purchase. It seems that rustoleum protective topcoat in matte clear is easy to find, but I’d love to try an actual wax. I’d like to relay protect my projects as they are used a lot..like chairs or benches. Can you share another wax product, like another name brand of reliable wax? Thanks!!
Her Happy Home says
Hi! Annie Sloan has several wax products that I trust and have used.
I’ve just found a table for free that I’m going to do this to, it’s a orange brown. I’ve never done this before but I’m very excited to give it a go. I have 8 chairs that I’m going to try first. Thank you for this step by step.
Did you sand the edge of the table?
Her Happy Home says
I tried the best I could, but some of the ridges made it more difficult.
Kelsi B. says
I just got my own place am going to attempt to refinish a round oak table that my sister gave me. You said we could you a smaller can of stain. I’m guessing 236ml is enough? Also how much polyurethane do I need?
How long did you wait between the last coat of stain and the poly? I love it so far and don’t want to mess it up!!
Her Happy Home says
Only a few hours! Just make sure the stain is completely dry.