How To Make An Old Coffee Table Look New? (With Video)

If you have ever thought about doing a DIY project choosing an old coffee table would be the perfect starting project. After doing so many projects, coffee tables are still so much fun! It is pretty crazy how a little bit of hard work can make an old coffee table look new and amazing. There are a few tips you need to know before you can take a swing at this project, so follow my steps below. It is time to learn how to make an old coffee table look new!

Step 1: Find A Table

During this step, if you do not have a coffee table already start looking for one! Finding furniture to restore can be difficult if you do not know where to look. Here are 5 places to make finding furniture to restore easy:

  • Thrift Stores
  • Garage Sales
  • Estate Sales
  • Facebook Market Place
  • Online Classifieds (Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay)

If you are looking to make a profit by selling the coffee table when finished, the table can’t cost a lot. I will not spend more than $20 on a coffee table because they usually sell between 75-110 dollars refinished. However, if you are doing this for fun spend whatever is comfortable for you.

Step 2: Figure Out A Design Plan

I think having a plan set in place is the most important step. For design inspiration sometimes I look through Pinterest or even google search, look through my gallery for ideas! Figure out what is being painted or sanded so you can prepare, my favorite style is a stained top and to paint the rest. This is a pretty standard style for refinishing projects. Get creative and build something unique!

What type of paint should I buy? 

I usually use a water-based interior latex paint, and I make sure it is a satin finish.

Step 3: Prepare and Begin The Plan

When learning how to make an old coffee table look new, the preparation stage is important. It is a time when you can just get things organized. Having exactly what you need will make the process much easier, and more importantly less stressful. These projects can be done efficiently and effectively if you just put in a little thought. Gather all the supplies you need, from cleaning solutions to paint mask respirators. This tip is critical if you are busy because it will help you manage your time.

Gather all paint, brushes, stains, sandpaper, and ideas. Start to clean your workplace area, lay a drop cloth like I do for extra protection. I don’t know how many cans of paint I have kicked over so far LOL, so having a drop cloth is a great idea.

Now lets get into the hard work!

Step 4: Striping and Sanding


Decide if you are going to strip the table or not. What does stripping mean? Simply put, it is adding a product that removes paint or varnish. You lather it on and wait the recommended time, then you scrape it off with a small handheld putty knife. I find stripping makes sanding an easier process. It is totally up to you though! There is no need to strip anywhere you are not staining.

After stripping, clean the entire surface with mineral spirits, start with an old rag. Next, use steel wool to help rub off any extra paint or varnish remaining. Finally, I then just wipe it all up with a dry cloth and leave it to dry.

Before you sand you must let the stripper residue and mineral spirits completely dry. I wait a few hours and it should be ready!


Preparing to sand any surface make sure it is fairly clean. Rocks or wood underneath your sandpaper may cause scratch damage that you do not want! Just wipe it all off with a clean rag.

When sanding on furniture after stripping I might use 100 grit with my orbital sander. Be careful if you are using an orbital sander or belt sander, because they could go through the wood very quickly and ruin your project! This is to get rid of all of the remaining wood stain. To finish, I will use 220 grit sand paper for a professionally smooth surface finish. If you use sand paper over 300 grit the stain does not sit in the wood that great.

Sanding all edges, I will usually only sand edges by hand so I do not damage any corners. Be sure to remove old stain on all areas you are re-staining, if not you could see the old stain through and it will not look pretty. Sanding the table apron and legs does not have to be perfect, meaning you do not have to remove all the old paint. Just sand it so the surface is smooth and paint will stick better. I will use 100-220 grit paper on legs and apron.

Step 5: Painting Table Legs and Apron

To clarify the table apron is just the part under the table top, see what I mean on where they explain it perfectly.

I choose to paint below before staining the top. Other people have different opinions, but I do this because if I get any paint on the top surface I can sand it off before I stain. If stain falls down on paint I wipe it off before its becomes an issue. You do what you want to do! I just cover the top when I paint. See the photo:

I also have a Wagner Paint Sprayer, which really helps give a professional finish. However, a paint brush will work just fine too.

Certain projects I will use spray paint primer to prevent the wood bleeding through, meaning the old wood becomes visible. This project I used a paint and primer anyways so it worked without spray primer. I recommend a light sanding before applying your final paint coat. Paint one to two coats of paint, just to make sure you didn’t miss any spots.

At this time you can paint your hardware too, if your table had any.

Step 6: Using Wood Stain

Wood stain can revive old wood to make it look new. Have a wood stain that will go nice with your paint color. I like to have a white or creme color base with a darker stained top. Have fun playing around with colors though, because this is your DIY! Here is a 3 step process of applying wood stain to a coffee table:

Preparing To Stain

  • Sand away any paint
  • Clean surface with a slightly damp cloth, not wet!
  • Wait until dry

Applying Stain On Coffee Table

  • Using a clean rag or brush, apply wood stain directly to table top
  • Be sure stain is lathered on all corners and edges
  • Use generous amount (see in video)

Wipe Excess Stain

  • Wait 5-15 minutes for stain to absorb into the wood surface
  • The longer it sits the darker the coat
  • Wipe away excess stain
  • If re-coating read products recommendations. Re-coating is to make it darker, I usually only apply one coat of stain.

OPTIONAL – Antique Glazing

In one of my coffee table projects I antique glazed the legs and apron. This is a beautiful technique that anyone can do. You should use a satin finish paint for best results. I will explain below:

How to antique glaze a coffee table?

First, make sure you use a satin finish paint, and before any of these steps make sure the paint is dry!

  • Apply stain over painted area with brush or rag
  • Do not let dry
  • With clean rag, wipe off stain right after applying it to paint
  • Wipe across full surface to prevent streaks
  • Watch video to see process

In my video, you will get a better understanding of antique glazing. Follow the steps accordingly, and I recommend you practice on something that isn’t that important.


Step 7: Protective Clear Finish

Your coffee table styling and design is finished! It is time to clear coat and protect your masterpiece with the best product. When refinishing a coffee table I use a clear lacquer spray, it is so easy to apply. Shake the can and spray a thin coat over the entire project, including the legs, apron, and top. Make sure everything is dry before applying the first coat.

To have a strong durable finish, apply 2-4 thin clear lacquer coats. Wait for lacquer to dry before applying each coat, usually it take 15-30 mins to dry so it can be done in one day. I grab a 300 grit or higher sandpaper and do a super light sanding so the final product is extra smooth.

Now you are officially done!

Coffee Table Makeover Video

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I hope my video and article is informative and helps you on how to make an old coffee table look new! Each step is important and following along with the video will help understand what to do. If you have any questions please comment below or on the YouTube video and I will do my best to help!

Making an old coffee table look new is not a hard job, but can take a few days of work. Be patient and remember that in this hobby things can go wrong, but just take the time to learn from your mistakes.


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