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How to Refinish a Tabletop with Polyurethane
by Ruby Bayan

Refinish Tabletop with Polyurethane Do you have a wood table that's badly scratched and stained? Don't be too quick to exile it to the garage or toss it in the dumpster. With just a small can of polyurethane varnish, a little elbow grease and a few minutes of your time, you can make that table shine like new. It's easier than you imagine.

What you'll need:

Polyurethane varnish
Mineral spirits or paint thinner
Sanding paper (100 and 220 grit)
Lint-free rags
Paint stirrer

What to do:

1. Take the tabletop to a well-ventilated area like a porch or open garage.

2. Sand down the tabletop to its bare wood. Use medium sandpaper (100 grit) to remove all the old layers of finish along with the stains and scratches. When down to bare wood, use very fine sandpaper (220 grit) to smoothen the surface.

Sand down tabletop surface.

3. Wipe off all the dust with a lint-free rag. Use a vacuum with a brush attachment if desired. Finish off with a lint-free rag slightly moistened with mineral spirits.

4. Open the can of polyurethane varnish and stir gently to lift the sediment that has settled on the bottom. Do not shake the can because it will cause air bubbles that will end up on your project.

5. Dip the paintbrush in the can and apply a thin layer of varnish on the tabletop following the direction of the wood grain. When dipping the paintbrush in the can, allow the excess varnish to drip into the can -- do not force away the excess by pressing the brush on the inside rim of the can because this produces air bubbles.

Paint along the wood grain.

6. Allow the first coat of polyurethane to dry for several hours, following the manufacturer's recommendations for drying time.

7. Prep the tabletop for the second coat of polyurethane varnish by gently sanding the first coat with very fine sandpaper, stroking along the wood grain. Vacuum or wipe off all sanding dust.

Apply several coats as desired.

8. Apply a second coat of polyurethane, allow it to dry, then gently sand again for the third coat. Applying three coats is usually adequate, but four to five coats give the table a thick and durable shine. Do not sand the final coat.

Tabletop polyurethane finish.

Helpful Tips:

Rather than having to clean your paintbrush with mineral spirits between coats to prevent it from hardening, buy several inexpensive brushes and use a new one for each coat.

Make sure the tabletop is clean and smooth before applying each coat of polyurethane to ensure a flawless shine.

If preferred, start with a "wood sealer" coat made from polyurethane varnish diluted with mineral spirits. All other coats should be straight from the can.

Several types of polyurethane varnish are commercially available. Consider the various options for your projects.


Always wear protective gear when handling tools or working in a hazardous environment. Take proper precautions when exposed to sanding dust and the strong smell of varnish.


Kitchen-Cabinets-and-Hardware.com: Polyurethane Varnish
Popular Magazine: Woodworking: Finishing for First-Timers

Contributed to eHow.com by Ruby Bayan, Home & Garden Topic Expert 2007-2010

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