DIY Coffee Table Revamp For Under $25

May 2, 2013

Spring! (Well, almost.)

Hello dresses. Hello, maxi skirts. And hello, day-long, outdoor, messy, gritty, beautiful, hands-on projects!

This long winter we had in Minnesota put a real damper on my crafts — limiting me to smaller projects I could complete indoors in my 670sqft apartment. I got so stir-crazy at one point, I needed an outlet to use my hands and bring some green back into my life by making a terrarium. But now, I’m free to dive into the larger projects I need more space outdoors to do.

First up, refinishing my hand-me-down coffee table. We’ve been living with this bad boy for just over two years, and it was riddled with scuffs, dings, watermarks, and rings — not to mention the blonde wood isn’t exactly my style. The table itself was sturdy, and had clean design lines, so I knew there was hope for this piece. I hate throwing things away — I feel a pang of guilt when tossing things out or wasting material, there’s aways a way to recycle, reuse or repurpose, without spending a lot of time or money.

If you have a piece like this, either at home or found at a yard sale or thrift shop, you can breath new life into it in the matter of a day, for less than $25.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– Ugly, beat up furniture
– 120 and 300 grit sand paper (~$2 each)
– Painter’s tapeĀ  ($3)
– Paint + applicators (Can and brush or roller, or spray paint) (~$5 each)
– Wood stain (~$5)
– Polyurethane (spray version was about $8, paint on was about $5)
– Clean, lint free rags (old white t-shirts work great!)
Optional, but highly suggested:
– Palm sander (I was lucky enough to have a handy father I could borrow this from)
– Some old newspaper and/or tarp to spray over
– Gloves (I found a box of disposable latex gloves under the kitchen sink. Thanks, Mom!)


What to do:

Step 1: Sand, Sand, Sand

You’ll need to sand off the previous stain and finish from the areas you’re going to re-stain. Start with the 120 grit sand paper to get through everything, and then go over it with the 300 grit for a smoother finish. Be thorough, and check your edges — you don’t want any of the previous finish remaining, or the new stain won’t take. It took me just around an hour to sand the top surface, and top edges.

Tip: Every so often, stop to brush off the surface and clean the sand paper to keep things moving efficiently.


Step 2: Clean and Tape

Clean your piece from any remaining dust and debris — just go over it with a clean rag/paper towel, don’t use any cleaning products or water. You want a nice surface for taping, painting and sanding. Then, tape off the areas that are going to be stained and NOT painted.

Warning: You may go cross-eyed and get frustrated, but don’t worry — you get to dramatically rip all that off to compensate!


Step 3: Paint Your Masterpiece

Paint the un-taped areas your desired color. I had to use a roller to get the shelf and underside of the table top, then I used spray paint for the rest.

Tip: Chose a nice, calm day to spray paint outside — I risked it and painted on a windy day, resulting in an uneven paint job in spots.


Step 4: De-Tape and Re-Clean

Once the paint is dry, rip off that tape! Tear off the newspaper, release any rage! For me, the tape left some residue around the edges. To fix this, I just took the 300 grit sandpaper, and gave them a gentle brush to get that clean feeling again.

Tip: Having fingernails helps pick up the tape edges.

Warning: Don’t be TOO aggressive, you don’t want to damage/dent the fresh wood you created.


Step 5: Stain and Seal

Now here’s where my one day project should have taken two — after living and learning, I would suggest letting the paint dry overnight, and taping off the painted area so that stain won’t get on your beautiful paint job. I was impatient, though, and decided to freehand the staining. Put on a pair of gloves, and follow directions on the stain you purchased for best results. For me, it was applying a liberal, even coat with a clean rag, allowing it to penetrate for a couple minutes, and then wiping off any excess with a clean rag. Once dry, coat with polyurethane to seal and protect the wood. I found a spray on version, so it was much like spray painting.




That’s it! In the matter of a day, you have a gorgeous, revamped piece of furniture. No more dings, starches, ugly blond wood, or watermarks. Just the natural beauty of the wood, contrasted with crisp, modern colors — all brought out by your own hands, for less than $25.

P.S. If you’re looking for a good coffee table book, mine features “I Could Pee On This: And Other Poems by Cats” given to me by Mrs. Allison Checco.