Refinishing an Oak Dining Room Table (A Throwback Post) | Live Pretty on a Penny

Refinishing an Oak Dining Room Table (A Throwback Post)

Hi friends! Sometimes, I like to look back through my blog and check out some of my posts that I felt were the most informative, and by the age of the post and the traffic it still gets, apparently people think its pretty informative as well! Over the next few weeks here and there, I plan to revisit some of my popular older posts and tutorials that are still relevant in my home. Well, this happens to be one of the those posts, circa October 2012.

To this day, I still love to update dated wood furniture, and looking back through this tutorial...I still follow every single one of these steps. So I figured today we could throw it back, in hopes that this tutorial on staining an oak table will help somebody today! And if you think this tutorial probably looks easier than it really is--its not. It really is this simple AND this impactful. Plus you will see at the bottom I have an updated picture of how the table has held up to this very day.

Originally posted: October 24, 2012

Recently,while doing one of my daily pinterest hunts, I came across several images of gorgeous pedestal tables. Since then, I have been on the search for a nice round table for my dining room, that was at least 48' in diameter. Since my dining room is small, I needed something that would look nice in the space, but not take up too much room. I checked a bunch of stores and online,  but was not feeling any pricing that these tables were going for. I was on the hunt for something like this:

So, I figured instead purchasing a brand new one for $700+, I would check local thrift stores and Craigslist for the perfect one. Well, a few weeks ago,  I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one from good old Craigslist for $60! Have a look...

It had the perfect curves, perfect height, but was a horrible orangey oak color that I hated. But, I figured since it was solid oak, and I mean SOLID, that I would stain it into a pretty rich espresso color. Here she is now!

I am so happy with how this project turned out, especially since this was my first time using stain. If I did this, then you can too! 

First I headed to The Home Depot to determine what I needed to complete my project. To stain my table, I purchased:
L to R-Citristrip, oil paint (Better) brush, Latex Protective Gloves, Varathane Stain + Poly (in-one) in Kona Semi-Gloss, Stripping Tools, 320-grit Extra Fine Sandpaper...Not pictured 180- grit Sandpaper, Odorless Mineral Spirits, Paper towels, Cheap Paint Brush (cheapest 2 inch brush is fine), Drop Cloth, and Dusk Mask.

Putting on my dust mask (safety first), I applied the Citristrip on top of the table, and around the table base to remove the varnish. For those of you not familiar with varnish, it is a hard, glossy, protective finish used on wood. This protective coat needs to removed by the stripper in order to prepare the surface for the stain. This stripper should be applied by pouring a manageable amount of stripper into a small bowl, and using the cheap 2 inch paint brush to apply in long strokes, making sure to cover all spots.

Once the stripper was applied, I let mine set in overnight, however the instructions on the back of the container only call for an hour of set time. 

When checking the table the next morning, the stripper dried the varnish and it was ready to be stripped. 

Taking my stripping tool, I began scraping across the top of the table, and the base. I scraped...and scraped...oh...and scraped. 

After I finished scraping, I swept off the varnish remnants with a broom. To be sure that all of the varnish is removed, I recommend shining light on the table along with running your hands across to check for any "slick" or shiny parts. Once I ensured its smoothness, it was time to remove the remaining stripper residue. I did this using Odorless Mineral Spirits and pouring it onto a scrubber. I used the back of this scrubbing sponge.

Since Mineral Spirits is a non-toxic paint stripper, and cleaner, it helped to prepare my surface for staining by removing all of the remaining stripper residue. I also used a few damp paper towels to ensure all of the residue was off, and I kept wiping until the paper towel was clean. 

Next, it was time to sand. Using my palm sander, we sanded over the table and base, following along in the direction of the wood grain, making sure to sand all of the edges and grooves of the table.  

 *Sorry, I don't have any pictures of us sanding the base, but we followed the same steps*

After we sanded, we wiped the table and base with several damp paper towels to remove sanding residue. To prepare to stain, we swept the floor to remove the sanding dust and any other particles from the floor.

After wiping down the table one final time, I began to stain. I applied the stain using a good quality 2 inch paint brush that was compatible with the use of oil paints or stains. The stain was applied using even strokes from top to bottom, still in the direction of the wood stain.

Once I covered the table completely with stain on the top and base, I let it dry for an hour, per the instructions on the stain can. Then I sanded the table lightly using  320-grit sandpaper, to prepare it for the second coat of stain to stick. Again, this should be done very lightly. Just enough to rough up the surface so that the stain has something to adhere to. 

I then applied the second coat of stain. This photo gives a good side by side of the first and second coat, and the dimension that the second coat adds.

Left is with the second coat, right is the first coat

And here it is finished with the second coat. Since the stain already had polyurethane in it, there was not a need to add. So I was left with a beautiful, shiny "new" dining room table!

For some reason the base looks darker in the photo, but it has the same amount of coats as the top.

Here are a few more finished pics...

I am very happy with the finished product and I would highly recommend this stain. For the table and all of the products it took to properly stain it, my project total came up to about $85, which I would take over the cost of a brand new table! All in all, staining is actually pretty easy, it just requires quite a bit of  prep work. Now I need some chairs, a rug (this one was a test from another room), a small buffet, and other accessories. Since we are fixing up this room and the kitchen at the same time, I vote to make my backsplash my next project, but knowing me, I might end up doing something else (scatter-brained). I hope to have some updates soon!

See! Super simple. Here is the table in all of its chocolate beauty today!


I highly recommend this stain. This table literally does not have any scratches on it, thanks to the poly that is included in this stain. I get compliments on this table anytime someone visits and they can't believe how it looked before.

The chairs are the Threshold Tufted Brookline dining chairs from Target. I have had them around 2 years. I always thought that the legs being a different color would bother me, but it doesn't.

If you are going back and forth trying to decide if you should stain a piece of furniture that you really want to change, then I say go for it. It's pretty easy, and you will love the result. Just take your time, and enjoy the process.

Lastly, I wanted to thank everyone who popped over to my blog from Thrifty Decor Chick. Sarah was gracious enough write an incredible feature about me and my blog last week, and I am so grateful. Thank you for your kindness Sarah, and thanks to all of my newest subscribers!!If you are not familiar with Thrifty Decor Chick, then you have to take some time to check it out.  Sarah's home is stunning and she is so humble and kind, which shows through in her blogging.

As always, thanks for stopping by. If you are new reader, welcome and thank you for checking out my blog. Don't forget to subscribe so that you never miss a post!


  1. I love this post! I used your tutorial on staining my mother's dining room table!

  2. I love the transformation! Seriously, I could just move right on in...


    1. Thank you Michelle!! Come on, as long as you cook you are welcome to move in.

  3. Your table looks so good. Love the shade of stain you choose. It reads so much prettier in your recent pictures!

  4. Wonderful, as always :)

  5. What an amazing transformation Erin and such a huge difference! Superb job!


  6. Excellent Greg. Good, practical stuff. I just floated your article around my network. Keep up the good work.

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  7. Love the chairs! Have you thought about painting the legs to match the table? Or staining them?


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