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When we were first married, our kitchen table was a table for two on three legs. Nothing to look at, and free from someone’s discard pile. I never knock a free and “good enough” piece of furniture or wood. You know the saying, “one man’s trash…” Or is it “beggars can’t be choosy?” Well anyway, you look at it, it was good enough for us! We would eat our beans and cornbread on that little table, set with a tiny glass vase with fresh flowers, or should I say flower, often a daisy by the wayside, or another bit of nature, and we felt as if we were eating the most sumptuous buffet at a king’s table.
When we were able to buy our first home, it had a built-in hutch and a perfect spot for a new kitchen table. We chose a round oak table, with an extra leaf. It was solid and had a lovely apron edge with a scalloped pattern and scrollwork etched into it. I think that must have been the going thing in the ’80s because now you can often find these in thrift stores for next to nothing. Well, almost 34 years later that table is still as sturdy as ever. Albeit gouged and glittered from countless craft and school projects, that table has seen a lot of life!
Although we had thought about possibly replacing it over the years, we didn’t see any reason why. So at one point I had painted the top black and left the base as is. I polyurethaned the top, and it was impervious to any meal, spill, or craft project. I had replaced the ladder back chairs with beautiful black French country/cottage chairs I found at a yard sale. I’ll tell you more about them in another post. I thought they looked pretty good together, but I finally decided I wanted a new look for this old table and wanted to lighten the look. I love light, white and bright. The white and wood esthetic was something I knew I could accomplish so this ‘ol table was in for a facelift. I wanted to refinish this cottage farmhouse table, well that’s how envisioned it to be!
As you can see, this old table needed help, and what was I thinking leaving the base unpainted? Live and learn! The jute rug is all wrinkled because I thought I could move the table off it by myself, yes, that’s another “why did I leave the base unpainted” moments! In order to do a good job, I did my research, and since I was going to paint, and strip the table indoors…what? Yikes! I knew it would take me some time, and working indoors was something I hoped I could do if I found the right products. I needed them to be safe, especially since I have asthma and other issues. I felt confident in the products I chose and didn’t have any issues doing all this indoors. Now I have to say that I have an open space, with a door and multiple windows I opened, right next to where I was working, plus ceiling fans, I would not recommend anyone doing this indoors without proper ventilation, protection of work surfaces, and using products that have no/low VOC, odor.
Supplies Needed to Refinish A Cottage Farmhouse Table
- Plastic drop cloths
- chemical resistant gloves, safety glasses, mask
- CitriStip paint stripper Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel, 1 Quart, Red
- mineral spirits Klean Strip Odorless Mineral Spirits 1 Quart
- shop cloths/ also lint-free cloths
- paper towels
- plastic wrap
- cheap paint or chip brushes
- plastic putty knife
- steel wool
- metal container or bowl
- sandpaper in various grits
- Fusion Mineral Paint in Raw Silk
- Eos Paints Interior Satin Clear Varnish (no odor/ zero VOC/non-toxic)
- Briwax Liming Wax Briwax Liming Wax – 8 oz
- high-quality bristle or foam brushes I use Purdy Purdy 144152725 Pro-Extra Glide Angular Paint Brush, 2-1/2 inch
Prepare Your Surface
The first step you need is to clear your area, put down your tarps, gather your materials, and get ready to work. You want to make sure that your table is free from grime, wax, and everyday life. There are many good cleaners out there, but a little soap and water, and a bit of elbow grease are all you need. Wipe down all surfaces, go over with a clean cloth and make sure your table is dry. If your table is damaged, you will need to use some wood filler or glue to fix your issues before you paint. Make sure you use paintable wood filler! Once that’s all taken care of, you are ready for your next step.
To Sand or Not to Sand
Stripping a table may seem like a lot of work, but sanding by hand is really a lot of work! Although I can’t get by without an orbital sander DEWALT Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch (DWE6421) is a great choice, they also have one that is cordless. Also, for me to be able to sand off layers of black paint and polyurethane, I would be sanding for days, and I’d be taking lovely patina and grain along with it. If your table only has a poly coat on it, it would be safe to sand it lightly. I’m not against sanding, because it is a necessary step, but it’s not the right treatment for this table.
Stripping the Surface
I was so happy to find the Citristrip paint stripper. It has a pleasant citric fragrance, no chemical smell, was easy to use. Make sure and wear nitrile gloves, goggles, and a mask. Safety first! 1. Apply the Citristrip liberally, it needs a thick coat to work effectively. You may want to work in sections, but to be honest, I am not the most patient when it comes to things like this, go big or go home, so I applied it all over the entire surface. 2.Let it sit. The amount of time depends definitely on the number of coats of paint or the type of coating you are trying to remove. Use the directions on the package as a guide. 3. After you have let it sit, test a small section, using your putty knife. Make sure you have lots of paper towels, and a garbage can nearby. If you can see bare wood, start scrapping, working in small sections. Clean your putty knife a lot! This is messy work, but satisfying to see the paint coming up. I had to do 3 coats to get all that black paint off. I was getting a bit disheartened, but I wasn’t going to give up.
Keep working in sections, and remove the paint stripper. Repeat the whole process if necessary. At the end of this post, I’ll share some tips I learned by observation and mistake. If I can save you some time or effort all the better. When all the stripper is removed, hopefully, you will have a paint-free surface, if not, repeat! It does work slower than traditional strippers, but the extra time and safety are worth it to me. As a side note, I would never do this if I had kiddos and pets around. If you are working on a project and they are present, you can wrap your project with plastic wrap, yes you heard me right. Citristrip needs to stay wet in order to work. So you can use plastic wrap and come back to it when there is no risk of pets or little ones getting into anything. Wouldn’t you know it, as I was working all three kitties wanted to know what I was so interested in. Yikes! I had to shoo them into another room where they could be safe, and I could work.
How to Clean Your Surface after Stripping
Once you have finished stripping your surface, you will probably have residue and need to get that off. You can use mineral spirits and an old rag, or lint free towel, working in small sections. Or, you can use what I found worked best is Klean-Strip Paint Stripper After Wash. It removed the stripping residue from the wood. It applies easily with a steel wool pad, not the kind with soap. It also dried easily, I found it best to work in smaller sections, and went with the grain of the wood. Once the table and apron were free of all paint/stripper and residue, I sanded the wood lightly with fine sandpaper. Wiped with a clean lint free towel.
Paint or Stain
Now that your surface is ready, you probably have decided on whether you are going to paint or stain your furniture, Well, I had thought that I would paint the entire table white with Fusion Mineral paint, and then stain the top with Driftwood. So I started at the bottom and worked my way up. You can use any paint you like, I have painted furniture with almost every store brand out there, and different chalk paints as well. I really like the way Fusion mineral paint goes on. That’s just my opinion, I am not paid to say that. Here’s the deal, when I had stripped the table top, I had really loved the way the oak grain showed, and it was light blond color, it was so pretty. But I went ahead and started painting the table the way I had originally envisioned. Once I got the entire table finished I started to put on the stain………and…….I ….DIDNT LIKE IT! Now, you know I’ve been working on this table for days, and I had this vision on how lovely it was going to be, all cottage farmhouse and super pretty, and I hated it! I burst into tears, I’ll admit I was a baby about it, maybe because I had burst my own bubble by not having it look as I thought it would. No reflection on the beautiful driftwood stain I was using, it was just it didn’t look , well it didn’t look like “me!”
So, what was I supposed to do? As you can see I RESTRIPPED THE WHOLE TABLE TOP! What a mess! I was so frustrated with myself for creating so much extra work, but sometimes you have to go that extra mile, or do the extra work to get what you want. There’s a life lesson in here somewhere! Back to cleaning it all up after it was stripped. Back to sanding lightly, and making sure no residue remained. Cleaning the floors, ( that’s real hardwood) and sweeping, let’s just say I added more work to my week, but not necessarily more joy! I wasn’t whistling while I worked, it was more like I was singing the blues. Oh well, I knew I wasn’t going to quit, so I had to move forward.
How I finished My Cottage Farmhouse Table
Now that I had a clean surface again, I was ready to sand lightly, always going with the grain, wiping with a lint free tack cloth. It was time for the varnish. Now I knew I wanted something safe to use indoors, that would do a great job and be non-toxic, no VOC and no odor. After a lot of research I found Ecos Paints, and their Interior Satan Clear Varnish. What a great product! It was so easy to use, no smell, and was giving me a nice clear non yellowing finish. This is also my own opinion, I’m not compensated by them. I believe in this product and all the products mentioned. I applied it with a wide sponge brush, but it was leaving little bubbles, so then I went back to an old Purdy synthetic bristle brush and it went on smooth as glass. I followed the directions on the can, and let it dry between coats, giving it a light sanding by hand. I added 3 coats, waiting for each to dry, between coats. Since I wanted a whiteish finish, one of my besties suggested Briwax Liming Wax, and that’s what I used on the top to finish it off. I applied it with a cloth across the grain, it doesn’t need much at all. A few minutes later I buffed it with a clean cloth and repeated the process one more time. I must admit, I loved how it looked! All that work was definatly worth it.
Lessons Learned Through This Process
Like I’ve said, I’ve done lot’s of furniture painting but I also realized there are many things I had to learn along the way, if I am able to keep someone else from making my mistakes, then that’s just great!
- Do your research. Know the type of wood you are working with, does it have a veneer, what are you wanting to accomplish with this piece.
- If you have never stripped a painted surface before be prepared for the time and effort it will take.
- When using Citristrip be generous with it, don’t put on a thin amount and expect it to take off years of paint.
- Citristrip dries quickly. Don’t leave your project unattended, cover completely with plastic wrap, and in a dry climate in summer, come back to your project before the stripper dries out.
- Make sure you have all your supplies on hand. Do an inventory of what you need, and order in advance, or make one trip to the store.
- When something isn’t turning out the way you hoped, or you change your mind about something, that’s ok. It may create extra work, but you will have it be the way you wanted it.
- If you have never stripped furniture before, or painted any piece of furniture, I would start with something small first, not a whole table or other large piece of furniture.
- Test something in a small area, or on a piece of cardboard, especially when using new paint or stain. Remember the picture on your screen, or in a jar or can might not look the same once it’s on something. (Really wish I had done this!)
- You can do this!
Well, what do you think of my cottage farmhouse table redo? I’m in love with it, and I wanted to let you know that it has really withstood this past year. All the home life and it looks as good as when I first finished it. If you enjoyed this blog post, you might like to read one of my other posts How to Make an Easy Two Minute Wreath Be sure and let me know in the comments if you have ever refinished a big piece of furniture before, or if you are perhaps thinking about it. Have a blessed day sweet friends, hugs, Dee PS Isn’t Ollie cute?